iRiver Clix 2*(4GB)
This was the first AMOLED MP3 screen device released worldwide. Some say this was the best media player iRiver made, I agree…almost. The display of course is a wonderful AMOLED with 262,000 colors and crisp, clear sound. This is also Audible compatible. The screen does suffer from being small, a little over 2 inches, but any AMOLED sized screen will not cause too much eyestrain. Remember to switch it to MTP transfer mode rather than MSM so that it can be used with WMP 11 to manage music/video. The iRiver media handling software is slow and cumbersome.
The Clix 2 is not that intuitive to use, since it is only a touch screen pretender. The Controls are on the front on all four sides of the display. Their positioning means you are always tempted to touch the screen initially, but I got used to it after an hour and it was comfortable.
The excellent video quality however, suffers from not being able to download video simply, unless you know a few secrets: QVGA(320×240) or less / 15 Frames per second or less / 384 Kbps or less. Also you will need the iRiver Movie Converter by Reigncom, free on the iRiver site. Go to http://www.iriver.com/index.asp?code=0302 for the latest firmware update (to make Audible work) and http://www.iriver.com/index.asp?code=0302 for the Movie Converter. So first you have to have a DVD ripping program produce a file. Then the movie converter spends at least another hour(for 60 mins video) converting this file. The Clix 2 is very picky about receiving exactly the right parameters for video. Unlike most other players reviewed here, there is virtually no native support to handle file format. Meaning that the Clix does not have any built in processing ability to enable video compatibility…unlike its successor….
iRiver Spinn*(16 GB)
The sound is excellent, as with all iRiver products. Touch screen and cylinder operated!! The cylinder on the right side can swivel 360 degrees and handles most functions. You can use touch, but the screen is not that responsive. It takes a couple of taps and not all of the functions are touch compliant. I stuck with the cylinder control and was more than happy. Video resolution is 480 x 272 and a bitrate of between 800-950 kbps and between 26-30 FPS, works fine when converting.
The best AMOLED player next to the Cowon S9 and definitely the best iRiver player made, if it was not for lack of Audible support. With a brilliant 3.2-inch screen, you feel as though you are in a movie theater when watching video, but while the Spinn, like the Clix 2, has 262,000 colors, it does not look as sharp as its baby brother does. The larger screen cries out for more….more colors, surely that cannot be possible…
Cowon S9* (16 GB)
The Cowon S9 has a 3.3 inch AMOLED Touch Screen with 480×272 pixels and 16 Million Colors. No other media player has video this gorgeous, especially with such a large screen. The closest is the Sony X series. Video encoding is so easy on this: 480 x 272 resolution with a bit rate of between 850-1000 kbps and up to 30 FPS. Unlike any other players reviewed, the S9 has native support for just about every video format. DVD transfer is seamless. Each hour of video converted (WMV format) took 2 minutes to transfer .Whereas the next closest player, the ZUNE, took 20 minutes. As wonderful as the video is, the sound will blow any media player away with the exception of the Sony X, which still only comes close. Imagine being in a recording studio and hearing everything live and then throw in High Def Sound. It is an incredible experience. As if this was not enough, it also supports Audible.
If I could stop there, then the S9 would be the undoubted winner in my mind. Trust me, I really wish I could stop there. Alas, the user interface took me about 9 hours to perfect. It has an exceedingly non-intuitive menu system. The icons give little away of their actual function. It is laborious to navigate and does not have the most attractive menu system. I hope that future firmware will improve this.
Sony X Series*
Sony X Series
Will this unseat the Cowon S9 you ask? Well it is at the end of this review…..is Sony the best overall? The sound quality is superb, as with virtually any Sony player. The video (432 x 240 resolution, bitrate 820-900 with a FPS of 28-30)is very good, but not the best. The S9 sounds better and richer. The Spinn, S9 and the Clix beat it for Video quality. The Sony X series, probably the most expensive media player launched in the last 5 years, does not have an AMOLED display. It does have an OLED display, but it is not as vibrant with only 262,000 colors. It also does not support Audible. What makes the Sony a worthy contender is the user interface. It is seriously a joy to navigate and has the most responsive touch screen…even better than the iPod Touch…gasp!!! When you combine this, with the high standard of audio and video, I find myself using this more than the Cowon. I also find I hate myself for it. Think of it this way: imagine your favorite restaurant, how you love the food, but it is 40 miles away so you only visit twice a month. Then suddenly, a new restaurant opens up and it has amazing food…almost as good… and is only a block away…..You find that you sample the new place every week and go visit the old one now, every month or so.
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