iriver PMC-120 Portable Media Center review

4 out of 5
£400

For

Screen, harddrive size, controls, connectivity with windows

Against

its got a windows operating system, what's the point

We've no qualms about saying that here at Pocket-lint we like the iriver PMP-140. The screen is good, the storage capable enough, battery life great and as a handheld unit for watching movies our reviewer Dan felt you couldn't get much better.

What's the catch? It runs on Linux and while for some this is a good thing (Microsoft still hasn't managed to stop those blue screens completely) for those who prefer Microsoft's operating system the introduction by iriver of a Portable Media Center edition might just be what they are looking for.

In steps the PMC-120, iriver's Windows Portable Media Center edition portable media player.

Like the PMP-140 the screen takes the centre stage on the 20Gb device. The 3.5in screen is big enough to watch the odd television show, however we wouldn't recommend watching the Lord of Rings trilogy on it.

On either side of the screen are the controls for the player. iriver has decided to have a different look at feel for the PMC-120 over its Linux player. In our minds while it's not as stylish, it is easier to understand what the keys actually do and the addition of a Windows key means that at any point you can get back to the main menu.

The operating system runs in an identical way to the media centre on a desktop. You are offered little choice, but then little choice means that you can't get lost within the menu system.

In fact if you like Media Center then you'll feel right at home here. The main plus point is that you can plug straight into Media Center and not have to worry about downloading additional software.

Unlike the Linux-powered version you can't get this in a 40Gb model, that said you can still store up to 80 hours of video or up to 600 hours of music, and to be honest we wouldn't recommend watching 80 hours in one go.

The PMC does allow you to connect to a television, however be wary, the quality, while satisfactory on a 3.5in screen, will look very ropey on a 32in widescreen set.

Of course video isn't the only option here. The PMC with its multimedia menus offers music and images as well, but that's not the point. With the portable media players starting to swamp the market and analysts predicting that 2005 will be the year for the PMP iriver has put itself in a good position to be the number one player in the market. In our opinion it's better than the Creative Zen Media Portable, with easier to use controls and a lighter styling.

Verdict

We can't fault the gadgetry, I don't share our reviewer Dan's enthusiasm for watching television, movies or anything on a 3.5in screen whether I am on the train or not. We even pitched it to a number of twentysomethings and the comments were the all the same:
“It looks good, but what's the point?”

So it's here that we struggle to really see why you would want one. We were told we would want a television that fits in our palms 20 years ago, and yet I don't see them on the train in the morning even though you could probably pick one up for under £30, neither do I see people with portable DVD players on the train either. The marketers suggest that it's so you can catch up with Eastenders on the train into work in the morning, but can you really see yourself sitting on the 7:20 from Reading watching a television show you've recorded the night before and then transferred over to the player? If you can then perhaps this is for you. But for us, will give it a miss.