Iriver first introduced its innovative D-Click interface in 2005 with the release of the U10, the boxy predecessor to the Clix line. The company shows no signs of abandoning the system, which is used to full effect on its latest U.S. release, the LPlayer. This ultracompact MP3 player could be the offspring of a first-gen Clix and the S10, with its similar design and extensive feature list. But the LPlayer isn't exactly like its predecessors. It comes with a more reasonable starting price point: $110 for the 4GB and $160 for the 8GB.
One of the best features of the D-Click interface is that it allows for a large screen relative to the size of the device. The LPlayer measures just 1.6 inches by 2.2 inches by 0.4 inch but is dominated by a 2-inch color LCD (with a 320x240 resolution). As with the Clix, playback controls are activated by pressing around the edges of the display, with soft keys on the screen acting as guidance. On the main playback screen, pressing the top or the bottom edges shuttles through tracks, clicking the left side exits back through menus, and pushing on the right plays/pauses music. Clicking and holding the right edge takes you into a handy contextual menu where you can set the play mode (shuffle, repeat, and so on), adjust the EQ, and rate tracks on the fly (among other things). Handily, Iriver includes a dedicated volume rocker on the bottom edge of the device, next to the power button. A mini USB and standard headphone jack are embedded into the left edge, while the back houses the hold switch.
The LPlayer onscreen interface is a bit designy, though we're not as taken with it as we were with that of the Clix. You can choose between two themes for the menus, one with dot matrix text and small icons, and another with smaller, standard text and larger icons. We kind of miss the Clix's days-of-the-week theme that changed the wallpaper color from day to day. Also, you can't set your own image as wallpaper, which isn't a deal breaker but still a bit of a bummer. On the upside, the playback screen includes a wealth of information, including album art, track/album/artist listing, time elapsed/remaining, star rating, a clock, and a battery meter. Music is sorted handily by playlist, artist, album and so on, though we were experiencing a bug that caused most of our album names to display in Mandarin, despite the fact that the player's language setting and the ID3 tag info were both in English. At press time, we were waiting to hear about a fix from Iriver--stay tuned for an update.