Design of the iriver E10 Portable Video Player
The original U10 sported the Direct-Click (D-Click) navigation system which, back in 2005, was probably the only thing that could give the iPod's Click Wheel a run for its money. Fast forward to 2006 and the D-Click is still the niftiest thing going. Though the tactile controls are no longer hidden behind the four sides of the screen, the location of the navigational buttons in a cross-slot formation beneath the screen makes for an easier one-hand user experience.
We enjoyed fooling with the new buttons; they were large for a player of this size (96 x 45 x 14mm) and offered a positive tactile touch no less firm than the Click Wheel. Like the U10, the E10's menu layout is easy to figure out. Pressing the right button will lead the user to the next menu layer, while the left button will bring the user back up a notch. The up/down keys serve as navigation within the current menu. Holding down the right button will bring up a contextual sub-menu relevant to the current highlighted feature, i.e. song rating during music playback, etc.
We like the E10's UI for its simple organic nature and the fact that it provides full functionality without the accompanying complexity that's inherent in rival MP3 players.
Other physical controls include a volume rocker switch on the left of the unit, a power button, a configurable Smart Key and a slider control. The Smart Key is almost akin to the shortcut button on the Creative Zen Vision:M. However, unlike the Singaporean-made player's version which will call up a list of features, the iriver Smart Key can only be tied to one of five functions (home screen; play/pause; shuffle all; A-B repeat; start/stop record). It's less configurable than we would have liked, though.
Inch for inch, the E10 is far larger than the iPod nano, and even next to the bulbous Cowon iAudio 6, it's still formidable in size. The saving grace? It's the care taken in the E10's design. Like the cult phone, the Motorola RAZR V3, the E10 shares the same edgy and minimalist lines. Buttons like the volume rocker are highlighted with a raised profile and clean flowing lines are evident throughout the player's form. It's an MP3 player the Creative Zen series can take a design leaf from.
It's rare that we would cite the carrying pouch but the E10's deserves some mention. Made of grey felt, the pouch differs from other bundled pouches with its base design that facilitates easy removal of the E10.
Features of the iriver E10 Portable Video Player
Prior to the E10's launch, the reported remote control function was mired in speculation; no one really knew what it was supposed to do. Well, it's a TV remote. Preinstalled into the E10 are the remote profiles for 182 different TV brands, so it should be able to cover most households' displays. However, if your TV is not included, tough. There's no remote learning capability on the E10 and, while even obscure brands like Teknika are in the mix, Thomson was surprisingly omitted. As of press time, iriver had no plans to update new TV models via firmware upgrades.
Though we did not have the opportunity to test every single TV brand, we had a mixed bag of results for those we did. On the Toshiba TVs we tested, the E10 hit the jackpot, but that's not the case for JVC sets; out of three we tried, one failed to turn on. The remote functionality is also limited to just the powering on of the TV, channel skipping and volume control. However, the fact that a remote control is hidden in an MP3 player makes it deliciously suited for pranks on the unsuspecting.
Supporting Macromedia Flash Lite 2.0, the E10 makes for an interesting multimedia MP3 player. The Flash-based games are a plus, though the bundled entertainment bordered on the simplistic. Minesweeper, anyone? We tried loading Web-based Flash videos onto the E10 and they work… to a certain extent. Animation was choppy though the audio carried through okay. But do note, Web-based flash animations are not formatted for the E10 anyway.
The lack of bundled content does not really hamper the user experience. The official iriver site carries a section where U10 and E10 users can upload their own homebrewed Flash contents to share with others. Best thing about it? It's all free. And it's all made for the E10/U10 display. The free files include themes, games, movies and music. We even had the chance to sample the Bitamin music therapy service. Meant only for the Korean market, it claim to reduce stress by delivering alpha waves to the listener. Someone has kindly uploaded a Flash file of the Bitamin.
The limited video format support cramps the style of the E10. It accepts only MPEG-4 simple profile files and the videos would have to be size-optimized to take advantage of the 128 x 128-pixel display. The bundled iriver plus 2 software does not come with video conversion or resizing features.
The E10 includes FM/voice recording as well as a text/picture viewer. Some quirks to note include the lack of a zoom feature for the picture viewer and the inability to add songs to the on-the-go playlist if the tracks are transferred using Windows Explorer drag-and-drop instead of iriver plus 2. We also noticed that while the E10 allows for multitasking during music playback (viewing pictures at the same time), this duality is not extended to FM radio.
On the music side of things, the E10 provides on-the-go playlist generation as well as 10 preset equalizers, a five-band user defined equalizer and SRS WOW audio enhancements.
If cosmetic touchups are your thing, the E10 offers two options for the user to jazz it up. One could use JPEGs to change the wallpaper or download a Shockwave Flash-based (.swf) theme from the Web. However, in terms of accessories, unlike the iPod universe, the E10 will not be similarly supported by third-party manufacturers.
Charging on the E10 is conducted through USB. Since the E10 will be recognized as a storage device when connected to the computer, the user will not be able to able to use it while it is being charged.
Performance of the iriver E10 (6GB) Portable Video Player
Despite the claimed 32-hour playback, our tests using 240MB of MP3 files playing on a loop had the E10 hitting 23 hours 40 minutes instead. But this is a showing that places the E10 on the upper strata of MP3 players when it comes down to battery life.
While we have misgivings over the use of a proprietary data cable, the swooping transfer speeds of the E10 make for fair compensation. At 7.27MB per second using Windows Explorer drag-and-drop and 5.21MB per second using the iriver plus software, the E10 is blazingly fast.
The screen on the E10 is a rather ungenerous 1.5 inches. While it worked well for pictures and general navigation, the 128 x 128-pixel screen was not conducive for videos with a 4:3 aspect ratio. We experienced letterboxing on the top and bottom of the video which meant the video would be displayed on less than the full screen real estate. Though sharp, the E10 had slight problems displaying large expanses of the same hues, resulting in mild pixilation in rapid action scenes.
We auditioned the E10 with the new Creative Zen Aurvana earphones. Bass notes on Massive Attack's Angel were tight without overt distortion. We rather liked how Beverly Craven sounded on the E10; it was rich with adequate emphasis on the mids.
The FM autoscan function was excellent. It captured all the radio stations in our test locations. However, we experienced mild audio distortion with two of the major radio stations.