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Hands-on with iRiver X20: Too large to be in charge?

iRiver's X20 is a 2GB flash-based MP3 player. It's got some nice features and a mechanical wheel, but at 15mm thick is it too large to beat its competitors?

We've previously had a glance at iRiver's new X20 on paper, but now we've got the fella in our hands and we're trying to decide how we feel about it.

This 2GB flash-based MP3 player plays MPEG-4 video along with MP3, WMA and OGG format music. There's also a built-in stereo speaker and a high-resolution 56mm (2.2-inch) colour screen.

What makes the X20 a touch different is its rather quirky mechanical scroll wheel. We first thought, "Oh that's... quite nice," but that vague musing was immediately countered by another more cynical Crave node, who exclaimed, "They're really mopping up Apple's dregs here aren't they?"

It's true that the mechanical scroll wheel is a little on the old-fashioned side compared to the iPod's digital interface, but it's actually quite nicely implemented. Our problem is there's not a great deal of grip between the wheel and your finger. You'd probably feel more grip around a sweaty eel soaked in chip grease. But the wheel does its job and that's the main thing.

Another thing we thought we'd like is the inclusion of a microSD card slot. This potentially allows up to 2GB of additional storage. But really, what's the point? If you want 2GB of extra memory then just buy a higher capacity player.

Finally, size. The X20 isn't small and it isn't thin; it's light, but it's 15mm thick. The user-replaceable battery is almost twice the size of some of our favourite Nokia phones. Metaphorically speaking.

We're reserving our judgement until we get a final review finished, which you can expect soon. The iRiver X20 has some great features and a lovely interface, but can it afford to be so large in this desperately competitive and over-crowded market? It's available in 2GB, 4GB and 8GB capacities at £79, £99 and £149 respectively (from -NL

Update: We now have a full review of the iRiver X20 live in our Reviews channel.