You get a decent range of EQ options from six presets and a custom five-band equalizer. The volume control has 30 gradations, ensuring that you'll find a comfortable setting. A bookmark function saves your place in audiobooks or other audio files. After you've returned to a bookmark, though, you have to delete it before you can hear any other song--a slight hassle. And the X20's on-the-fly playlist feature beats the iPod's by letting you name playlists and save them for later listening.
When you make voice recordings with the internal mike, the player stores them in a separate folder for easy access, and you can upload them to your PC as WAV files. The X20 also packs an FM receiver with 12 easy-to-program presets. But if you're a fan of the Odyssey's voice-navigation feature, you'll be disappointed to find it missing from the device's new incarnation.
Gateway also wisely trashed the Odyssey's file-transfer method, which forced you to reorganize all your songs in a certain folder structure. Instead, the company went with a more conventional syncing system that uses Windows Media Player 9.0 and an included plug-in. To Gateway's credit, you can also drag and drop tracks, but you'll still need to fire up Windows Media Player afterward to make the X20's new contents playable.
We had no trouble setting up the X20 on our system, but the player's USB 2.0 file-transfer rate, 1.51MB per second, was slower than the competition's. A USB 1.1 connection yielded a run-of-the-mill 0.53MB per second.
The audio quality was clean, with a signal-to-noise ratio of 90dB and a total harmonic distortion of 0.1 percent. Higher frequencies, however, seemed louder than normal even on the Flat equalization setting. The bundled headphones sounded average. Through our ultrasensitive reference pair, the Shure E3c, the sonics improved considerably, and we could detect almost no hiss between songs.
On a single charge, the cell typically lasted about 10 hours, which matches Gateway's battery-life rating. The X20's FM reception was commensurate with that of most other portable players: OK but not as clear as on a home or car unit.