I’m quickly running out of ways to introduce small players like the iriver T7. They are small and they have exactly the same specs as the competitors do now and did 5 years ago. Reviewing them is all about finding out if they have anything to offer whatsoever.
The T7′s specs are rather unremarkable, but there are a few things speaking in it’s favor – on paper. The integrated USB plug matched up with user selectable MSC mode surely makes it a nice alternative for those who want to connect anywhere, but is that enough to join the party of tiny players? Read on to find out
- Quick Look
- Size: 83.8 x 25.4 x 10.1 mm
- Capacities: 1, 2, 4GB
- Screen: 128×64 pixel Blue 1″ LCD Display
- Audio: MP3, WMA, ASF, OGG
- Battery: 10 hours audio (rated)
The player comes with earbuds, software and a short USB extension cable. Don’t expect there to be much accessories for it, maybe a few cases and such but nothing extraordinary.
The player looks very much like the Samsung U3 and is basically just a flat stick. Size wise its bigger than a thumbdrive but the look is very similar. The headphone jack and pop-out USB plug are located at the left and right end of the player respectively with a small button on the back to pop out the USB plug. On top there’s a power button with a reset hole along with a “up” button that acts as volume and for navigation and on the bottom is the hold switch and the “down” button.
The front buttons looks like they are touch based, but they really are hardware keys that work by clicking the plastic front plate. iriver has a thing for clicky plastic with their D-click system for some of their other players and it does work quite well. The buttons press easily and react well and it’s way better than that not so accurate touch system Samsung uses on the U3 (and now U4). However, it’s still not as good as real buttons.
There are several big drawbacks of this control type and I wish manufacturers would just stick with what works. First of all, forget about operating this thing without looking at what you’re doing. there are no dents or other means of detecting where the buttons actually are unless you see the text on them and the space between them is so small you really cant learn the position relative to the screen without missing often. in fact, I missed and pressed FFD instead of PLAY several times when not paying too much attention, so they really should have put the buttons farther apart – there’s plenty of room. Another problem with the buttons is that if you need to fast forward or rewind for a while for audio books or that sort of content, you’re fingers will hurt from holding the button as it’s not that easy to hold down for an extended period of time. In this aspect i did found out something rather peculiar: It seems the fast forward and rewind buttons have two levels of pressing. At first I thought it was a bug (you’ll see why I’d think that further down) but after testing it further it definitely isn’t a bug. If you press and hold either of the buttons, you’ll fast forward or rewind until you let go of the button. if you instead press and hold and then press even harder until you hear a second click before releasing the button, it will lock the fast forward/rewind and go on without holding down the button until you press the button lightly again (not the play button as you’d think). Useful
, for more reasons than you can imagine at this point in the review.
The player feels extremely plasticy, more so than any player I’ve seen. It feels so much like a toy you’re almost surprised when it turns on and plays music. The plastic is rather sturdy though, with no squeaking and badly fitted parts. Combined with the small weight of the player I don’t think you’ll break it easily, but for sake of looks they should have made some effort to make it feel less toy-like.
The T7 is MTP/MSC user selectable, which means that you can go into the settings menu and choose for yourself whether it will use one or the other. This of course means that you’ll have full compatibility with all OS’s and with the integrated USB plug it will really be useful to have MSC on there for connecting anywhere.
The interface is very peculiar looking, as parts of it look 2008 and some look 1988. the main menu is animated and looks nice, but beside that the interface is basically text, which is fine on such a small player. The main menu has Music, FM Radio, Recording, Browser and Settings. It’s not very user friendly and has some rather peculiar keymappings and solutions. For instance, the “music” menu is actually “now playing”, while “browser” is what you use to find files. You can press the menu button after you’ve gotten to the now playing screen which will prompt a small menu with ratings, bookmarks and music browsing, but for some reason that only works if the music is paused (the menu doesn’t open otherwise). It’s also a tad annoying that the main menu is navigated using left/right when everything else uses up/down, mostly because it could so easily have been the same. Another peculiar button mapping is the playback menu. Normally the logical place to put this would be on the menu button where the browsing options are (you could easily put both there) but instead you have to press and hold the play button to get this menu. Not too intuitive and not the first place you’d look.
The big problem about the interface of this player however is the bugs. It is by far the buggiest player I have ever seen and also the slowest. It has particular problems with long files and basically can’t handle them at all. If you pause a long track and then press play, it can take up to 10 seconds before it actually starts playing. This sounds like an exaggeration, but I’ve timed it and the average is about 5-7 seconds for long files. if you think you didn’t press it the first time and press it more times before it starts playing, you’ll get into this little loop of play/pause, play/pause every 5 seconds because all your presses are still in the memory. The player isn’t just slow at these files, but also in general. Startup is slow and so is navigating menus. It’s also the first player I’ve ever seen to prompt a message with “please wait” for several seconds once you’ve selected a file from the file browser.
Back to the bug list, there are a lot of bug’s I’ve seen multiple times in the short time I’ve had this thing and some are more annoying than others: Sometimes when bookmarking files, the title of the song switches to “add bookmark” with the top half of the text gone. Switching languages only works for a few of the languages on the list, as the rest will show it switched but remain English (and the English in the menus are a bit peculiar at times too). If you bookmark files when playback is paused, it will reset the track to the beginning and the bookmarks will also be at 0:00. Selecting scan speed for fast forwarding simply doesn’t work, you can select it and see the “selected” symbol but once you go back out of the menu and into it again it’s back to 2x – extremely annoying especially since on several occasions its been fast forwarding by itself on large tracks (with the double click method mentioned above) and it’s simply reset to the beginning of the track again. All in all WAY too many bugs, but hopefully they will be fixed in the future (at the time of this review, only available FW is the 1.01 that comes with the player).
Browsing and playback
Music browsing is file/folder only, meaning there’s no options to sort by artist, album etc. Some prefer this method while other prefer ID3 browsing. The T7 is as mentioned before incredibly slow so believe me when i saw it’s a good thing it uses file/folder – because scrolling through a list of several hundred tracks/artists etc on this thing would take all day.
the “now playing” screen is very crude, but effective. It shows battery life file format, progress bar, song title and playback settings. Ad mentioned before, holding down the play button brings up the playback menu. This has AB repeat, play mode, Select EQ, Setup Sound, Repeat Times, Repeat Interval, Scan Speed, Lyric Display, Rate, Add Bookmark and information. There are actually a few ones here that aren’t included in most players, such as repeat times and interval. Bookmarking is also a nice feature, but since it’s mostly used for audio books and such i have to press the matter of the bug that resets the track if you bookmark while paused. Rating seem to play a bigger-than-usual role on the player, as you can even browse files by rating in the browsing menu that pops up while pressing menu while paused.
Sound enhancement wise you have some pretty standard EQ presets, a custom EQ, DBB and SRS WOW HD. The latter two are just another example of clever naming of features that sound very professional but in reality sound like crap. The only company that’s really been able to pull off useful sound enhancements in my opinion is Cowon with its licensed BBE enhancements.
When it comes to small players like this and sound quality, the reference point is the Sansa Clip. Compared to that other players can be mostly described as “decent” or “good”. The T7 belongs in the latter group and sound better than players such as the Samsung U3 or Creative Zen Stone Plus. It’s still no Clip though, but it will do the job for most people and do it well. I’m also giving it a plus for having 40 volume steps, a detail that doesn’t automatically mean higher volume but rather more control over it.
The radio is good on the T7 with nice reception and sound quality. On top of the normal preset settings and whatnot it will also let you record radio but it lacks the timer settings that the similarly sized Cowon U2 has.
The voice recorder is OK, but it’s rather weak and won’t pick up much of what’s being said even nearby. You can pause while recording and also set low, medium or high recording quality.
Considering the size compared to other small players of today a 10 hour battery life isn’t much to write home about. On top of that, it drained itself completely while lying still on my desk (fully turned off) for a few days, although that might be a issue with my player specifically. Either way, battery life isn’t very good.
I really don’t have too many nice things to say about the iriver T7. Even if you were to ignore the fact that it has more bugs than any other player I’ve seen (something that might after all be fixed in firmware updates), it’s still so ridiculously slow that you can take a nap between the time you press a button and the thing actually responds. The battery draining issue is another thing, if that’s not just my player then iriver has a serious problem.
With the exception of the USB plug/MSC mode combo, the player has very little going for it. It has basically the exact same specs as any other small player like this and when a set of players cost the same and have the same features, there is no room whatsoever for a poorly designed competitor like this. So is the player worth your consideration? No.
7-bookmarkbug.jpg"/>Update: After getting a link to the 1.04 update I updated the player. It fixed the bug with scan speed setting not working, but introduced a new one, a major one at that. Now when I go into the bookmarks list my screen screws up completely (see pic). It happens every time, and the player has to be rebooted. The player is also just as slow as it was before. Sufficient to say this player is still useless and I’m not going to devote more time to it.
- Integrated USB connector
- MSC/MTP User selectable
- Sound quality is good
- Codec support
- More bugs than I’ve ever seen on a player
- Incredibly slow, up to 10 seconds just to resume playback from pause
- Buttons can’t be operated blindly
- Weird button mappings
- Battery life is rather low