Although they're often considered well designed and comprehensive, iRiver's digital music players can also be somewhat complicated. By the company's standards, the 512MB T30 is rather straightforward both in appearance and operation. The big attractions for this streamlined version of the iRiver T10 is its support of subscription music downloads and its price. The 512MB version retails for $100, and the 1GB version is available for $150.
At 2.4 by 1.2 by 1.9 inches and weighing 1 ounce, the iRiver T30 is ideal for using while working out. Slip it into a shirt pocket, and you'll hardly notice it's there. The dull black and silver plastic case of our 512MB test model isn't particularly striking--the 1GB version is a little more stunning in red--and the player lacks the joystick controls found on other flash-based iRiver devices. But the T30's simplicity will appeal to MP3 novices.
The most common compliant regarding iRiver's players has been the abstruse, techie user interface. Operating the T30, however, is fairly straightforward: Press and hold the Menu button to access the Browser (the music directory), the recording settings, and the system settings. Some users, though, will still balk at having to decode the process of setting up shuffle/repeat modes.
The iRiver T30 plays MP3, OGG, and DRM-protected WMA files, including those downloaded from subscription services such as Napster To Go and Yahoo Music Unlimited. Although we had no trouble transferring Janus files using Napster and Windows Media Player, we experienced occasional dropouts during playback of those tracks. The company just released some Janus-related firmware, however, which may address this problem; it explicitly applies to Rhapsody To Go content.
Otherwise, the iRiver T30 is a pretty basic player. You get voice and line-in recording, though unlike the more advanced T10, it has no FM tuner. This is a little strange to us, as an FM tuner seems like the more basic feature to have. The T30 also offers SRS effects, a five-band user-defined EQ, and the ability to control playback speed.
Although the 90dB signal-to-noise ratio is the norm for this type of device, music sounds very good with a set of decent headphones. The included earbuds are above average, offering better-than-expected bass response, but they're a bit uncomfortable. At 18mW per channel, playback is plenty loud with a pair of full-size Koss UR-40 headphones. In CNET Labs' tests, the iRiver T30 reached 21.67 hours of continuous playback on an AAA battery--not bad but short of iRiver's claims of 24 hours. The player scored an average transfer speed of 1.67MB per second over a USB 2.0 connection.