iriver has created some amazing players over the last 8 years they've been in the market, and the S10 is no exception. The S10 is iriver’s first foray into the strange and wonderful world that is the mini music player. Clearly designed to compete with Apple's newest iPod Shuffle, the S10 takes things up a notch by keeping the dimensions nearly the same as the Shuffle, but with the addition of a vibrant 1.15” OLED display. And iriver didn't stop there; they crammed an FM radio, voice recorder, and photo viewer in there as well.
But is the S10 worth the hefty price tag? Read on…
* Capacity: 1GB and 2GB
* Audio: MPEG 1/2/2.5 Layer 3, WMA, ASF, OGG
* Photo: BMP
* Screen: 1.15-inch OLED Display (96×128)
* Dimensions: 42 x 30 x 10.8mm
* Weight: 17.5 grams
* Battery: Lithium Polymer Rechargeable Battery
* Rated battery life: 8 hours
The S10 comes bundled with pretty much standard issue accessories:
* Earbuds/lanyard – so you can wear the player around your neck.
* 3.5mm miniplug to USB adapter for syncing/charging the S10.
* A mini instruction book written in many languages.
* A mini CD containing iriver’s music management software.
* And I think there's an MP3 player in there–somewhere.
The S10s looks much like its big brother, the clix, with a little clix2 thrown in. It's extremely minimalistic, yet very attractive. Unfortunately, it won't remain that way for long. The casing is made of a very glossy plastic (which of course means it's a total finger print magnet), but on the plus side, the plastic appears to be fairly scratch resistant. Granted, it won't win a battle with your keys, but you can wipe it off with your shirt without it looking like you just ran a sheet of sandpaper over it.
And despite its small size, the S10 feels very durable. It doesn’t seem as though I am going to crack something just by pressing a button. Thanks to its light weight, it will probably even survive a few drops to the floor…
The S10 uses the same “D-Click” system as the clix and clix2, which is a very good thing. Without it, this player would have been nearly impossible to use due to its incredibly tiny size. The D-Click system basically consists of four switches placed behind a “floating” plastic face plate – simple, yet effective.
The controls are very well laid out and very logical. Each D-Click button has multiple functions, depending on what you are doing:
Holding the left side of the screen instantly takes you back to the main menu, while briefly pressing it takes you back one menu level. Holding the right side of the screen down takes you to a context menu. Briefly pressing it will either move you forward or will act as play/pause depending on where you are. Pressing the top of the screen scrolls up or skips to previous track, and pressing the bottom of the screen scrolls down or skips to the next track.
On the right side of the S10, you'll find the power button and a recessed reset button and on the left are two dedicated volume buttons. The volume buttons also act as a hold switch by pressing them both at the same time.
As with a few of iriver’s other players the overall GUI is quite dark (yet not so dark that it's hard to see *cough* x20 *cough*), but the text is very bright, which balances everything out quite nicely. The icons in the main menu are surprisingly detailed with nice little touches such as reflections below them, making them appear to be on a very glossy black floor.
At the top of the screen you will find a clock, an icon which shows what shuffle/repeat mode you are in, and the battery meter. These are constantly displayed throughout the GUI, which is really nice.
In the now playing screen, you'll find the usual: time elapsed, time remaining, timer bar, and of course, a little dancing music note in the center to entertain you… It's kind of cute at first, but does tend to get rather repetitive. I would have much preferred album art there.
One thing I really don't like is how the S10 displays off-screen text. It shows the text in small chunks at a time, which I find makes things very hard to read, and it just looks tacky. For example, if I'm listening to “Nine Inch Nails – Another Version of the Truth”, it looks exactly like this on the player:
[ h Nine Inch N ]
[ ails ]
[ Another Versi ]
[ on of the Trut ]
Get my point? If it just scrolled the text like almost all other players do, things would be great.
Unlike iriver's clix players, the screen cannot be rotated to a landscape mode. This is a shame, because it would have been a much more efficient use of precious screen real estate, especially on the “Now Playing” screen, where the track info is nearly impossible to read because space is so tight.
The S10 does not offer ID3 tag navigation. It's file-tree only, but this does keep boot times down which is a plus. The player uses FIFO (First-In-First-Out) sorting. This basically means that files are listed in the order in which you copied them over. I would have preferred alphabetical sorting, personally. But I do like the fact that this system makes it possible to quickly create a pseudo-playlist by simply dragging and dropping files in the order you want them to play.
Don't let the small size fool you. The S10 packs more features than even a few of its full-sized counterparts.
The S10 has the ability to record from FM radio or from the built in Mic. It offers three recording bitrates: FM radio; Low (64Kbps), Medium (128Kbps) and High (256Kbps). Voice; Low (32Kbps), Medium (64Kbps) High (128Kbps). FM recordings are in stereo, and voice recordings are mono. Both FM and voice recordings are encoded as 44Khz MP3s. With recording quality set to “High”, FM radio recordings were flawless and just as good as the original. I found recordings from the microphone to be exceptional (when the quality was set to “High”). I had expected very hollow sounding recordings, but as usual the S10 surprised me. The sound was very full and clear. It also picked up bass very well and there was minimal case noise, as long as it was held steady.
The S10 also has a VOX function. With this turned on it will only record when sound levels reach a certain threshold, and pause when they fall below the threshold. This is great for keeping file sizes a minimum.
It was nice to find that the S10 has a FM timer recording function. You can program it to turn and record a radio show at a certain time, once, every day, every week day, or every week end. You can only schedule one recording, but that's one more than zero isn't it?
The FM radio isn't the strongest I've used, but it still picked up most of the stations in my area. iriver doesn't skimp on the features here either. They give you 20 presets and an auto scan function which automatically populates those presets with the strongest stations for you. You can name the presets using the included iriver plus 3 software.
Pressing the 'right' button toggles between preset mode and manual mode. In manual mode, pressing the up or down buttons skips frequencies in 1 mhz steps. In preset mode, pressing either the up or down buttons cycles through presets.
Holding the 'right' button brings up a context menu which allows you to add/delete a preset, to record, toggle between mono and stereo mode, set the tuner region, and auto scan.
I was surprised to find the player has three “screensavers”: A VU meter, the clock, or a photo sideshow. They only activate while you are listening to music. The delay is 6 seconds, and I see no way to change it.
The photo viewer is merely a gimmick. Resolution is bad, color reproduction is terrible, and gradient is very harsh. But it's the thought that counts, right?
iriver put a little more work into the clock function than I've seen a manufacturer do. The player has a menu option which simply displays the clock full screen; I'm not sure why you would need this, as the time is always displayed in the upper left corner… Pressing and holding the right button brings up a context menu, which, of course, allows you to set the clock, and also schedule an FM recording, set the alarm clock, and choose a theme.
There are three clock themes to choose from: “Aqua”, “Minimalist” and a dynamic theme, “Day & Night”, which as the name implies, changes its look depending on whether it's day or night.
The S10 has the ability to delete files from within itself; simply highlight a file and hold the 'right' button down. The player will then ask if you are sure – very useful for making room for recordings. One odd thing I noticed is that it won't let you delete entire folders until they are empty. You if you have a folder full of files you want to get rid of, you must delete them one-by-one. Then you may delete the folder…
The S10 allows you to generate a playlist from within the player by highlighting a song and holding the 'right' button, then selecting “Add to quick list”. Very handy.
That's right, the S10 also has the ability to display lyrics. Using iriver’s free lyrics tool which can be found on their global site, you can tag MP3 files with lyrics. Thankfully, the LDB manager has access to an online database of (very apparently user-added) lyrics, so you don't have to copy and paste everything. One large annoyance is the software breaks lines excessively. It breaks every 6 characters, even though the S10 the ability to display at least 12 characters per line, making things nearly impossible to read. It may be fixable by choosing a profile for a player with a larger screen, but I haven't tried.
There's no way around it; the S10’s battery life is flat out disappointing. I found iriver's claim of 8 hours to be quite accurate, unfortunately, which is obviously due to the addition of an OLED display, and the fact that the Li-Pol rechargeable battery is probably no larger than a quarter.
The S10s battery takes about an hour and a half to fully charge from empty. The battery is not user replaceable.
The included earbuds are terrible, as is expected with stock earbuds. Unfortunately, this makes the lanyard part of it kind of useless.
The player houses a 30mW amp, which should be more than enough to power most consumer grade headphones, so don't be afraid to replace the stock buds with something nice.
The S10s audio quality impressed me, particularly with the amount of bass this thing can kick out without distortion. I wasn't expecting such great sound from a player that’s nearly as small as the plug of the Sennheiser HD485s I had connected to it! With the EQ and SRS effects turned off, I found the mids and highs to be very crisp and clean. Lows were a tad lacking, but that's where the S10s various sound enhancements come in. The S10 has 4 SRS effects: 'Field Width' adjusts the width of the soundstage. 'TruBass' adjusts the amount of bass by emphasizing lower frequencies. Choices are 1-10. Cranking it all the way up to 10 will just about rattle your head off. 'Focus' emphasizes a small range of frequencies. Choices are 'Low', 'Medium' and 'High'. 'Low' attenuates the mid and high frequencies, 'Medium' attenuates the low and high frequencies and 'High' attenuates the medium and low frequencies. 'Freq.Boost' allows you to boost a single frequency.
If SRS isn't your thing, you can choose between 10 EQ presets or you can customize it yourself using the 5-band EQ.
Basically, if you can't make this thing sound good, then you should probably just give up on digital music players right now.
As far as system noise, I could hear a constant mild 'hiss' when listening with IEMs (JVC HA-FX33), but it wasn't very noticeable, especially when music is playing. I have definitely heard worse.
The S10 is a UMS/MSC device, meaning it acts just a like a simple hard drive when connected to a computer. This makes it very easy to load the player with music, because you can simply drag and drop music files onto it, unplug it and you're done. Unfortunately, this also means no subscription/DRM'ed music for you…
Despite this, included with the S10 is iriver’s music management software, iriver plus 3.
I found the software did what it was supposed to: it allowed me to transfer music onto the S10, but in no way was it any easier than just dragging and dropping the music onto the S10.
The only reason you need to install this software is to convert photos, make playlists and name radio stations.
The somewhat steep price of the S10 will undoubtedly put some people off, but the S10 isn't just a gimmick. It is a near full-featured music player and is therefore priced as one. However, it is missing features which we've come to expect on all MP3 players, such as DRM and MTP support (as much as I hate to say it…), and it doesn't offer tag based browsing. It's not without flaws, so I would like to see it hit the $120-$130 price point eventually. Overall, the S10 is a very nice player. It packs features which rival those of larger players, has great sound quality and leaves an incredibly tiny foot print. The battery life is one of its major downfalls; 8 hours isn't going to get you far. Nevertheless, it makes a great player for listening to while exercising, commuting to work or school and even while simply relaxing at home. Although, you'd better get used to all the attention you'll get from people who are astounded by its tiny size!
* Excellent sound quality
* Very nice GUI
* Uses iriver’s intuitive D-Click system.
* More features than you can shake a stick at
* UMS device, so it's supported by everything
* Poor battery life, a mere 8 hours
* Long text can be difficult to read, because it is displayed a few characters at a time.
* Does not support DRM
* No tag based navigation
Review By: Tobey Phillips