iRiver T7 Volcano review
iRiver clearly had the competition in mind when naming its latest MP3 player the ‘Volcano’. Catchy names are quite the in thing with this kind of product – think Creative Zen Stone, iPod Shuffle or Sandisk Sansa Clip.
In this case, though, we just don’t see the logic: design-wise the T7 is more seductive tremor than volcanic explosion. Our review model was an all-black affair, with understated controls and a subtle one inch text-only display.
On the features front, it’s a bit more impressive: its retractable USB connector means its quite convenient, and acts as a USB flash drive when connecting to a PC. Our test unit was the 4GB model – both 1GB and 2GB versions are also available.
The Volcano supports MP3 and WMA, as well as the less common ASF and OGG formats. It can receive and record FM radio, and has a built-in microphone for voice recording.
All good stuff, and one would also expect ease of use to figure highly on its list of plus points – as is the case with its main rivals. Sadly, though, the T7 is hugely frustrating to use.
The main transport controls sit flush with the front surface of the player, and can’t be located by touch alone. So every time you want to change a track you have to fish the player out of your pocket. Worse still, the subtle matte-on-gloss button labels often require you to angle the T7 against the light just to see where they are.
The rest of the controls seem to have been distributed at random, which means navigating menus and on-screen controls is completely non-intuitive. If ever there was an argument for the merits of a centralised cluster of controls, the Volcano is it.
Indeed, so annoying is the T7’s layout that matters like sound quality and battery life almost become secondary considerations. To be fair, though, sound quality is entirely acceptable for the price. Replacing the supplied earphones with a decent pair of Sennheiser in-ear phones left us wishing for a touch more low-end depth and high-end clarity, but for the Volcano’s likely status as a back-up player, we can’t really complain.
And, given the T7’s size, the 200mAh battery gives an acceptable seven or eight hours of typical use – more if you turn off the display.
But despite its classy looks, solid features and all-round competence, we just can’t get past how frustrating the T7 is to use. The MP3 player market is highly competitive, especially so at this price point, and we’re left feeling that this is one Volcano that won’t have anyone running for cover.