The competitively small iRiver S10 sets itself up for great things. Following hot on the heels of the Apple iPod Shuffle, it touts plenty of features, a cool interface and great sound quality.
With a price tag of £89, however, some may think twice (Creative's 2GB Zen V Plus goes for about £79 by comparison). Will it give you bang for your buck?
No denying the iRiver S10 is cute, though some might find that it borders on the ridiculous with its minute frame. At 10mm by 43mm by 30mm, it's just a hair larger than the iPod Shuffle but just as easy to misplace. In fact, we reckon the S10 is probably easier to lose track of due to its black colouring, which causes it to blend into dark surfaces and areas.
Still, if you're looking for a tiny MP3 player that can be easily passed off as a pendant, this one fits the bill. Plus, unlike the Shuffle, the S10 offers a crisp colour OLED screen -- one that's rather larger than that of the MobiBlu Cube2 at 30mm. Oddly, iRiver chose to orient the screen in portrait mode, which requires constant scrolling of longer text on the display. Unfortunately, there's no option to switch to landscape.
iRiver was able to squeeze a relatively ample screen on to the itty-bitty player by utilising the innovative D-Click interface, which is the same as that found on the Clix. In order to navigate among the S10's menus, you click on the four edges of the screen.
Little contextual graphics appear within the various screens and menus to indicate which side accomplishes what. On the playback screen, for example, pressing up on the display goes back one track, clicking down shuttles forward and pressing right pauses playback.
Dedicated buttons for power and volume sit on the right and left spine, a standard headphone jack and lanyard loop are embedded into the top and a pinhole mic can be found on the bottom edge. There's no obvious hold switch -- instead, you press both volume keys at the same time to lock the controls.
Unlike the Clix, the S10 does not use the Creative-patented interface that allows you to step down through genres, artists and albums. Instead, you get old-school folder tree navigation.
Considering the size of the device, iRiver manages to pack a fair amount of features into the S10. There's an FM tuner with autoscan and presets, and a built-in clock means you even schedule recordings for radio shows. (You can also use it as an alarm if you have it hooked up to speakers.)
The player also supports photos, but unfortunately only in BMP format -- photos look surprisingly decent on the little screen with good clarity and colour saturation, however don't expect to notice much detail on such a small display.
Of course, you get the requisite audio playback: the S10 supports MP3, WMA, ASF and OGG. The player offers a plethora of sound settings for tweaking audio to your liking. There are 10 preset EQs (Normal, Classic, Live, Pop, Rock, Jazz, Ubass, Metal, Dance, Party), a five-band custom EQ and SRS Wow sound effects. Plus, the S10 supports playlists and you can create a quick list on the fly.
There are a few things missing from the S10. There's no support for DRM-protected files purchased or rented from online music stores, and there's no simple way to shuffle all songs. Plus, there's no standard USB port. Instead, you must use the included adaptor to sync through the headphone jack -- don't lose it! Also missing is support for Mac operating systems.
Our only major complaint here is about battery life: the S10 is rated for a paltry 8 hours (check back for CNET Labs test results). Of course, with a player this small, you've got to expect a tiny battery to match.
Other performance is much more impressive. Processor speed and transfer times are snappy, and sound quality is top-notch, as has been the habit of iRiver players.
We suggest swapping in a pair of quality earbuds, such as Shure's E4cs, to replace the stock set that comes with the unit. If you do, you'll be rewarded with rich, warm audio that offers satisfying bass response and plenty of high-end detail.
If a teeny-tiny MP3 player is what you're after, we wouldn't stop you going for the iRiver S10, as long as you've got a bit of cash to splash and you don't mind charging it every day or two.
If you're not sold, take a look at Apple's colourful iPod Shuffle, which at £55 is cheaper, but only 1GB capacity. If you're after a player that will keep on going, Sony's NW-S703F boasts a battery life of 43 hours.
Additional editing by Kate Macefield