The Fuse is the smallest digital-music player in Rio's updated product line. The 128MB ultraportable is listed at $129, but you can find it online for $30 less.
The Fuse is a plug-in player; it hooks up directly to a computer's USB jack. The connection, protected by a pop-off cap, is on the unit's left side. We had to remove neighboring peripherals from our PC's USB hub to accommodate the Fuse's wide, teardrop-shaped body. It measures 1.5 by 3.5 by 0.7 inches, slightly larger than some competitive models. Rio should have narrowed the device or included an extension cable. But the rounded edges make for a comfortable fit in your palm.
The player itself is a study in simplicity. In the center of the face is a rectangular LCD, which is backlit with a gentle blue when activated. Flanking the screen are a menu button and a small five-way joystick that acts as a transport control and a menu navigator. Large volume-up and -down keys sit on the right-hand side. The power button, the sliding Lock switch, and a standard 1/8-inch headphone jack share the top. The compartment for the single AAA battery is accessible from the bottom of the player.
The tiny Fuse has limited functions. It lacks a voice recorder, an FM radio, and--like all other plug-in models to date--expandable memory. But the player does offer the basics: MP3 and WMA playback, shuffle and repeat modes, autoresume, six equalization presets, and control over bass and treble. You also get a stopwatch and a time/date display that updates automatically during syncing. The included Sennheiser MX-300 earbuds are nothing special (you can get them separately for just $8), and their 26-inch cord is a little short. And you'll have to carry the Fuse in your pocket; Rio doesn't include an armband, a neck lanyard, or a belt clip.