Advantages 40GB storage, Supports various audio formats, Colour LCD screen, 12 hour battery life for audio, watch AVI movies, Includes lots of accessories
Disadvantages Bit on the pricey side, Slow boot up, Only AVI supported, small screen, A bit chunky, movies not as smooth
This seems to be the age of the iPods but I’m not a fan of the iPod because of the battery life and because everyone’s got one. It’s a fashion statement. You’re walking down the street, you see people with the white earphones and they’re everywhere! I thought the storage space was impressive and they look pretty good but that’s all. (Sorry iPod fans). My friend bought an iRiver and told me about it. He told me it could play MP3’s and even movies. I looked it up, and read a review about it, after that, I had to get one!• • • WHAT WERE MY FIRST IMPRESSIONS? • • •
The player fits nicely in my hand. It looks good but it’s bulkier than its 40GB rival, the Apple iPod and is about twice the depth but it does have an LCD colour screen and lots of features. The exterior is made from carbon fibre material with a consistent and elegant pattern all round. It’s dark grey in colour with black a pattern all round (or the other way around) so the player looks black. I thought it looked cool although wasn’t sure about the red icons on the buttons and the blue ‘NAVI’ button. I think black and white or silver might have been a better choice since I think black and white or silver would go better together. There seems to be one with this colour scheme based on the Ciao picture but no idea on where to find that. It might just be the U.S. version, which has a few differences to the one I’ve got (International version).8 / 10 – Looks bulky but still looks good. Still fits nicely in my hand.
• • • WHAT DOES IT COME WITH? • • •Remote control / Protective Carry Case / USB-On-The-Go lead / USB cable / External battery pack / Docking station / Earphones / Small Stereo microphone / CDROM containing driver and Management software / AC Power Adapter / Cloth / Speaker lead / Warranty, safety sheets / User Guide and User Manual / iRiver H340 Jukebox
The earphones aren’t really much to look at since they’re just the regular ear bud type. I prefer the ‘round-the-ear’ type, which are more comfortable and more secure. The remote is the type you connect to your earphones and is there for the convenience of not having to use the main controls on the player. The protective case is very nice and seems very tough and allows you to access the buttons, and ports at the top. It seems to offers good protection from drops and scratches. The case also protects the screen nicely. I wouldn’t recommend dropping the player since there’s a hard drive inside and they are generally quite delicate. The carry case comes with a detachable clip on the back. The USB-On-The-Go cable lets you connect an external hard drive to the player but I’ve yet gotten this to work. Stuff like microphone, external battery pack, cloth, speaker leads are all welcome accessories whereas I would think you’d have to buy them separately with an iPod.The docking station has a USB and power socket so I connect it to the mains to charge the player, and to my PC to transfer files. The dock is ‘weighted’ since it feels quite heavy. The build quality is high it feels quite ‘tough’ and like most things, has the rubber feet underneath to prevent it from sliding around. Using the docking stations means I don’t have to rest my iRiver on my desk thus reducing the risk of dropping or scratching it so it’s a useful accessory. Not essential since you can connect the player directly to the mains for charging and directly to a computer to transfer files.
• • • WHAT CAN IT DO? • • •It can play music files (MP3, OGG, WMA, ASF), view pictures (JPG, BMP), view text files (TXT), tune into FM radio stations, record sounds and radio (in MP3 format), and movie files (AVI)! (After a firmware upgrade). It can also store any other file you’d like to throw in there (so long as it’s not bigger than 2GB since it’s the FAT file system) and it can store up to 40GB of stuff! That’s about 10,000 songs if they’re around 4MB in size each. Transfer speeds via USB 2.0 are excellent. A 100MB file is moved over into the drive in about 20 seconds!
While on the train, I watch my anime/films but I have to get off and go on foot, I can switch to FM radio. Going underground? I can switch to MP3 so I can listen while I walk. If you have notes typed on your PC, put them in a text file and load them up onto the H340 and read them where ever you go. Got pictures to show friends? Not a problem!• • • HOW DO I USE IT? IS IT EASY? • • •
I charged it using the dock station for a few hours till it showed “Complete” on the screen. I pressed the Play / Pause button and watched a nice blue initialisation screen but a load up time of around 10–15 seconds. I then pressed play again and it started playing a song! Sample song files are in the player for you to try out the player with as well as sample pictures!To add songs, I plugged the iRiver into one of my USB ports and it started charging. Turned the player on and it appeared as a Hard Drive under ‘My Computer’. I just had to ‘drag and drop’ or copy/cut and paste my media files into the drive. It still charges when on. Like with flash drives, Microsoft Window 98 requires a driver to recognise the drive. This driver is provided on the installation disc. Once you see the “H300” drive on your computer, you can drag and drop your media files into it like you would with any other drive. Some file types like text files need to be in folders with particular names. It’s a folder with “TEXT” as a folder name if you want to be able to read text files. I’ve found that music and videos can be anywhere.
At first, I got a bit lost with the navigation but after a little playing about and sneaking peaks into the user manual, it was quite easy once I had gotten used to the buttons. The text and icons are sharp and easy to see. However, I do find that the buttons are a bit small and too close together. Not very good unless you have small fingers like I do. This is where the iPod gets back at the iRiver H340. iPod buttons are spread out nicely and the interface is intuitive to use. With the iRiver, some buttons require you to hold them down to access certain menus. Also, using the ‘Record’ button to access the multimedia menu would be a bit difficult to discover without sneaking peaks at the manual. The ‘Stop’ button goes back a screen, which is something else you might not think of doing. If you have lots of songs, then you’d have to keep scrolling down unless you organise your songs into folders. A ‘search’ feature would have been good to include. On-screen navigation is easy but the buttons are a slight let down. However, a ‘hold’ button is available on the remote and the player itself and it’s just an essential these days so it’s great that H340 has one too to prevent accidental button presses.5 / 10 – Overall, navigation isn’t as good but the remote makes up for it. Does require reading the manual before getting a grasp of the controls. Not saying it's better to not have to have read the manual as it's there for a reason but it's just not as easy as an iPod. The buttons are also too close together so it's a bit of a design flaw.
• • • WHAT FEATURES DOES IT HAVE? • • •The main reason I wanted the Jukebox was for the movie playback capabilities but I needed to upgrade the firmware to use this. Without the firmware upgrade, the H340 can’t even see movie files so I downloaded it and followed the website firmware upgrade instructions and applied the upgrade. I was rather worried that something would go wrong since a failed firmware upgrade could totally mess up the device. It turned itself off at the end which had me even more worried but I read that it was normal. I checked the firmware version during startup and saw that it had been upgraded.
I copied my own AVI file compressed with the XVID codec to see if the iRiver could play it. Unfortunately, it could not because it’s an unsupported format, although AVI is actually supported. Turns out, I had to convert the media using a freeware program called Pocket-DivX Encoder first before they can be played on the H340. Encoding only takes a few minutes depending on the movie length, quality settings and the speed of your computer. It only takes about 5 minutes to convert a 25 minute 150mb (approx) AVI file on my computer. The Jukebox can’t play files bigger than a certain size so Pocket-DivX Encoder splits up the output file into segments if it’s too big. The maximum size being just over 100MB in size and just under 1 hour in length. Once converted, the file sizes are much smaller. Other formats need to be converted to AVI first and then converted again to the more specific AVI format. Videos with subtitles can be a bit difficult to watch but this depends on the size of the subtitles and the font they use. Some are easier to read than others. Lastly for video playback, the video doesn't run as smoothly as you'd see on your PC or DVD player. A bit slower but not really what I'd call jerky either. Still, watch-able and hardly noticeable with the less fast paced movies.For playing MP3’s (or other audio formats), you can use the usual playing modes. These include repeat track, repeat directory, shuffle, etc. You can also have on ‘Intro’ play, where it plays only a sample of each track and then skips to the next to do the same. This is a good feature if your tracks aren’t named properly (i.e. Track 01.MP3, Track 02.wma). There’s also a ‘section repeat’ mode where you select a start point, then an end point and it repeats the segment you selected. This is new to me but sounds good for repeating segments of voice recordings if you find it difficult to make something out. MP3’s that it can’t read for whatever reason (i.e. damaged, not supported, etc) are skipped. I’ve found a few of MP3’s that it skips.
You can even browse through your file list whilst playing a movie or MP3. I think this is quite good since you can keep playing a track until you’ve found the next song you want to play. Another feature called ‘Play reservation’ lets you queue the next song for playing.The H340 also supports the use of playlists where you can set what tracks to play. It supports the M3U playlist. This is the playlist that Winamp uses. Winamp is a freeware media player that can be downloaded for free.
The FM radio feature is easy to use. You can have manual tuning or you can have set your own preset stations. I found it easy to set up (after sneaking a peak in the manual, that is). Reception and sound quality seems good.With the voice recording, you can set it so that it only records when it detects sound so saves space for lengthy recordings. Smart! You can also adjust the internal and external (line-in) microphone volumes.
I don’t think it’s possible to delete files without the help of a computer, as I have not managed to find a way to do it on the player itself. There may be a way of doing it but I haven’t figured it out asides from using the ‘format’ feature, which erases everything.There are other things like setting different languages (lots to choose from), adjusting screen brightness / contrast to save power, backlight settings, and more!
9 / 10 – So many features but I’d like to be able to organise files without a computer.• • • WHAT’S THE SOUND / VIDEO QUALITY LIKE? • • •
Sound quality is excellent! Even on maximum output, the sound plays like a dream. With a pair of good quality headphones / speakers, the sound output is excellent. Recorded voice is also pretty good quality. (It records voice as MP3 files). You also have the option of setting bass, treble bass, SRS, Sound balance, Beep volume, and Fade-In for sound. When recording from Line-In (i.e. CD player), it can even divide up the when it senses a long pause but you have to turn this option on.Video quality seems quite good, but not perfect when converted. Looking at the screen very closely reveals some pixilation in places but hardly noticeable. You can adjust the conversion settings for improved video and audio output but doesn’t make too much difference. Screen has a resolution of 220 x 164, which is pretty small but I feel that videos are watch-able. The menus and graphics are quite sharp though.
9 / 10 – Great!• • • WHAT’S THE BATTERY LIFE LIKE? • • •
They say it can last 16 hours but I read on Toms Hardware Guide that they clocked it at just under 13 hours, which is pretty good. Better than the 4th Generation iPod, I’m assuming they meant for MP3’s. Curious about what it can do, I chucked a bunch of AVI files on, charged up the player to full battery, and started playing my movies from 12:09 and by 18:26, the battery indicator started flashing on top of the movie in the top right corner but it continued playing. It turned off at around 19:09, so that’s 7 hours battery life for video playback, which isn’t bad. My iPaq would have died in under 2 hours.Of course, there’s also the external battery pack, which can charge your player with 4x AA batteries while using or before you. Not just that, it’s even included unlike with an iPod, you’d have to buy separately.
8 / 10 – Battery life is pretty good but not as long with video. Excellent for MP3’s since it turns the screen off. A bit shorter if only playing WMA’s, or so I read. There are players with better battery life though.• • • HOW’S THE USER MANUAL? • • •
You get a Quick Start Guide as well as a manual. These ‘look’ like they’ll keep you reading for hours but only one third of each book is for the English reader. The manuals are easy to read with plenty of illustrations. It’s all in black and white but the wording in the manual is in plain, simple English, not like the ones you get with products imported from East Asian countries even if iRiver is Korean. Just one or two places with errors like “..you MP3..” instead or “…your MP3…” but still easily understood. Everything is divided into its own sections and has step-by-step instructions on how to do everything from what everything is, how to set things up, to how to use the accessories. Terrific! There are so many (unfamiliar) functions that I would have found it difficult to figure them out without the manual.9 / 10 – I found it very helpful. It explained the features clearly and the pictures helped too.
• • • WHAT’S THE CUSTOMER SUPPORT LIKE? • • •User Manuals, software, firmware can be downloaded from the iRiver website in case you lose them (or just can’t be bothered to look for them). I needed to download and install a firmware for my Jukebox to be able to play movie files so I visited the iRiver website. I found it but wasn’t sure how to install it. The website had information on how to do it but the images seemed to be of a different model (the H100), even so, the procedure is pretty much the same. They even let you download a 12MB sample AVI (video file of a funky animation they made) to test video playback. Problem is, their site seems pretty slow (by broadband standards) when it comes to downloading. Loading pages are fine though.
They have also published common problems on the site so that you can look up information on how to solve problems that you encounter, which I think is always helpful. You can also contact iRiver through the site. Overall, I think the support is quite good even though I haven’t had to contact them directly. There are also unofficial iRiver forums about where you can ask other iRiver owners when you have problems or questions. These are great sources for information.• • • WHAT ARE SOME SIMILAR PRODUCTS TO CONSIDER? • • •
There’s also a 20GB version (H320) if you think 40GB is too much for you. There’s also the iRiver H100 series ones coming in 20GB and 40GB but battery life isn’t as long. Screen sizes vary. Of course, there are many HDD MP3 players on the market without the video playback capabilities if you don’t mind.• • • Where can I get one and how much for? • • •
I bought it off eBay for £275. It’s quite expensive but at least I got it cheaper. Searching on Ciao found it for £321.99, £322.49 and £309.99 so the price varies.7 / 10 – A bit expensive but I think it’s worth every penny.
If you bought an iPod then saw this, you’d probably regret buying the iPod. It’s a blinding player. Not good if you plan on only buying it to watch videos and you like to have a nice big screen but if you’re after an MP3 player with a huge capacity, long battery life, then this is excellent. The movie playing capability, picture and text viewing capabilities would be added bonuses. Just have to spend a few minutes converting your AVI files first. Future firmware upgrades may allow for more supported formats and even increase battery life as I read that some firmware versions decreased battery life. If you don’t mind a 2” screen, and not the smoothest of playbacks, then it’s great for movies. Friends with iPods still not impressed? Put some porn on your iRiver and see what they say (Just kidding ;-) ). The movie feature is especially useful for long car or train journeys or when you’re at work in the office *cough* so if you’ve got the cash (it is quite expensive), then it’s definitely worth it and recommended!8 / 10 – Overall, I love my iRiver!
Thanks for reading!© 2005 - Deru
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