Rio review: Rio

The Good Lightweight and compact; SD expansion slot; FM radio; stopwatch; robust software; playlist support; strong battery life.

The Bad Doesn't feel supersturdy.

The Bottom Line This compact MP3 player may be marketed as streetwear, but it'll suit joggers and gym goers, too.

7.3 Overall
  • Design 7
  • Features 7
  • Performance 8

Review summary

Aside from their slightly different shapes, not much distinguishes Rio's street-oriented Chiba from its sports-style Cali. The Chiba lacks the Cali's armband and secure, Sport Clip earbuds, but it's attractive and lightweight, with decent features. If we could have only one of the two players, we'd go with the Cali, but the choice is essentially a matter of style.

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Slide open the back compartment to insert a battery or SD/MMC memory-expansion media.

The shape of the Chiba and the Cali is hard to describe. Each player resembles a fancy stopwatch (and yes, that sports feature is built into them). They're both insubstantial enough to make you doubt their build quality, and the Chiba is slightly lighter and more compact than its sibling. The street model weighs two ounces with the battery installed and measures 2.7 by 2.4 by 0.8 inches. It survived just fine through two weeks of testing, but we can't say how well it would hold up over several months. The Chiba comes in a white 128MB and a black 256MB version, both of which have black rubber trim.

Adorning the Cali is a small but readable blue-backlit LCD, which shows all pertinent song and settings information. Beside the screen are five buttons, one of which is a joysticklike control that governs all aspects of playback and navigation. The mechanism, which the Chiba shares with the other models in its line, is fairly tactile, but in some ways, we'd rather have the larger transport key of the older S30S and S35S. We also prefer the ergonomics of the Cali, which provides a slightly bigger volume button and a better fit for both righties and lefties.

The included holster is designed for shorts and running pants; we clipped it to a belt loop to carry the Chiba to the office. We're happy to report that after some practice, you'll have no problem advancing tracks and adjusting the volume without looking at the player or detaching it from your waist.

A single AAA cell and the SD expansion slot reside in the same bay; you slide out the battery to insert the card.

The bundled Sennheiser earbuds are above average but nothing special. If you're a runner, you'll prefer the Cali's more secure-fitting headphones.

The Chiba's solid feature set should satisfy most users. All the basics are here: MP3 and WMA playback, shuffle and repeat modes, autoresume, six equalization presets, and control over bass and treble. You also get an FM tuner, a stopwatch, and a time/date display that updates automatically when you sync with your PC or Mac. We'd have liked a voice recorder, though. A built-in rechargeable battery would have been nice, too, but some people find swapping in an alkaline cell more convenient than recharging.

The Chiba comes with the same intuitive Windows software that ships with most of the models in Rio's autumn lineup. Loading songs and playlists, which the player accepts via a standard USB cable, was a pleasure. The Rio Taxi application lets you use the Chiba as a data drive. And a Windows Media Player 9.0 plug-in enables integration with Microsoft's ubiquitous music program, as well as drag-and-drop file transfer on Windows PCs.

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