I recently picked up an iRiver iHP-120 MP3 player.

I'd been finding it hard to work at our the club without music. I thought about buying a Rio S50 (like my wife's), but my collection is ripped at a pretty high bit rate, so you can't fit that much music on 512MB of memory. So, a hard disk player it was going to be.

I spent a lot of time reading and researching. The contenders were the iPod, the Rio Karma, and the iRiver, all in their 20GB variations. It finally came down to having FM support, as the club has TVs that rebroadcast their audio on FM, and I sometimes like to watch TV rather than listen to music. So, I decided on the iRiver. If I went on the iPod, I think I would have spent the extra money to get this one.

After doing a bunch of price shopping, I couldn't find any great deals on the iRiver - at least, any great deals on companies with good reputations. Then I decided to check with at newegg, and it turned out they carried the iRiver at a good price.

A quick plug for newegg. I've bought components to build two PCs, two Mp3 players, and other assorted PC components, and both their price and service have been wonderful. No complaints at all.

Back to the iRiver. The player is roughly iPod sized, but a bit thicker. It has a nice LCD screen and a 5-way joystick on the front (left/right, up/down, and click), and play, stop, and a/b/repeat buttons on the side. It also has a record button and a built-in microphone.

In addition to the main player, there's an LCD remote that has all the functions of the main player, so you can stuff the player in your pocket. You can use the player with or without the remote.

Setup was a matter of plugging in the power, plugging in the USB cable, opening the drive in Windows, and dragging the music over. That took overnight on my home system (USB 1.0), but on my work system, I copied 18G in a little over 30 minutes, which rates pretty darn fast in my book. That got me up and running. It's nice that you don't have to have software to copy files, but if you stop there, the player is file based - go to a folder, choose the first song, and it plays through. If you want to play based on artist, album, or genre, you need to install the manager software, reboot, and then right-click on the drive and choose “update song database“ (or something like that). Easy to do, but the manual gives you few clues, and the online FAQ isn't much help either. The player also claims to support Winamp playlists, but I haven't tried it yet.

Navigation is a bit of a chore. I'm not sure whether it's the sheer number of functions they're trying to map to a limited number of keys, or whether they could use a better metaphor (I suspect a little of both), but it's hard to do the right thing in the UI. I'm getting the hang of it now, but it's not just a 'pick up and use immediately' device.

Overall, I'll give it an 8. A bit pricey, but good sound, good battery life (they claim 14 hours), nice to have the remote.