The iriver P7 is an attractive touchscreen portable media player, offered in 8GB (£170) and 16GB (£200) capacities. Like its smaller cousin, the Spinn, the P7 sports an aluminium design and offers music, video, radio and photo playback, as well as voice recording and a text reader. You won't find advanced features such as Bluetooth or Wi-Fi on the P7, but its relatively low price and large, 109mm (4.3-inch) screen make it a tempting purchase for video fans.
We have some gripes with the P7, but design isn't one of them. The P7's sleek aluminium body looks like it belongs in a modern art museum. In fact, even the plastic carton the P7 is packaged in looks like a design student's graduate project.
The P7 measures 114mm across, 76mm tall and a relatively svelte 13mm thick. The overall form is more pocket-friendly than the chunkier design of the Cowon O2, feeling more like an Archos 5 with a shrunken screen. The P7 is mainly operated using the touchscreen, but you'll find tiny buttons for power, menu and volume on the top edge of the player. The P7's headphone jack is on the right edge, along with a hold switch and a microSD memory slot covered by a plastic door.
While the P7's hardware looks like iriver's taken a few cues from Apple, the touchscreen interface is entirely unique. The company appropriately describes the main menu screen as magazine-like, laying out each of the player's functions on a single screen, compartmentalised into an attractive arrangement of boxes. If you're accustomed to scrolling though menus, the P7's Mondrian-esque layout may take some time to grow on you. After spending time with it, we can't say the layout offers any practical advantages, but it's a pleasant break from the norm.
Once you dial down into the P7's music and photo menus, the single-page interface of the main menu eventually gives way to a more common list view. Unlike the iPod touch's smooth, swift and responsive song lists, sorting through your music on the P7 requires patience and a precise touch on a slim graphical scroll bar. If you plan on storing a large music collection on the P7, prepare for some navigation frustration.
The P7 is easy on the eye, but the features are nothing to write home about. Despite the movie-worthy 109mm screen with a 480x272-pixel resolution, video really isn't the P7's forte. On paper, support for formats such as AVI, MP4, WMV, MPEG, FLV, Xvid, H.264 and a handful of others makes the P7's video capabilities seem very impressive. In practice, however, we found that the P7 doesn't offer the kind of drag-and-drop video format and resolution flexibility we've seen from competitors such as the O2 or Archos 605 WiFi.
Just like the smaller-screened Samsung YP-P3 or Spinn, we found ourselves spending extra time converting the videos we wanted to watch on the P7 using the included software. Power users and the patient-minded may be able to put up with the P7's particular video requirements, but people looking for drag-and-drop simplicity should look elsewhere.