Small player, big features: iHP-120

iRiver’s iHP-120 packs a lot into a small space. About the size of a deck of cards, the 20GB hard drive–based MP3 player is the most feature-rich I’ve ever seen.

In addition to playing MP3, Ogg Vorbis, WMA, and WAV files (but not the AAC format used by Apple’s iTunes and iPod), the $400 unit also lets you record through its line input jack or a microphone (internal or external). This is the first player I’ve seen with both optical inputs and outputs so that you can connect it to your audio equipment. You also get a capable FM tuner and a handy cabled remote with an integrated mini LCD screen. To cap it all off, the unit’s rechargeable battery managed a solid 14 hours of play in my informal tests.

Given the iHP-120’s large feature set, it’s not surprising that the player’s numerous controls can be a bit overwhelming. Each button on the device does something different depending on whether you press and release it or press and hold it. It took me several days to master all the controls of my shipping unit.

Strangely, iRiver forgoes any MP3-ripping software, and making transfers between your PC and the USB 2.0 device is strictly a drag-and-drop affair. You do get PC software that scans your transferred music files and builds a database for the player from the ID3 tags, which allows you to search for music by artist, album, genre, or title.

The iHP-120 has a few kinks, but its unmatched feature set, good battery life, and fairly reasonable price should make it a popular choice with savvy buyers looking for more than just a pretty face.

In brief: iRiver iHP-120
Initially hard-to-use player rewards you with numerous excellent features.
Price: $659
Distributor: JNC Digital
Phone: (02) 9264 8677