The iRiver X20 is a trendy contender in the growing range of popular flash-based MP3 players on the market today. With its 56mm (2.2-inch) colour LCD screen, in-line MP3 recording, simple PC software and excellent battery life, the X20 stands to be a tough opponent.
We looked at the 2GB model, but 4GB and 8GB versions can also be bought from advancedmp3players.co.uk.
The iRiver X20 may be light, but it still feels like it's too bulky for its weight. The whole hand is needed to securely operate the player, unlike competitors such as the Samsung YP-K3 or the Sony NW-A808, which are easily held and controlled with fingertips.
The 56mm (2.2-inch) colour LCD screen is always used horizontally. As a result, all controls are on the far right-hand side, meaning the player needs to be supported by all four fingers, with the thumb doing the navigation. The screen is of a great size though, and more than justifies the ever-so-slightly awkward controls.
The front of the X20 is black and glossy, with a bright white control wheel taking centre stage, albeit on the right-hand side of the device. The wheel is stylishly backlit with a blue light.
iRiver has given this player a mechanical scroll wheel, which physically rotates. It's something of a novelty and we're not big fans. There's just not enough grip between your finger and the wheel and it's a little imprecise at landing on menu options.
The rear of the player has a matte finish and plays host to a rarely seen feature of MP3 players: a user-replaceable battery. The back of the device looks a lot like a mobile phone, with a button-released back plate that covers the battery's dock.
Also on the back of the player is a tiny pair of stereo speakers. They are fine for showing off the odd song to your friends, but sound too tinny to replace a proper set of portable speakers.
There's also a microSD card slot, which is protected by a rubber flap.
The interface on the X20 is very simplistic. All menu icons are located on a single screen and are positioned like the numbers on a clock face. The icon of whichever option you are currently highlighting appears in the centre, fully lit and larger than the other icons on the screen. Navigating these icons requires you to rotate the mechanical scroll wheel à la iPod's Click Wheel.
Your music collection is sorted in a variety of ways: by artist, album, track name or genre. You're also given the option to play all tracks in your library by hitting a 'play all' option. Playlists are supported but in a way that could potentially halve the available space on your player: playlists are effectively treated as separate music folders and any tracks in a playlist are copied to the player again. That means you'll have one copy in your main library and one in your playlist.
The X20 supports MP3, WMA, OGG and WAV format music, along with MPEG-4 and WMV format video. It will display your favourite photos, providing they're in JPEG format.
Also crammed into the X20 is a voice recorder. Voice is recorded in the uncompressed WAV format, making it easy to recompress your recordings when transferred to the computer. Sadly, it also means file sizes are significantly larger than if recordings were compressed into WMA or MP3, and the quality is similar to AM radio, though fine for speech.
If you're interested in ripping your old vinyl collection to MP3, consider using the X20 -- it features a line-in recording option with various quality settings to choose from. There's no cable provided for this function but you can pick one up in most good audio hardware stores for £2 to £3.