The Good Decent screen; built-in kickstand; includes a voice recorder, a line-in audio recorder, and an FM tuner; stylish carrying case; removable battery.
The Bad Doesn't record video; doesn't play DRM-protected WMA or WMV files; confusing controls and interface; below-average battery life; won't sync with desktop music managers.
The Bottom Line With its maddening interface, its missing features, and a lack of video content sources, the PMP-120 needs to go back to the drawing board.
iRiver PMP-120 (20GB)
Personal video players (PVPs) have become segmented into two camps: those that run Microsoft's Portable Media Center (PMC) operating system, and those that don't. Witness iRiver's PMP-120, which has a nearly identical PMC sibling, the . So what's in a letter? How does the PMP-120 fare without the benefit of Microsoft's media- and user-friendly OS? Can it compete with the current non-PMC champ, the Archos Pocket Video Recorder AV420? Unfortunately, while this PVP offers a stylish, ergonomic design and some compelling features, it comes up short in the one area where a personal video player should excel: video. Because the PMP-120 can't record video directly or sync with Windows Media Player 10.0, you'll have to work overtime to obtain content for the device. What's more, the PMP-120 can't play protected audio content, so you can forget about listening to music purchased online. Add some thoroughly unfriendly controls, and you have one PVP that's difficult to recommend. A mite heavier and bulkier than the Archos AV420, the iRiver PMP-120 weighs 10.2 ounces and measures 5.4 by 3.3 by 1.2 inches--a tad more than pocket-size. Its generally pleasing design is reminiscent of a handheld game console, with rounded, grip-friendly bumps on both ends of the backside. One of these bumps contains the removable battery; the other, a handy two-position kickstand.
Controls flank the 3.5-inch TFT screen, which has a typical QVGA (320x240) resolution. To the left, there's a four-way control pad with a Select button in its center; below it are the power and record buttons. There's also a help button that brings up a control diagram--something you're likely to need quite often, unfortunately.
To the right of the screen you'll find four buttons: play/pause, Navi, A, and B. The last three are responsible for many of the PMP-120's navigation headaches--more on that later. Located along the bottom of the device is an audio-line-in/video-out jack, a TV/Hold/LCD switch, and a reset button (which requires a paper clip to press); along the top are a headphone jack and power connector. The TV/Hold/LCD switch presents another irritation: it protrudes, making it easy to switch accidentally.
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