Iriver has always positioned itself as a premium brand putting emphasis on design and unique user interfaces. Since the clix 2, however, their products have been mostly disappointments. The E100 had a nice design but lacked quality hardware, and the T7 was downright unusable.
I have always been on the positive side with iriver products, but 2008 has not been a good year from them. The SPINN is iriver’s last saving grace for this year, so as I opened the box I crossed my fingers and hoped to find the old-school product.
- Quick Look
- Capacities: 4GB, 8GB
- Screen: 3.2” WQVGA 480×272 AMOLED
- Size: 99.5x51x10.7mm
- Weight: 70g
- Supported Audio: MP3, WMA, OGG, APE, GLAC, ASF
- Supported Video: MPEG-4 SP, WMV (Conversion necessary)
- Other Supported Files: Flash Lite 2.1, TXT, JPEG
- Transfer Modes: MTP/MSC User Selectable
- User Interface: Tactile/Haptic Touch Screen
- Sound: SRS WOW, 5-Band EQ, EQ presets.
- Other Features: Bluetooth, FM Radio, User Created Interfaces, Voice Recording
- iriver SPINN specs
- iriver SPINN Forum
In The Box / Accessories
You won’t find any extras, just the basics: the SPINN, earbuds, non-standard USB cable, and a software disc. There are a few aftermarket cases for the SPINN, and any standard screen protector can be cut for the touch screen.
Design & Build Quality
I am happy to report that the design and build quality is the iriver I used to know. The player is very sturdy and the button tolerances are tight.
The majority of the player is made of metal, likely aluminum, with the exception of the back of the player which is made of a matte plastic. The materials seem to be wearing very well. Over the last week I have been tossing it on the table, into a gear bag, and even in the same decorative glass bowl I keep my keys in. The SPINN still looks like it was just pulled out of the packaging. I do offer a note of caution, though, that the screen is the weakest link. While it is very scratch resistant, it is plastic and can still mar.
The clix 2 was the first consumer device to use an AMOLED screen (ironically made by Samsung) and if you have not seen this type of screen, I can tell you that it is quite remarkable. I was very impressed with the screen on the clix 2 and am even more so with the screen on the SPINN.
Compared to nearly all of the LCD screens I have seen at comparable sizes and resolutions, the SPINN’s AMOLED screen is much better in a few respects. First off the contrast ratio is higher. Black tends to be more gray comparatively, but on the SPINN’s screen black is black. If you put an all black (#000000) jpg on the screen in full, it looks exactly the same as if the screen was off. This high contrast ratio translates to colors that are more profound. I have also notice that the colors are more accurate than what was found on the clix 2’s AMOLED screen.
The second area where this screen excels over the LCD is in the pixel response time. Typical LCD times fall around 10 or so milliseconds, and higher end displays tout 4ms. I could not find the specifics for the SPINN’s screen, but it should fall right around ty
pical AMOLED response times of 0.01ms. How is that for some pixel pwnage? If these numbers mean nothing to you, the best way I can describe is that it looks like a miniature CRT- especially with 30FPS video. However, there is one big drawback, the screen only shows 262k colors. You can sometimes see the color gradients in photos and video.
Like iriver’s designs, their UI’s are very unique as well. The SPINN may have some elements of their d-click interface as well as the interface found on the W7, but it is completely distinctive from anything I have ever used. It’s not the most efficient interface and it will take a bit to wrap your head around it, but I will say that it is just downright fun to use.
Most of the scrolling navigation is done with the spinning cylinder scroll wheel on the side. This wheel also depresses with a click to select an item and doubles as a programmable short cut button when held for a few seconds. On the top of the player is the back buttons as well as a hold switch. On the left side are dedicated volume buttons and a power button. Every one of the player’s functions can be operated by these tactile buttons. But additionally, the SPINN can be operated by the touch screen.
Now, I have never been a big fan of the touch interfaces, but I am slowly warming to them because of the introduction of haptic devices. Haptic, for those who don’t know, is feedback from the device when a virtual touch button is pressed. In this case the feedback is vibration. Each time you press an onscreen button the SPINN vibrates to let you know you pressed it. Iriver even went further with this haptic response and added it to the wheel as well. When you traverse beyond the end of a list, whether that’s the end of a menu or the end of a list of media, the player vibrates.
Overall it’s a fun interface to use and I give it a thumbs up. The only problem I find is that some of the on screen buttons and menu items are too small for large fingers, resulting in mis-presses of the wheel.
The UCI (User Created Interfaces) seem to be a trend as also seen recently on the Samsung P2. This basically means that you can not only change the look of the interface, but the layout as well. It’s not something anyone can do; it’s something that requires good understanding of Adobe Flash. If you are not a person who can program flash, adding these UCI’s are as easy as dropping a single flash file into the SPINNS theme folder.
Transferring Media / Software
The iriver SPINN is user selectable MTP and MSC. MTP is selected by default and what you will use if you are using any music subscription services or MTP based media players like Windows Media Player. MSC on the other hand, will be better if you are using a different OS or if you would like to use the SPINN more like a flash drive, hopping between OSes or running programs directly from the player over USB.
The mode you use will be determined by which provided programs you choose. On the included software disk iriver gives you iriver Plus 3, Windows Media Player, Firmware Updater, and Movie Converter. Iriver Plus 3 is their version of the media player and only works while the player is in MSC mode. It’s a fairly standard looking media player with all the basic functions along with the functions specific to the SPINN such as firmware updating, video conversion, and radio station editing. You can use the other three programs to manage your media, update the firmware, or convert movies. Other third party video converters will work also, provided you use the correct codec specs.
Both iriver Plus 3 and the Movie Converter worked very well and converted most of what I threw at it including XviD, DivX, MPEG, and pretty much anything I had a codec for installed on my computer. Native playback without conversion is the ultimate, but since they give you all the right tools to convert, it eases that pain at least a little.
Adobe’s Flash has been a center piece in iriver’s user
interfaces since the first generation clix. It has also had the ability to play back Flash Lite games and applications on the player. The SPINN comes with 2 mini games preinstalled, but many more can be added by dropping them into the Folder. There are a few mini games and applications already out there for the clix and other iriver players, but they are targeted to the specific device due to different button layouts. It may be some time before these get ported, and others develop new apps and games.
The radio’s UI is one of the better radio UIs I have used. The layout features the radio call numbers in the middle with channel buttons on each side to allow you to easily flip with a touch or a turn of the wheel. The auto program feature does a really good job of picking out the strong stations from the fuzzy. The screen marks these programmed stations on the frequency spectrum as stars. Recording the radio is also as easy as tapping the record button in the bottom right corner.
Viewing photos is similar to other PMP and MP3 players with slide show, zoom, and transition features. The only real difference here is the thumb nail screen fits the iriver UI with a horizontal thumbnail list.
In addition to seeing your media in file folder browsing format, there is also an added file manager. This is a basic folder/tree browser that allows you to drag files to a trash can for deletion.
The iriver SPINN has a Bluetooth connection for wireless audio. Connecting was straightforward and easy – not much different from any other device. Unfortunately I cannot comment on the worth of the audio quality, since I’m not a huge Bluetooth audio fan and only have a single low-end pair of phones. All I can tell you is: yes it works well and it is easy to set up.
Audio / Music
The main menu for music consists of a horizontal list of the common, Song, Now Playing, Playlists, Albums, Artists, and Genre options. This display method works with ID3 database type browsing. There is also file folder browsing for those who like to keep their music organized themselves in Windows Explorer.
Playlists can easily be made on your computer either with iriver Plus 3, Windows Media Player, or any other playlists supporting media player. You can also make a single “quick list” on the player by dragging and dropping files to a playlist icon on in a music browsing list. There is also a “Top Rated” list where you can select to listen to all songs with a certain 1-5 star rating. Audiobook fans will be disappointed to know there are no bookmarks on this player.
Most users will be very happy with the iriver SPINN’s sound quality, particularly those spending less than the $100 or so on upgraded headphones. The majority should not be put off by the following critical listening assessment. For the audio enthusiasts the SPINN will fall short with the lows lacking a solid punch, and the highs sounding a little on the harsh side. Some of this can be compensated with the custom 5 band EQ, but the main issue that I hear is a digital haze and lack of warmth across the entire spectrum. This is most noticeable when comparing the FLAC on the SPINN to another FLAC source. I do notice a difference between FLAC and MP3s on the SPINN but the FLAC files still sound “off” or “too digital” when compared to something like the Sansa Clip or reference sound card on the desktop PC.
As I previously indicated, video needs to be converted for the SPINN, but it is easy and straight forward. When you do convert a quality piece of video, especially from a DVD, the results are quite stunning. This can be attributed to the AMOLED screen with its high contrast ratios and very fast response time. I did notice, however, video can be a little choppy once started but smoothed out after it began to play – this more so on movies converted on the “high” video quality settings.
Earlier I mentioned that I started to lose faith in iriver due to a recent bout of subpar MP3 and PMP players. The SPINN has renewed that faith and placed iriver back in the game. The SPINN offers something very unique to a very crowded market. The UI is fun, the design is solid, and the screen is bleeding edge tech. That said, I can no doubt give the SPINN a positive endorsement for the price-insensitive buyer since this is a premium product with a price tag to match; the 4GB version starts at $250. I don’t feel that this price is a sign of a brand name premium, but rather that the price reflects quality hardware and design. The SPINN is not for the bargain shoppers, but it is for those looking for a unique product in the MP3 player crowd.
- Brilliant screen
- Haptic touch screen
- Solid & Durable design
- Codec support
- MTP & MSC
- Price / Availability
- Sound quality will disappoint the audio enthusiasts
- Non common Micro-B USB connection
- No Bookmarking