iRock 930 MP3ez
If you're looking for an MP3 player with a 1998-ish vibe--that is, small capacity, no display, cheap construction, and no features to speak of other than the ability to play MP3s--then the iRock 930 MP3ez is the player for you. Don't be tempted by the $50 retail price, except if you're looking for a musical plaything for a child. This player is proof that some retro trends should never see the light of day.
Just because Apple can get away with offering a flash player without an LCD doesn't mean others can, especially when a device is as unattractive as the iRock 930 MP3ez. Five large, dull silver control buttons sit in the middle of a boxy, rubberized blue case. At 2.2 by 2.35 by 0.65 inches and 1 ounce, the iRock 930 is not particularly cumbersome, but it's not nearly as svelte as other basic flash players. The top of the unit sports the headphone and USB jacks, while the left side houses an expansion slot for SD or MMC cards. There's not much else to say other than the fact that the construction is flimsy. The buttons have a gooey feel, and it took no effort to damage the battery cover.
The term MP3 player is usually a misnomer, since most digital music players support multiple formats. In this case, however, it's accurate, as the iRock 930 MP3ez supports only MP3 files. The 128MB of built-in memory means it holds only a handful of songs--about 30, according to iRock--although you can add up to 2GB with an SD or an MMC card. Then again, you're probably better off keeping your capacity limited. Other than fast-forward/rewind, play/pause, and volume controls, you don't get any of the most basic features, such as EQ settings and play modes; even the displayless iPod Shuffle lets you, well, shuffle your songs.
On the bright side, the iRock 930 MP3ez doesn't require the services of jukebox software, relying instead on Windows Explorer to transfer tracks. Ah, but of course, with its USB 1.1 connection, it took us more than 4.5 minutes to transfer 100MB of music to the device, resulting in a rate of 0.39MB per second. Audio quality--surprise--is less than stellar, muffled and with noticeable background hiss. Battery life wasn't much better, at slightly less than 8 hours of continuous playback from a single AAA battery. The company's battery-life spec notes that more than 8 hours is "typical."
Some decent digital music players have been produced by iRock, but the 930 MP3ez isn't one of them. That the packaging notes the device is suitable for ages 8 to adult should be a clue: This isn't an MP3 player--it's a toy. That said, if you're looking for an inaugural MP3 player for your child or preteen, this is one of the cheapest places to start.