iriver SPINN Review

iriver spinn main iriver SPINN Review

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
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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.

Screen

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.

User Interface

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.

UCI

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.

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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.

Features

Flash

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.

Radio

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.

Photos

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.

File Browsing

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.

Bluetooth

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.

Sound Quality

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.

Video

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.

Conclusion

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.

Pros

  • Brilliant screen
  • Haptic touch screen
  • Solid & Durable design
  • Codec support
  • MTP & MSC

Cons

  • Price / Availability
  • Sound quality will disappoint the audio enthusiasts
  • Non common Micro-B USB connection
  • No Bookmarking

Compare

Purchase

You can find the SPINN at for the best price at Amazon with usually free shipping and no sales tax. For EU, UK, and the rest of the world, check out AMP3.

36 Comments

yuki on October 7, 2008 3:51 PM

Nice review ^^, the player does seem to have a gorgeous oled… To bad it is so pricey

Relyt on October 7, 2008 4:47 PM

Great! I’m glad to finally see the SPINN hitting the shelves. On warehouse123 it calls this player the U30…so does that mean that it is technically the successor to the clix (U20)? Also you mentioned twice that the player has a hold switch on the top of it – both times in the 2nd paragraph of the UI section.

Lewis Liu on October 7, 2008 5:59 PM

Sigh*If only the screen had 16.7 mil colors… color banding in my videos is a big nono…If they come up w/ a 16.7 mil colors 800x480px version and doubled the price I’d buy it in a heartbeat =/

aaa on October 7, 2008 7:40 PM

the 800×480 with 16.7million color players are comparably larger players from cowon and archos, and neither use OLED

Pankaj on October 8, 2008 5:21 AM

Amazing review.But am happy with my P2 :) .

skobbolop on October 8, 2008 9:13 AM

A couple of weeks ago my iRiver Clix 2 (8 gb) was stolen, and i’m currently looking for at new player…The spinn looks very exciting, but i really wanted my new player to have more than 8 gb. At least 16 gb.8 gb is just not enough in late 2008 imo…i just hope that the s9 gets those good reviews i hope for… if not, i might go for the Spinn… plz iRiver, give us 16 gb..(soon!)nice review Grahm as always..

Scarpad on October 8, 2008 11:28 AM

Way too much money for 4gb, I just bought an A3 80gb for $349, so a Hundred dollars less for 4 is kinda Obscene

Skobbolop on October 8, 2008 12:03 PM

It really isbut you can’t really compare Flash vs. HD players…

RedSky on October 8, 2008 12:43 PM

Well you can, and if anything you’d expect more space for a HD player that’s this chunky. Far more.Anyway, I still haven’t regained any faith in iRiver. Doubt I’ll buy any of their players until they start focusing on sound quality again and at least bring it back to the level they were at with their iHP120/H3X0 range.

randominality on October 8, 2008 2:21 PM

iwoukd buy this straight away if it had 16GB and/or an SD expansion slot

Troy on October 8, 2008 2:27 PM

I think the design is really nice, but the “spin” mechanism is so over the top and absolutely useless. If it’s touch screen, why would you use it, and secondly, seeing the reviewer use it made me realize you need to use two hands to use it. Again, I think the unit is really nice looking, and the aluminum build is excellent, but it’s a little over the top with functionality.

Sigmund_Freud on October 8, 2008 3:27 PM

Ebay seller Koreanexpress.net told me the 16 GB version is two to three months away in Korea.I want the Korean version with DMB so I can watch TV on the trams here in Oslo, Norway. =D

Steven Yuen on October 8, 2008 7:18 PM

The price point is a killer too.Most players now a days offer 149USD for 8gb players.Considering how much competition they have against apple, they really should be offereing at a better price point.

dafeiskool on October 9, 2008 1:23 AM

too bad..i’m hoping this one has better sounding than t7..but the UI is great.. specially the touchscreen…

SansaRulez83 on October 10, 2008 5:25 AM

Eh, UI looks a little sluggish and not quite intuitive. It straddles the line between tactile and touch.I have to admit though that the screen is quite nice. It even looks good in pictures and video. One topic that you didn’t cover in the write-up was the viewing angles. Good, bad, Grahm? It’ll be nice when they start putting amoled in all mp3 players

Grahm on October 10, 2008 2:11 PM

@sansarulesViewing angles are near the full 180 deg

yer on October 12, 2008 3:00 AM

I heard that when the player is locked (hold mode), the spinn wheel will become a volume control. If so, is it bad if one put Spinn in his/her pocket.

cousindupree on October 12, 2008 10:45 AM

Watching this video review I was struck by a couple things. First, it looked like the guy almost had so shove his finger through the screen to use the touch display. Also, seeing him try to work the thing one-handed was fairly comical. Maybe he hasn’t used it that much? And lastly, the navigation through the menus looked positively painful. Toggling between the wheel, the click/select on the wheel and the back button seems a bit clunky. The dude looked like his hand would freeze up in spasms any second. Just doesn’t look like a player that is easy to navigate. I assume that this site is dedicated to iPod hating for various reasons, but if you folks haven’t figured it out yet, here’s a clue. The UI experience is key. I’m looking at buying a player other than an iPod and this thing looks like a clean little device. But watching this guy fight with it has me looking elsewhere.

Skobbolop on October 12, 2008 6:14 PM

i’m counting on the S9 to give us that nice UI experience…

D.O. on October 13, 2008 11:56 AM

What should I get between the iRiver Clix 2 or the iRiver Spinn, without price being a factor? How is sound quality between the Clix 2 and Spinn?

Alen on October 13, 2008 10:00 PM

I am new to this site and i was wondering these are really great reviews they go in depth on the product and specifications and such but it struck me that there is no rating system for these reviews i think if these players would be rated on a scale from 1-10 or on a 5 Star rating system it would make a whole lot of sense if management of this website stumbles upon this comment i would like you to consider just a small suggestion that wold contribute to the review. Thank You

pudsey456 on October 16, 2008 11:19 PM

Thanks for the review, I’m 90% sure that I’ll be buying one (the 10% is about waiting for the 16GB).The price is a bit expensive, but locally, it is almost the same price as the 8GB Sony A828 I believe, and in that case the Spinn’s got better bang for the buck. It all depends on how you spin(n) the marketing stuff.Speaking of iriver products, I wonder what happened to the APlayer?

Patrick on November 2, 2008 3:33 AM

Went to a german site that have announced the 16gb: http://www.mp3-player.de/index.php?page=article&ID=8607I also stand between this one and the Clix2. Bad thing about sound quality. I really hate harsh highs and synthetic sound. What cans or speakers did you use?

Jake on December 1, 2008 5:50 PM

I tried the Motorola H700 and the iWaveaudio phone bluetooth headsets on my Spinn and got “incorrect pass code” for each. Couldn’t connect. Is this because I need a stereo headset configured bluetooth device?

george on December 25, 2008 6:21 PM

The Movie Converter tool does not work. I don’t know what the reviewer could be talking about, but no movies are able to play on this device after being converted with this tool, much to my daughter’s frustration after having been so excited about it this morning.

phung on January 15, 2009 10:48 AM

Is it possible to make playlist from the player itself? and not just one but multiple playlist? :D

mrjunk on February 15, 2009 4:15 PM

thx for the great review (-s on anythingbutipod.com anyway ;) )!three weeks ago firmware 2.0 and shortly after 2.1 was released. could you maybe update the review regarding the changes in the update being made? i know that e.g. the spinn got a notepad and drm-support, but what i am more interested in is if the sound quality got somehow improved and if the overall interface-experience is neater now…i would highly appreciate this update :)

Lucas Huggins on March 1, 2009 12:20 AM

It’s brushed magnesium! Not aluminum! The whole review i was say that it’s not aluminum! Please change it

Andrew on October 20, 2009 12:55 PM

I bought one and the USB would not communicate with XP service pack 3 on two different machines.The SPINN recognized attachment to the host so I’m convinced the hardware is good but the software is defective and released prematurely. I went through iRiver’s support and ensured I was using MTP mode with their firmware updater. I also discovered the software on CD came without required system files. I got those files from support and planted them in the right place, but niether the interface tool or the updater recognized the device. USB should work…look at all the plug&play USB memory sticks out there. I returned the device under warranty. Oct20 2009.

Jon West on November 5, 2009 2:50 PM

This looks like a great device for people with low-vision (me). Are there other players with large menu text?Too bad about the lack of bookmarks. Will it resume where stopped in an audio book?

James Bond on November 27, 2009 5:14 PM

I have this player and its great except for a few things, if you need to convert video, it should be noted that the player uses the latest SP profiles from wmv and xvid. i recommend that you use media coder or handbrake to convert videos. the other amazing thing,about this is that along with the uci, you can change fonts too just be copying and pasting from fonts in your windows directory! the magnesium coating is annoying as it is a very soft metal and when scratched, gived an ugly black shade, so i recommend that you buy a cover. the SRS WOW HD is incredible.

YOUR GAY on December 16, 2009 3:03 PM

The e100 is a really good quality player, this video is bashing it because they want you to like the spin, but believe me, the e100 kicks ass

Billie Goat on February 1, 2010 12:54 PM

My question is the same as phug. Can you make play lists from the player and can you make more then one? This will determine weather or not I want to buy it.

Gcom on March 7, 2010 9:32 PM

Yes you can make play lists from inside the player UI. This is an awsome MP3 player and now that the prices have been reduced it’s totally worth it. I bought the 4GB to save a few bucks but I like it so much I’m wishing I bought the 8GB!!! Tigerdirect has a sale going on right now, you can get the 4GB for under $100 and the 8GB for just over $100.Support for this device is limited for us North Americans…but with some digging it’s pretty easy to update the firmware and get the goods for it! :-)

paul on April 8, 2010 3:32 PM

skobbolop, I know how you feel, I sadly lost my clix 1 the other day(sigh)I have bought a spinn as the clix 2 has been discontinued, which I did not know.Does anyone know if you can get an alarm like on the clix because on some technical listing, it says that the spinn has oneOtherwise it is a good product

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