iRiver H10 (20GB) review: iRiver H10 (20GB)

WMP 10.0 happily transfers your full-size photos to the player when you sync, but they look blocky on the small display and can take a while to load. It's better to manually optimize photos to a smaller resolution and file size for better performance. These are steps you don't need to take with the photo-friendly Apple iPod. Plus, there's no way to transfer photos to the device directly from a digital camera, a feature that competitors such as Gateway's MP3 Photo Jukebox and Cowon's iAudio X5 possess. And no video-out means you can't share the images on a TV. Thankfully, you can browse photos while you're listening to music, unlike on the H320.

Like the H320, the iRiver H10 is a capable recording device that dynamically displays the time recorded and time available. FM and voice recordings are easy to capture and sound excellent, especially at the highest MP3 bit-rate setting of 128Kbps. Unfortunately, the H10 can record line-in sources only if used in concert with an optional docking cradle--one that iRiver plans to release but wasn't available at the time of this writing.

The H10 is an MTP device designed to sync automatically through WMP 10.0 on Windows XP (required!). You can sync music and images directly though WMP, automatically updating any new music you have acquired or ripped, or manually by dragging individual tracks and playlists of tracks. However, downloading actual playlists to be listed on the H10 is a little tricky and is explained in the online FAQ. The device also mounts under My Computer but not as a fully accessible, removable drive; you can copy and delete music and photo files, and you must use this method to copy text files, but you can't perform other file operations.

We thought the iRiver H10 sounded great with nicer headphones. It doesn't get overly loud, but its 18mW output is good enough to drive big 'phones. With a 90dB signal-to-noise ratio, playback of files and recorded MP3 is clean and helped out a lot by the incredible selection of preset EQs. Once a track is playing, you can hit Select to view more than 30 preset EQ options, which include SRS Wow, Dance, Reggae, Folk, Bass, and custom EQ.

While even large photos load within a few seconds, we felt the processor was overworked at times. The universal clock icon for waiting appears regularly, although unexpectedly, when navigating through modes and options. Jumping between consecutive tracks can take several seconds. Scanning through music seems slow (and does not accelerate over time), which is especially painful for long classical tracks.

The company claims 16 hours of life from its battery, but CNET Labs was able to get a reasonable--but not great--14.9 hours. Transfer times over USB 2.0 were an impressive 4MB per second.

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