The iRiver Volcano T7 is iRiver's latest entrant into this field, coming in 1GB, 2GB and 4GB capacities. As the 4GB version can be found for just £49, you're justified in being curious.
Like the original iPod shuffle, the T7 has an integrated USB plug so you can plug the player directly into a PC without wires. While this is convenient, some laptops have slightly recessed USB sockets as a result of the chassis design, meaning an included USB extension cable is required when connecting the player.
The player itself is lightweight but feels rugged. A decent, if small, blue dot matrix screen displays loads of info, but it doesn't feel cluttered. Anyone with less capable eyesight may struggle, though.
Our least favourite aspect of the T7 is its button design. Most controls reside on the face of the player beside the screen. In some body colours, they're very hard to see and there's no way to use them without pulling the player out of a pocket -- not good if you're on a treadmill.
Supported formats include MP3, protected and unprotected WMA, OGG and ASF. Notably absent is WAV, AAC and particularly FLAC, which even the box claims the player supports. We can confirm, however, that it does not, at least as of version 1.4 of the firmware. There's no support for Audible audiobooks or gapless playback either, so expect a slight pause between tracks on live albums.
There's an FM radio with a recording function though, and podcasts can be automatically downloaded and synced using T7-compatible software from Podcast Ready. All your other media can be either dragged and dropped within a desktop environment or synced with Windows Media Player. That's pretty much it. This isn't a ground-breaking player, nor is it particularly feature packed -- but it does cost under £50.
Now, you're never going to get hi-fi sound quality from a player this size, particularly if you don't upgrade the bundled earphones to a decent pair. Accordingly, the T7 offers a generally bright sound, although with weaker bass compared to some other players in this category. But it's a reasonably clean sound, particularly good for listening to spoken word.
In comparison, Creative's Zen Stone Plus offers a deeper, warmer sound quality that was preferred by numerous people in the office. Adding some custom EQ within the T7 to emphasise the low end of the spectrum helped, but overall, we feel it was still sonically the inferior performer.