iRiver SlimX IMP-350

MP3/CD player

The SlimX is probably the best built, most portable, digital audio player to come into the PC World Test Centre, and one of the most feature rich. It's a CD-based player, yet it also has a built-in FM stereo tuner that allows you to preset and listen to your favourite radio stations.

Although MP3 is without a doubt the most common file type associated with digital music formats, there are others - such as WMA and ASF - which provide even more compact file sizes than MP3. And the SlimX supports all three! In fact, its firmware is upgradeable so support for any future formats, should they arise, can be added.

As it is, the iRiver SlimX's firmware has ample functionality and includes most common playback mode functions, equaliser settings, as well as support for Winamp playlists. It can also display ID3 tags. The LCD screen on the remote control, while small, displays a wealth of information ranging from battery status, playing mode, current folder, file type, filename and encoding rate. A blue backlight allows you to view this information in the dark, and lights up each time a button is depressed.

The unit's slim silver design is attractive and it can be transported easily. It features shock protection for audio CDs (180 seconds) as well as MP3 (480 seconds) and WMA (960 seconds) files, and in my testing I found the player to be very reliable in its playback of CDs. The headphones (ear buds) supplied are very comfortable and reproduce sound clearly in all frequency ranges.

The bundled package includes the afore-mentioned headphones, a soft pouch, user manual, a transformer and two Ni-MH batteries. The batteries, when fully charged, were able to play up to 117 songs (in a 137-song MP3 playlist) continuously at the maximum volume level - this turned out to be over 8.5 hours in my longevity tests. A regular audio CD, with the anti-shock protection on, looped for almost four hours. The player comes with an external battery package, which allows you to use two AA batteries as the power source. The only drawback I found was the inability to use the player when the batteries were charging.

IRiver SlimX IMP-350 *****

The SlimX is a feature-rich, well-built and great-sounding player that is versatile and can play music "for over eight hours straight.

Distributor: Rome Technology.

Price: $459.

Phone: 1800 997 663.

URL: www.rome.com.au.

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