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Iriver P7 (16GB)

>> Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Iriver P7 (16GB) measures 4.5 inches across, 3 inches tall, and a relatively svelte 0.5 inch thick. The overall form is more pocket friendly than the chunkier design of the Cowon O2, feeling more like an Archos 5 with a shrunken screen. The majority of Iriver P7 (16GB) is operated using touch screen control, however, you'll find teeny, tiny buttons for power, menu, and volume on the top edge of the player. Iriver P7 (16GB)'s headphone jack is on the right edge, along with a hold switch, and a microSD memory slot covered by a plastic door.

While the P7's hardware looks like it takes a few cues from Apple, the touch screen interface is entirely unique. Iriver appropriately describes the main menu screen as magazine like, laying out each of the player's functions on a single screen, compartmentalized into an attractive arrangement of boxes. If you're accustomed to scrolling though menus, Iriver P7 (16GB)'s Mondrian esque layout takes a little time to grow on you.

After spending some time with it, we can't say the layout offers any practical advantages, but it's a pleasant break from the norm. Once you dial down into Iriver P7 (16GB)'s music and photo menus, the single page interface of the main menu eventually gives way to a more common list view. Unlike the iPod Touch's smooth, swift, and responsive song lists, sorting through your music on Iriver P7 (16GB) requires patience and a precise touch on a slim graphical scroll bar.

If you plan on storing a large music collection on Iriver P7 (16GB), prepare for some navigation frustration. The P7 is easy on the eyes, but the features are nothing to write home about. Despite the movie worthy 4.3 inch screen with a 480x272 resolution, video really isn't the P7's strong suit. On paper, support for formats such as AVI, MP4, WMV, MPG, FLV, XVID, H.264, and a handful of others, makes Iriver P7 (16GB)'s video capabilities seem very impressive.

In practice, however, we found that Iriver P7 (16GB) didn't offer the kind of drag and drop video format and resolution flexibility we've seen from competitors such as the Cowon O2 or Archos 605 WiFi. Just like the smaller screened Samsung P3 or Iriver SPINN, we found ourselves spending extra time converting the videos we wanted to watch on Iriver P7 (16GB) using the included software. Power users and the patient minded may be able to put up with Iriver P7 (16GB)'s particular video requirements, but people looking for drag and drop simplicity should look elsewhere.

In spite of our complaints about the sluggish, unfriendly design of Iriver P7 (16GB)'s music menu navigation, the audio capabilities of the P7 are arguably the best feature of the device. Iriver P7 (16GB) supports MP3, WMA, FLAC, WAV, and OGG file formats, along with album artwork and lyrics, but leaves out the AAC format critical for playing back music purchased from iTunes. Songs are listed in either an ID3 tag sort (Album, Artist, Genre, Playlist) or presented as the user's own custom list of folders.

Once a song is playing, you can apply custom or preset EQ (there's also some nice SRS WOW HD enhancement settings), change the playback mode (shuffle, repeat, etc.), rate the song on a five star scale, and even view song lyric information embedded within the file's ID3 tag. There are also settings for bookmarking, looping, or saving files to a custom playlist. Between Iriver P7 (16GB) and the similarly priced Cowon O2, we're a little torn when it comes to each player's audio capabilities.

Neither device shines in terms of touch screen menu navigation, but we suspect the O2's AAC support is more important than its lack of ID3 song sorting (some will surely disagree). Iriver P7 (16GB) features, such as the FM radio and text reader, are nice to have, but unexceptional. The photo viewer, like most aspects of Iriver P7 (16GB), is a little sluggish. At best, transitions between photographs take 3 seconds to complete, and the image browser uses the same tiny, tedious scroll bar found on the music player.

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