The E10 is a 6GB hard drive-based portable music and video player that comes in both black and white colors. It is not bigger than the iPod Mini or an iPod Nano when inside a case. It has an FM radio tuner and recorder, a text reader, a Flash-gaming/application ability, an alarm clock, a .jpg picture viewer, voice recording and TV remote-control functionality. In the box we found the iRiver E10, a 18-pin-to-USB cable (proprietary port), earbuds with cushions, the iRiver Plus2 software, some instruction manuals and a pouch to protect the player from scratches. The E10 does not come with a wall charger, all charging happens via its USB cable (although you can buy a power adapter on eBay).
The iRiver E10 carries out all of its actions with only 4 main arrow buttons. The left key goes "back", the right key goes forward into sub-folders and it shows a special menu each time that it's long-pressed (specific to the submenu you are currently browsing), while the up and down keys go/play either the next/previous item or when long-pressed they scan back/forward the currently playing media file. On the left side of the arrow keys there is the "special" button called SmartKey, which can be assigned to do different things, e.g. go to the main screen, or go to the "Now Playing" screen etc. On the top right side of the arrows, there is the on/off button which puts the player into standby (the player never really turns off for real and so it turns back on from standby instantly). On the left side you will find the Lock slider button. When you lock the player, then the IrDA is activated and the player can be used as a remote control for your TV (vol up/down, channels up/down, mute/unmute, power on/off). Below the Lock button there is the Reset pin-hole which resets the player and does a full reboot (we had to do that once, after our player crashed but other than this one time the player was very stable). The player's iRiverOS v1.0.4 operating system (the players come by default with v1.0.3, so upgrade instructions are here) loads in about 15 seconds after a full reset (which hopefully you will never have to do). On the right side of the player you will find the microphone, the vol +/- buttons and a lanyard/wrist-wrap hole. On the top is the location of the IrDA and at the bottom there is the 3.5mm audio jack and the proprietary connection port. Overall, the device feels very nice in the hand and the buttons are on the right place.
The screen is a 1.5" color 128x128 TFT. The whole UI is written in Macromedia Flash and it's fully themable! Learning to use the UI it will take you about 1 minute, but really getting used to it will take you about 15 minutes. At the beginning I had my reservations about doing everything with just 4 buttons, but after a while it becomes intuitive. View a video of the device and its UI here. On the top left side of the screen there is always the time showing up and on the right side the battery life left. In the main screen there are several root menus and their sub-menus, for example:
Extras: Recordings (it even supports voice detection), Alarm Clock (several options here), Flash Games (we played a few, they worked really well and fast), Text Reader (.txt files are very readable with the "small" font), Browse Device (view all your files). The E10 has a feature called Btamin, which is short for "brain vitamins". These are some audio/video .swf files (download here) that are drag-n-drop'ed in the /btamin/ folder of the player and when played they supposedly help the users to cope with stress or unhappiness.
FM Radio: Click up and down to move through the FM slowly, or press and hold to scan automatically. Pressing the right arrow button it goes into preset mode where it only cycles through your 20 presets instead of the whole FM range. After you long press the right arrow button the special menu appears: Record, Saved FM Recording, FM Recording Quality, Save Preset, Stereo/Mono, Auto preset, Tuner region. The FM Radio works very well, it has amazing reception compared to cellphones with FM support, but it won't continue playback while you are reading a text file. You must stay in the FM app to have it activated.
Now Playing: Goes to the currently playing media file.
Music: "Play All" or sort via artists, songs, genres, albums or playlists (quick list or via rating). Tags are supported and that's how songs are sorted. When playing a song, you can long-press the right arrow key and more options are appearing: play mode (normal, repeat, repeat one, shuffle, shuffle+repeat), add to Quick List playlist, select EQ (Normal / Classic / Live / Pop / Rock / Jazz / Ubase / Metal / Dance / Party / Club / Custom EQ / SRS WOW), Rate song, scan speed, playback speed and Lyric display (lyrics require this app). If you upgrade your firmware to 1.0.4 and use the iRiver Plus3 media manager (instead of Plus2 that comes with the CD), you get album art support. You can easily switch from one song to the next in the list by pressing the up/down arrow buttons. Overall, this is a very intuitive player that supports OGG, mp3, WMA (protected too) and ASF. It played all the files we threw at it, except one OGG file that seems to have been encoded in a non-compatible way (although our other OGG files played fine). The only thing I do not like from their Music interface is that when you go out of the Music menus and come back in, the system does not remember exactly in which song you were browsing or listening, so the scrolling starts again from the beginning of the song list (the iPod remembers where was at).
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