Monday, March 21, 2005

How the iRiver H10 fared.

Well, the H10 went back. The guys I bought it from gave me an unlimited return period, but I thought it would be best to return it before the player started looking more 'used' as a matter of courtesy.

I had a good chance to play with the H10 after the installation of the V2 firmware. I honestly don't know why they would bump up a whole version for a bunch of minor bugfixes, but there you go.

So, why did I return the H10? My main problem was the firmware of the player. It is buggy in the core things expected from an MP3 player. These are issues regarding track navigation and track listing among others. These issues and others were not fixed in the latest firmware... in fact, only one of the problems I had, and a minor one at that was fixed in this release.

iRiver Plus, the client software to load the H10 is probably the worst software of this type among the mainstream players on the market at the moment. It has a habit of corrupting it's own databases so that the H10 becomes uncommunicative with the software. The use of it is cumbersome and generally speaking, you're best off using iTunes as your MP3 ripping / management software and using the H10 via UMS (USB drag & drop), using iRiver Plus only to update the player database to get the tunes to show up properly in the menus.

Soundwise, there was something which bugged me about it. For want of a better word, the H10 sounded slightly rough. Only slightly mind, and I doubt you'd be able to tell a major problem from the included or basic earbuds, but something was there. I'd say the core sound quality with MP3's is debatable compared to the iPod Mini or the Zen Micro. The adjustability of the sound however is excellent. The SRS effects actually do work pretty well I have to say. The spacialisation / low frequency enhancement options do add a sense of depth to the sound. This is presuming you aren't an audiophile freak and insist on zero EQ / no effects. And on the matter of the EQ, that's not bad either. The presets are useful, and the Custom EQ, once I got it to cooperate, offered a useful range of adjustment.

The usefulness of the display for photo display is as I said before very limited beyond geek entertainment value, although it has to be said that the colour in the display adds a nice impact to using the H10 on a daily basis. Without customisation options for this interface though, the colour can become a little boring after a while. Perhaps iRiver will do something about that in the future, but for now a predictably colour coordinated heirachical display is all you get.

The look of the H10 is sharp, and the core hardware is good. The firmware is however not yet what I consider suitable for a public release product, and the companion software is bordering on crap... (if you want a comparison, I'd say it's equivalent to or slightly worse than Sony Sonicstage 1.5). I'll say once again ~ it might be worth holding on for more firmware upgrades or other more thoroughly tested colour mini players to come onto the market before you splash out on the H10.

Regarding the current iRiver advertising campaign, "Sweeter one." Is it? Maybe on the outside, but once you take a bite, you'll find this particular "iRiver apple" has more than it's fair share of bugs inside.

Manufacturer Link:

Correction on 27th March: The V2 firmware referred to is the UMS version, not the US-specific MTP version.

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