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iRiver X20 (2GB) review: iRiver X20 (2GB)

The X20 isn't the sleekest player we've seen from iRiver, but its features and flexible transfer methods mean it holds its own against most of the competition.

Ella Morton
Ella was an Associate Editor at CNET Australia.
Ella Morton
4 min read

A year ago, SanDisk made a big song and dance about their e280 MP3 player, due to its then remarkable 8GB of flash memory, which combined with an expansion slot would give up to 10GB of song storage goodness.


iRiver X20 (2GB)

The Good

Expandable memory. Can record voice, radio and line-in. Files can be transferred via MSC or MTP.

The Bad

Scrollwheel navigation could be smoother. Video compatibility issues. Speaker is quite tinny.

The Bottom Line

It's not as pretty as the Clix 2, but the expandable memory and long features list mean it's not too shabby either.

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 iRiver's Clix player, 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 Sansa e200 range. 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.

The X20 scores a hat-trick as far as recording is concerned -- it can capture audio from the FM radio, tiny microphone or via the line-in socket.

Photos (JPG format) and videos will display nicely on the TFT screen. If you plan to watch video content, you'll need to get acquainted with iRiver's Plus 3 software, which should convert your clips to X20-friendly format (AVI; 320 by 240 pixels; XviD). Be ready to make a cup of tea or six during the conversion process if your clips are long -- it took us around half an hour per file.

After some initial adjustments, we came to appreciate the X20's graphic-driven menu, especially the "Now Playing" option, which takes you directly to the file that's in use.

We found ourselves wishing that photos could be viewed using thumbnails rather than by filename, as "IMG_1138.jpg" doesn't always jog the old memory. If you plan to transfer a hefty amount of pics, it's worth naming your files according to their content, and perhaps placing numbers at the front -- photos are organised alphabetically. You'll also want to downsize them, as larger files can take a few seconds to load.

A word on video files: make sure they're in the right format before transferring them to the X20. Any vids that lack the correct specs will not only refuse to play -- they cause the player to seize up and become unresponsive. After attempts to play an AVI file gave us a "File not supported" message, the screen froze and we had to remove and replace the battery to get things going again.

We found the speaker quite soft and tinny -- a neighbouring CNETter asked "Is that a MIDI file?" after we played an MP3 out loud. Plugging in the earbuds improves matters significantly, with volume increasing to eardrum-bursting levels at the top end of the dial.

Despite some compatibility and conversion issues with video -- and a scrollwheel that can't compete with D-click nor the Apple version in terms of smooth navigation -- we were pretty happy with the X20. It's a nicely sized device, the display looks good, and there are enough features and customisation options to satisfy most. We still pine for the Clix 2, and the X20 doesn't quite measure up, but it's an acceptable substitute.