When Rio launched the ce2100 at CES in Las Vegas this year, the internet was awash with excitement. A 2.5Gb hard drive-based player in a small casing that offered 20 hours of playback, what was not to like. Despite that buzz, five months in the world of the gadget industry is a long, long time. So does the player still hold the same levels of excitement? We don the headphones and find out.

Time flies when you’re having fun. In that time we’ve had the iPod Shuffle, the Sony NW-E507, plus a slew of other players from Creative and iRiver. Amazing as it sounds, the Rio has become over-sized, over priced and just not as exciting as it was on announcement day.

Based on the chassis of the Rio Carbon, the controls - i.e. the simple D-pad and central button on the front is identical. This makes the navigation very simple and the D-pad offers fast-forward, rewind, stop, play and pause. The central button as been designed as an action button and is used for selected songs, menu option or seeing alternative information about the songs themselves.

On the side of the player is the switch that accesses the menu system and that’s it as far as buttons on the player. Just like the Rio Carbon the ce2100 offers a USB 2.0 connector and rather than go for a crazy Rio designed end, Rio has opted for the standard USB connector found on most digital cameras.

Songs can be dragged and dropped on the player and this means that not only will it work on both Apple Macs and PCs, but also means that it’s the first of the Rio’s do so. It also means that you don’t have to rely on dedicated software, although Rio has bundled Rio Music Manager if you really must.

Actually listening to the player and all sounds good. Sound was equivalent to the karma and the Carbon with plenty of bass. Although the accompanying headphones do feel cheap, that’s par for the course for any walkman on any format released in the past decade including those of the hallowed iPod.

Verdict

While Rio got it right with the Carbon, simply putting in a smaller hard drive and re-badging it as the ce2100 doesn’t really wash with us. Had we been playing with this model back in January when it was announced without knowing what we now know with the rest of the market and the releases that followed, we’re sure that the review would have been very different.

As it is, any ground gained by the Carbon has been lost here with the ce2100.

If might sound good, but as we said at the beginning, its overly large for the size of the drive - the shuffle might be half the size, but it’s the size of a pack of gum, over priced - Rio are quoting £149 and just doesn’t hold the wow factor of the competition. Disappointing.