Would you go to Crufts to look at a stuffed version of a dog that hadn't been born yet? No, neither would we. That's why we didn't bother writing about iRiver's latest Cowon/Archos-killing PMP -- the P20 -- at CES back in January, because the 'River only had a non-working model on show.
For IFA this year, however, iRiver brought a fully functioning, non-stuffed P20 to Berlin for intrepid tech journalists to poke opinions at.
For those not aware, this is an 80GB or 120GB portable video player, featuring physical wheels a la iRiver Spinn, a massive 480x272-pixel AMOLED touch-sensitive display, support for MP3 (or "Em Pee Drei" as so many German booth ladies kept putting it), WMA, OGG, FLAC, APE and WAV music, Xvid, DivX, MPEG-4 H.264 and WMV video, Microsoft Office documents and Adobe Flash Lite 3.0.
Within a few minutes of playing, we formed a love-hate relationship with the P20 -- love the great specs; hate the clunky navigation. One physical wheel on the right-hand side selects the player's function (there's no main menu screen), while the other cycles a given function's menu items. Then a separate 'OK' button is required for item selection, and a separate 'back' button for plodding back through menus.
The screen is impressive, though, in terms of sharpness and colour production, and with such a great set of supported codecs and a 9-hour battery life for video, the P20 is looking like a killer portable movie device.
There was just something that wasn't ticking all the boxes for us, though, and we're convinced it was solely the result of the chunky device's interface and nav.
But it still looks to be a fair alternative to Cowon's A3 or Q5, or the Archos 605 Wi-Fi, when it's released in the UK any time from October. Prices are to be confirmed, but iRiver loosely suggested around £300 when we pestered.
We'll have our extensive hands-on and review for you as soon as we possibly can. For now, click through for a couple of extra photos. -Nate Lanxon
Here you can see the function wheel. In that small gap on the left are images that reflect the function in use. This system replaces any kind of main menu screen and while quaint, may not be to everyone's liking.
The Spinn-inspired scroll wheel. iRiver's all about the analogue these days. If this wheel was pressable as a menu-selection key, and if the previously hated-on function wheel was removed in favour of a menu screen, we'd be far more in love with the P20.