IRiver U10: "Touch" Screen
The U10 is probably the only MP3 player that can compete with the iPod from a design standpoint. The build quality is excellent, and the design very original. Built around a large very high-quality display, the U10 is very practical to use, with a simple, user-friendly menu. Except for a hold switch and controls for power on-off, volume, and screen orientation - the unit can be used vertically or horizontally, as you prefer - there are no other buttons or pads. You navigate and control the player by simply pressing one of the four sides of the display. Handling is excellent, and you can control the player without even taking it out of your pocket.
As soon as you turn the U10 on, the sharpness of the display will impress. Photo rendering is really excellent, getting the full benefit of the 2.2" screen with good detail and true colours. But video quickly becomes disappointing. Even without considering the small size of the display, what's the point of using MPEG-4 if you're going to limit it to 15 frames per second? Again, you'll have to re-encode all your video, only to end up with jerky motion for your trouble.
In our listening tests, we found the sound well balanced, with bass that was nice and solid, yet not masking the rest of the audio spectrum. The earphones are mediocre, and you'd do better to get another pair to fully appreciate the U10's audio quality. Music and video can be transferred via drag and drop directly in Windows Explorer, which is a real plus. Oddly, though, photos need to be transferred using the provided software, which novice users will soon find annoying. You also need a proprietary USB cable, and no AC adapter is supplied. Finally, the battery life is slightly less than the iPod Nano, though still very adequate. And the FM tuner is a nice plus, too.