With the iGP-100, iRiver's first entry in the fledgling market of digital music players using micro hard drives, the company continues its streak of well-designed, feature-rich models that could stand to be a little more intuitive. The iGP-100's $250 sticker price presents a problem: for the same amount of money, you can get Apple's , which has more than twice the capacity. That said, if you look hard enough, you can find this player for less than $200, and it features a metal attachment bar that outdoorsy folks will appreciate.
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The snug case can clip to your belt, features a plastic viewing window, and affords access to all controls.
Maneuvering through the player's menus takes a little getting used to. Button functionality is context-based, so you're better off reading the manual than attempting to figure out everything by yourself. The unit offers no indication, for example, that the power/play key also provides access to the FM tuner. At least with the decent-size (1.9 inch) blue-backlit display, menus are a bit larger and easier to read than on iRiver's flash models.
The iGP-100 lacks an in-line remote, but you do get a carrying case with a belt clip and a plastic window for viewing the display. And removal is handy; a metal bar at the top of the unit gives you something to grab. It also lets you easily attach the player to a backpack with a clip or a carabiner. Unlike iRiver's flash-based players (with their default firmware), the iGP-100 doesn't require any file-management software; you load songs through Windows Explorer. Some will wish for a dedicated program, but folks who like to just drag and drop will love this scheme. We especially like being able to drag over tracks while others are already on the move; the transfer won't stall the way it can with some other players we've tried. Computers running Windows 2000, Millennium Edition, and XP automatically recognize the iGP-100 as an external hard drive; Windows 98 users need to install device drivers.
Although you don't get such niceties as line-in and FM recording, the iGP-100 offers a wealth of options for playing files in MP3, unprotected WMA, ASF, and open-source OGG. The device also supports any M3U playlists that you create on your computer using software such as Winamp. Along with the Normal, Rock, Jazz, Classic, and Ultra Bass equalization presets, you get user-defined two-band EQ and four SRS selections. Additionally, the FM tuner can receive stations in the United States, Europe, Korea, and Japan, all of which have different frequency conventions. The iGP-100's firmware is upgradable, so iRiver can add support for emerging formats and online stores.
While a player is writing from its hard drive to its flash buffer, excessive movement can cause skipping or damage the unit. When the iGP-100's drive is in use, a red indicator light flashes--a unique and handy warning to avoid any jostling. Along with a sleep timer, multiple repeats, and shuffling, you get control over such minutiae as scroll direction and speed. The iRiver iGP-100 sounded great, especially through our reference headphones, the Shure E3c. The player's 90dB signal-to-noise ratio ensured that our tunes came through cleanly, and the volume level didn't disappoint. A strong power output of 20mW per channel at 16 ohms will let you crank up the music. The FM tuner also delivers a clear signal.
We moved files over USB 2.0 at 2.83MB per second. Our USB 1.1 transfers chugged along at 0.89MB per second--pretty robust for the slower of the two connection options.
iRiver claims that the built-in lithium-ion battery lasts for up to 12 hours of continuous playback, but our iGP-100 didn't quite make it to 9 hours. That lifespan falls well short of the target but is on a par with the iPod Mini's.