Archives for: July 2004, 03

Sat, 03 July 2004

Permalink 06:35:51 pm

iRiver iFP-790 Review

I took the plunge a couple of weeks ago and bought one of the iRiver 700 Series, the iFP-790 from Ebuyer, total price £120.

Based on reviews and user comments it seemed to offer the most features for the price and have good sound quality. After using it for a fortnight I beg to differ:

Problem 1 - USB Device Not Recognized By PC
After installing the software that comes with the iFP-790, I followed the instructions and connected it via a USB port. After a couple of seconds my PC displayed a message 'The installation failed because a function driver was not specified for this device instance'. I tried following the instructions on the iRiver website, which involved trying to install the drivers via Device Manager, but could not get it to work. I emailed iRiver support and received the exact same instructions that are on the website - very useful! Eventually I found this post on the iRiver forum about problems with USB1.1 ports. I tried connecting the player to my PC at the office and it worked first time. I upgraded the firmware to version 1.14 which specifically mentioned a fix for USB connection problems - this time it worked on my home PC. How bad must their testing be for this kind of bug to go out on a product? I was lucky that I had access to another PC. It seems from comments on the forum that the problem isn't only limited to USB1.1 ports - people are also having difficulties connecting to USB2.0 ports. You pays your money, you takes your chance.

Problem 2 - Limited Ogg Support
I particularly wanted Ogg support due to it's superior sound quality at higher compression rates. Despite having Ogg support advertised on the packaging, there is no mention that it only supports Ogg tracks with an average bitrate above 96Kbps. As this player only has 256MB of memory this immediately reduced the number of tracks I'm able to store.

Problem 3 - Loud Background Hiss
When I first listened to the player in an almost silent environment, I could here a very noticeable background hiss. This is not background noise on the tracks themselves, as the hiss is audible as soon as the player is switched on, with nothing playing. So I did some digging. Today I found these posts on Mistic River, and the iRiver community forum. To summarise, they are recalling all iFP-700 series and iFP-800 series in Korea because of this exact problem. However, they are not doing the same elsewhere. If there is a known problem they should be recalling them all to be fixed, replaced, repaired or refunded. Anything less and they are knowingly selling a faulty product.

As far as I can gather from the forum posts, these problems exist on all IFP-700 series players, the IFP-780, IFP-790, IFP-795 & IFP-799, as well as the iFP-800 series, the iFP-880, iFP-890, iFP-895 & iFP-899 which differ only cosmetically.

Perhaps 'review' was the wrong word to choose for this, maybe rant would have been better. There are postitives, battery life and the ability to set a timer to record FM, for example. But when it's primary function is to play uploaded tracks, and you have problems connecting and a persistent background hiss, then no amount of positives out-weigh this. If you're willing to risk it not connecting to your USB port, won't be using Ogg files and can tolerate a loud background hiss, then I recommend this player. Otherwise avoid.

**UPDATE 13/07/2004**
Ebuyer accepted it as a return, and after testing they agreed that it was faulty and refunded the price. At least it wasn't just me being over sensitive. Knowing what I know now about the Ogg limitations, if I could be sure that there wouldn't be the background hiss I would still buy the 512MB model. The trouble is, I wouldn't trust buying one by mail order now, and haven't seen any in high street shops.

**UPDATE 22/10/2004**
As the most recent comments from other people on this post have been mostly positive, I took the plunge and bought an IFP-895 yesterday. And the verdict is.... thumbs up. There is still a very, very slight background hiss, but far less than the IFP-790 I had and it's really not noticeable. For those who are interested, I bought it from Overclockers for the bargain price of £129 including VAT and delivery (the lowest Advanced MP3 Players would go was £149), it's the European model rather than the US one that came from Ebuyer (different packaging and loaded with the EU firmware) and the firmware version is 1.21.
iRiver iFP-790

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