Shipping has begun for the iRiver T10 series of MP3 players, now famously known as the first flash-based players to support subscription-based downloads. Available in 512MB (red) or 1GB (blue) capacities, the chunky iRiver T10 boasts a color screen and most of the features found in iRiver's popular 700/800 series. Listed at $200 for the 1GB and $150 for the 512MB, the T10 is a tad pricey, but it's currently one of only a handful of flash players (including the budget-conscious iRiver T30 series and the SanDisk Sansa m200 series) that will work with , Yahoo Music Unlimited, and . As you'll read, the feature-laden iRiver T10 sounds good and has rocking battery life, but it suffers from some design issues. The iRiver T10 is very Hummer-like: It fuses utility with overstated luxury. In the age of shrinking flash players, the T10 arrives as a heavyweight at 1.7 ounces with battery, and it measures about 3.4 by 1.6 by 1.2 inches. It's a little bigger than the players in the 800 series, and it's definitely durable enough for extreme activities. But its size isn't bothersome to us, especially in light of the unit's superlative digital audio capabilities. Our problem is that the T10 suffers from ergonomic issues, starting with the odd, curved body. Though it's comfortable enough for you to clutch in your left hand and operate the three buttons on top of the device, it can be a hassle to operate the circular main navigation controller, particularly because it's sunken slightly from the player's surface. You need to dig your thumb into the pad; needless to say, we were disappointed with this aspect.
The outdoorsy design, which integrates a handy carabinerlike belt clip, a full-circular-motion hold switch, and an armband, will appeal to many users. However, because of its rounded backside (which accommodates a AA battery), the iRiver T10 will not sit stationary on your desk--it wobbles. The awkward side location of the headphone jack also adds girth to the player, and any T10 owner with any pride will find the unclosable rubber USB flap an eyesore.
The four-line, 1-inch LCD is small, but the 65,000--color screen--especially on the bright and color-coded main menu screens--makes navigation easy on the eyes and mind. It requires some experimentation (or a read of the manual) to find all the features, and it usually takes a short tap of a button here and a long hold of another button there to discover everything. Tinkerers will love the iRiver T10 in this respect. A long hold of the select button opens the main menu, which includes Music, Browser, FM, Recording, and Settings options.Like most iRiver MP3 players, the T10 lets you browse for audio files using folder-tree navigation--nice for customization but not good if you want to browse by album, track, genre, and so on. The iRiver T10 supports playlists but not on-the-go playlists. We really like the T10's cool screensavers, which include a sound spectrum, a graphical waveform, and the iRiver disco dancer. As an extra, the T10 can display 24-bit BMP images, but they must have the odd resolution of 128x256 pixels.
The iRiver T10 plays MP3, OGG, WMA and WMA DRM 10 (Janus) subscription-based files. We tested it with all three major subscription services, including Napster To Go, and everything worked well, though Rhapsody required a T10 firmware update. The T10 also works well with Windows Media Player 10 for music transfers. We were pleasantly surprised by the T10's Janus efficiency, as many other players have suffered performance delays when playing subscription songs. The FM tuner has excellent reception, and its 20 presets can be automatically filled and individually deleted. You have your choice of three MP3 quality levels with voice (via the built-in mic) or FM programming recordings. Voice recording is a tidy process, thanks to the prominent red record button, but try not to touch the T10's body during recording as the mic picks up on the noise. Strangely enough, iRiver has omitted a line-in recording feature, though if we had to choose either FM or line-in, we'd go with FM for sure.The iRiver's good sound quality (90dB signal-to-noise ratio) improves further with the five-band user EQ and the SRS features turned on. The play mode menu, an important option in folder-tree-style players such as the T10, is accessed by pressing the record button during playback. A long hold of the A/B button opens the EQ window, and you can preview your selection in real time.
While we prefer not to buy batteries, it's nice to know that the T10 surpassed the company's claims of 45 hours per AA cell. CNET Labs got 47.8 hours, which is definitely impressive. Transfer rates over USB 2.0 came in at an average 1.9MB per second. The iRiver T10 ships with decent earbud headphones, a standad USB cable, a neck strap, a plastic carrying case, an AA battery, and software.