iRiver broke up its marriage with tradition when creating the popular Clix's D-Click navigation system, using the screen itself as a four-way button. And the Korean company has done away with convention once again with the hotly anticipated Spinn.
Featuring an innovative new control system, the Spinn will be available initially in 4GB and 8GB capacities, with 16GB to follow shortly after. The Spinn will be gyrating its way to the UK in September and will be on sale at Advanced MP3 Players for around £150 for the 8GB model. Prices have not been announced for the other capacities.
The Spinn's innovation is its mechanical wheel, perched top-right on the player's well-built silver aluminium chassis. It rotates 360 degrees, discreetly clicking as it swivels. How effective this is depends entirely on how you grip the player -- some of us found it extremely comfortable and intuitive; some found it a little awkward. The main downside is that it's nearly impossible to use it with just one hand.
But the stunningly crisp 480x272-pixel AMOLED screen -- itself a key Spinn feature -- is touch-sensitive. It's no iPod touch, but it makes one-handed operation easier.
A 3.5mm headphone socket sits underneath the player, directly opposite the scroll wheel. That's okay, but to its left lives something that isn't: a non-standard USB socket. The location of the headphone socket also makes it impossible to let the Spinn stand unaided for hands-free video playback.
Various physical control buttons feature around the sides of the Spinn, including a button for stepping back through menus, making a total of three navigational methods when combined with the touchscreen's controls and the scroll wheel.
Both the wheel and beautiful screen are features in themselves, but the Spinn also supports an epic wealth of audio formats including MP3, WMA, OGG, FLAC, APE, ASF, WAV and Lossless WMA. Your protected WMA purchases are also supported, but notably absent is AAC.
MPEG-4 SP, WMV9 SP and Xvid SP videos are supported up to 30fps, though our usual Xvid files wouldn't play, which is odd, because they did play on iRiver's cheaper Lplayer. Digital radio came on our review model, as hinted in our initial hands-on, but all digital radio and TV features will be stripped for the final UK model.
There's no expandable memory either, since the Spinn doesn't have a microSD or SDHC slot. To compensate, A2DP stereo Bluetooth comes built-in, along with support for text files up to 10MB and JPEG photos.
Also supported is Adobe's Flash Lite 2.1 standard, so SWF games can be simply dragged and dropped from any Web site on to the player. Games seem to need to be smaller than 1MB, though -- and don't bother trying to play downloaded YouTube videos because that sort of Flash isn't supported.