(Pocket-lint) - With so many MP3 players both large and small on the market, manufacturers from Apple to Sony are trying to differentiate themselves from each other. iRiver has opted to turn its large hard drive based player into a storage device along the MP3 playback facilities in an attempt to appeal to the digital photographer who wants to listen to music. Will it work? We take a look and find out.

Roughly the same size as the iPod the iriver H320 is a 20Gb player. The casing is plastic rather than metal and there is a large 2in screen on the front. Under that is a six-button configuration that gives you access to the menu system and playback features. On the side the player offers a built-in mic for voice recording and line-in and line-out options alongside the headphone jack. More interestingly is the USB2.0 device jack, which allows you to connect another device such as a digital camera, card reader or even MP3 player to the unit to transfer data.

The upside for digital photographers is that you won't need special card adapters nor will you need to remove the storage card from the camera when it comes to making more space on your memory card. There is a catch however. At the moment the majority of digital cameras still only support USB 1.1 (which is pretty slow), you will need to carry a USB cable and it can't display RAW files. Get past that and the unit becomes similar to what Nikon has been trying to do with its CoolWalker product, ie offer a picture viewer suitable to fit in your camera bag. Of course with a 2in screen this isn't going to be a device you'll view images on but nonetheless it could be handy in the field rather than having to invest in multiple storage cards.

Aside from the image capabilities on the colour screen the iriver H320 also plays MP3s, WMA, ASF and the Linux Ogg Vorbis file format. When it comes to playing tracks all the relevant information is displayed on the screen and you can set a number of equaliser settings and shuffle modes.

In attempt to be as multi-tasking as possible the player also offers an FM radio, the ability to record that radio signal as well as voice files. Additionally in-keeping with the picture storage facility you can also transfer text files to the unit to transfer elsewhere.


Is it an MP3 player or is it a picture storage device? On the whole we don’t think it really knows. On the surface the unit comes across as a MP3 player, but you soon realise that the clumsy menu system and multiple button functions isn’t really that consumer friendly - certainly not as friendly as other players from iriver. If we were the marketeers on this one we would have to push the image side of things over the MP3, and for that reason it’s a very good unit.

While the majority of us still use a camera that’s USB1.1 there are plenty of USB2.0 cameras coming out on the market. The transfer of those files was quick and easy and unlike other products that promise the same thing - mainly the USB bridge from Delkin, you get plenty of feedback as to how the transfer is doing. Additionally with the colour screen you get visual confirmation that everything has gone okay. Aside from the confusion and the clumsy menu system this player eventually does what it sets out to do - we think?

Writing by Stuart Miles.