The 20Gb MP3 player from I-River is a stylish device coming from a long line of hard disk-based players. While the name means absolutely nothing to us folk in the UK, readers from the States will recognise the household name.
The unit’s the size of a small novel like most hard drive-based players. The main difference that will make this one stand out from the crowd is the joystick on the top of the device to allow for easy navigation around the systems menus. On the surface this seems like a good idea, and in practice actually works at what it sets out to do. However, there is no such thing as a free lunch. In tests we found that this joystick - the wonderment that it is - gets stuck on your pocket. Many a time did we find our machine had skipped track, shut down or merely started to access the depths of the menu system without our agreement.
Perhaps in an attempt to stop this constant need to get removing the device from a pocket or bag, I-river has included a control navigator panel on that connects in between the unit and your headphones. From here you can access the menu system, set the volume and basically run the player as you see fit. Better still, the I-river has had the foresight to allow you to attach your own headphones and this is certainly a plus over other players that are out there.
A USB2.0 socket facilitates PC connection and the I-river HP120 can also be connected to an amplifier via the optical in and out sockets located on the side of the device. If you run out of songs- unlikely as this holds in nearly 6,000 - you can switch over to the FM radio. Once again this is a feature that Apple’s iPod is yet to offer.
If it wasn't for the joystick on the front of the device this would actually be a MP3 player that would be a worthy competitor in the MP3 market. As it is however, this small design defect spoils the whole package. Better luck next time.