By Mac Harris
So news of this thing’s been going around for more than, like, two days, but it’s very slick and deserves to be mentioned here.
The roughly 2″ x 3″ video player is only a bit over half an inch thick and makes your iPod seem like an old cassette Walkman, (ok, maybe the Sport model with Auto-Reverse). You’d expect with that tiny size, the screen would be miniscule and unwatchable. Not the case, as the iRiver designers have evolved beyond using buttons as controls and squeezed every last millimeter of electro real estate for a bright, 2.2″ TFT full-color display. The flash version has no moving parts with storage in the 1 and 2GB variety. A hard drive based version will also be available with an alleged 8 gigs of media love via a 1″ Microdrive.
You like specs and such? Come in.
The u10 also sports an FM radio with an earphone coupled antenna and direct recording of FM, line-in, and voice; all encoded to MP3 in real time. Audio support comes in OGG, MP3, WMA, and ASF flavors while video playback is limited MPEG4 files. It even supports Macromedia Flash (Lite) games and files!
So no buttons? How do you use the damn thing? Navigate and browse through your sea of Aqua Teen episodes by simply pressing the top, bottom, and sides of the screen itself in what iRiver calls “direct click” technology. This is the biggest user interface advancement for a portable I’ve seen since the iPod’s (exhaustively copied) touch sensitive scroll wheel.
Rumor has it that iRiver’s gearing for an August/September U.S. release for the flash memory units and an October release for the 8gb hard drive version. Keep your digits crossed. No word on US pricing, but expect it to mirror European numbers at 239 / 289 Euro for the 1 and 2 giggers respectively.