iRiver’s H320 multi-codec jukebox – reviewed

Whilst I was writing the “things I can’t live without” post, I was reminded of this mini-product review that I wrote way back in January 2006. It was written as a demonstration of style and was to be kept at a fixed length, hence there’s no real conclusion. Since it was never published, here it is now, just in case you’re interested!

Of course, if you would like me to review your product, please feel free to contact me via this blog or via this e-mail address:
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iRiver’s H320 multi-codec jukebox

Measuring in at not much larger than a traditional compact cassette, the iRiver H320 sports a dark glossy finish, excellent connectivity and enough hard disc space to store a modest CD collection, with some space for your favourite family snaps too.

The H320 is promoted as a multi-codec jukebox. Well, that’s what it says on box and on the unit itself, but what does that really mean? We’re all becoming used to the phrase “MP3 player” or to use the brand name colloquialism “Apple iPOD”. The H320 is an iPOD-like device offering the ability to play tunes recorded as MP3, WMA, OGG or ASF. Such variety makes the H320 stand out from the crowd – it avoids the “codec wars” often seen in this market sector.

The sound quality is excellent, helped partially by the iRiver-branded Sennheiser headphones, but also helped by the built-in equaliser offering presets for rock, jazz, classical, ultra bass and your own custom setting. The headphones also act as an aerial for the H320’s FM tuner, a welcome addition to the music-lover’s arsenal.

However, what really sets the H320 apart from today’s competition is the provision of a 2” colour TFT screen. In addition to being able to carry your favourite tunes wherever you go, with the H320 you can carry your favourite images too. With 260,000 colours available, the screen is crisp and renders JPEGs and BMPs so much better than today’s mobile ‘phones.

iRiver promote the H320 as an “eBook” reader, you may be disappointed to learn that the device will only display text files. With no opportunity to reduce the font size, the 10-line display will make reading long documents a tiresome exercise. That said the ability to carry useful addresses and short notes that might not be suited to a mobile ‘phone is very welcome.

The H320 is let down by the less than intuitive use of the nine buttons on the front of the unit, most of which serve more than one purpose. For example, to turn the unit on, we have to press and hold the play/pause button and to change mode, press and hold the record button. It certainly is more complex than the aforementioned Apple device and certainly requires more time with the manual before ease of use can be achieved.

If you’ve found that lower capacity MP3 players have outgrown their usefulness, the H320 20GB of space should satisfy your hunger for space. However, your existing MP3 player probably started playing the moment you switched it on. “Instant on” is something the H320 doesn’t manage. Given that the H320 is actually a small hard drive, it has a start up time! From switch on to playing music takes roughly 12 seconds.

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