iriver IFP-990 MP3 player

The IFP-990 is a 256Mb flash player and the most compact colour-screened player I've seen to date, weighing in at just 62g (w 64mm x l 51 mm x d 20mm) and roughly the length of an AA battery it’s small and compact, but does iriver’s IFP-900 live up to the phrase - nice things come in small packages? We take a look to find out.

The 900s are based on the successful iFP-500 series. The magnesium alloy really keeps the weight down. It’s light, handy, strong, and shiny. The brushed-metal look reinforces the wow factor of this mini-marvel, with nice touches such as the spring flip open USB cover, 5 way directional stick and headphones by Sennheiser.

Inno provides overall design, but it's the 1.2in LTPS (Low Temperature Poly Silicon) screen with 260k colours that really blows away the monochrome competition. Optimum battery usage gives max 40 hours, but screen use brings that down to a still impressive 30 hours.

The internal workings mimic the same sensible approach as the exterior. Quickly pressing the navi button once brings up the file tree menu (see image). Cue, skip and volume controlled with one touch. A full settings menu for display and EQ adjustments is accessed by pressing and holding the navi button. With mode selections for MP3 Playback, FM Radio, Voice and Line-in operation is via one of four touch sensitive buttons on the bottom edge of the player, reminiscent of Walkman buttons in those heady days of the 80s.

The FM Tuner is up to scratch, with nameable station presets, using the file manager software and standard direct recording to the flash memory. Thanks to an internal clock, the IFP-990 can be programmed to timer record from the radio. All recording is to MP3, be it voice, line in or direct from tuner.

Ever thought of saving to do lists as text files on your MP3 player? Well now, you can. It seems a bit of a do it because you can element, but nonetheless, with a picture viewer, and an alarm and timer record, iriver are steering towards a lifestyle device and mopping up that basic mobile phone life planning functionality at the same time.

While the picture viewer only displays bitmap images, it lends a degree of personalisation. One can assign a name to the device, and save an image to the desktop.

Verdict

As with previous model, iriver are far from shy with the included goodies. The 990 comes with a case (carefully clipped to allow access to all buttons and jacks; a lanyard, charger, line cable, USB 2.0 and a nice pair of Sennheiser in ear phones, with spare ear buds. The iriver Music Manager CD helps transfer music and other files onto the player, but it is supported on Mac and PC as a USB 2.0 plug and play device.

Expect a firmware upgrade for UMS mass USB storage in 2005, bringing longevity to this great 256MB player. Overall, a great buy. If you favour the flash storage option, this is the all singing and dancing, one for you and don't mind paying that little bit extra for it.


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