A year ago, SanDisk made a big song and dance about their, due to its then remarkable 8GB of flash memory, which combined with an expansion slot would give up to 10GB of song storage goodness.
Now everyone else is catching up, and companies like iRiver are releasing flash-based players with the same high capacity and expansion slot combo. The X20 is available in 2GB, 4GB and 8GB versions (AU$179, AU$219 and AU$299 respectively), and features a microSD slot for boosting your storage space.
The X20 differs markedly in looks from , and therein lies a tale. While overseas markets have recently been treated to the release of the Clix's successor -- the imaginatively named Clix 2 -- Australia will not see the follow-up to the sleek and simple player. According to a spokesperson from iRiver, the company had a choice whether to release the Clix 2 or the X20 locally, and the X20 was the pick. This is surprising to us given the warm reception the original Clix received, and reader feedback suggests we're not alone in wondering whether iRiver may have put its money behind the wrong horse. Just for context, the Clix 2 received an Editors' Choice award from our counterparts at CNET.com.
Unlike the Clix, which used a "D-click" navigation system involving pressing on the edges of the screen to move through menus, the X20 employs a run-of-the-mill scrollwheel. The wheel rotates mechanically and is festooned with a neon blue glow on its outer rim -- both characteristics of the. Designed to be rotated with the thumb, the wheel is a trifle small, and movement could be smoother.
If you're accustomed to the iPod method of scrollwheel navigation -- which uses the centre button to select menu items -- you'll need a bit of time to adjust to the X20 way of doing things. In most menu layers, the centre button (marked with play/pause) does select items, but sometimes it opens sub-menus instead.
The X20 has been designed to be held horizontally, with its 2.2-inch colour screen in landscape mode -- although you can switch to portrait mode via the Settings menu option. The display orientation can also be rotated 180 degrees to suit left-handed users. The play/pause, menu and power buttons appear upside down, but it's still a nifty trick for southpaws.
The back of the X20 has a battery cover that can be removed just like that of a mobile phone. The user-replaceable battery pops out easily, which should please anyone who attempted the intricate and warranty-voiding operation of trying to extract inbuilt power cells.
One of the X20's great strengths is its compatibility with multiple operating systems and user habits. Files can be transferred to the player via simple drag-and-drop within Windows Explorer or OS X's Finder, or with the aid of media management software such as Windows Media Player or the bundled iRiver Plus 3. Within the player, files can be accessed by type via the Photo, Video and Music menu options, or via a file browser, where you can view your stuff in a tree structure of folders.