iRiver: First Thoughts

So I got for Christmas the iRiver 340 music jukebox (40 gig version). I chose it over the iPod because:
  • It's cheaper - US$386.00 instead of $500.00.
  • I can make Podcasts on it (i.e. I can record things at high quality)
  • The battery is better than the iPod.
  • It supports Ogg Vorbis audio compression.
  • Has a radio (but I don't see myself using it very much).
  • You don't need to use iTunes to copy your files.
  • It mounts as a drive on Windows, and thus you can copy pretty much anything to it.
My guess is that the iPod has a nicer interface, but I wouldn't know, since I've never used one.

I've been using my favorite synchronizing program, Unison, to update my iRiver. I'm using about 20 gig of disk space so far.

What I didn't like is that the US version of the iRiver:
  • doesn't come with a cradle (a $25.00 addon),
  • the carrying case completely covers the buttons and the display (a proper carrying case is a $30.00 addon), so anytime I want do skip a song I have to take it out of the case to do this.
  • There's a remote control that you can use, which would make the carrying case they give usable, but that's a $20,00 addon)
For some reason the European version has all these addons included.

Another thing that would be nice is a little LED showing that it's turned on. After a few seconds the display turns itself off to save power, but you have no idea - looking at it - whether it's turned on or not.

Other negative points:
  • even with the database turned off it takes a little too long to start up (about 15 seconds).
  • The interface overloads the buttons. Clicking an extended period of time on a button will produce a different result than clicking quickly. Although "vi" users can attest that you can get used to anything, it's annoying at first.
  • Again because of overloading if you are in, say, the browsing mode, the volume and "next" buttons are used for browsing, so if you want to skip the song or change the volume you have to quit what your are doing - slightly annoying.
  • It's a little heavy and a little thick (apparently more than the iPod anyway).
  • You add a 5 star rating to the music. It would be nice if it could do do that then I would update my wxMusik database with the information.
  • You can't get a list of the files you've listened to. I'd like to be able to write a little python program to delete podcasts that I've already listened to, for example.
I haven't even installed the software that comes with it and I don't plan on ever doing that. It's great that I can use other programs so synchronize or make playlists as I see fit.
One downside I didn't realize about Ogg Vorbis is that it uses up more juice so your battery won't last as long (something like 20% less).
Overall I'm very happy with the gift. Having all my music, podcasts, and audio books with me at all times is wonderful. Now I don't mind when the flight is delayed or there's a lineup for something, I just keep listening...

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