iRiver is one of the leaders in CD/MP3 players production. This South Korean
manufacturer goes with modern solutions which outsmart most competitors' models
in design and specification.
Four years ago ReignCom, a leading manufacturer in South Korea and expert
in R&D, founded a subsidiary which at that time employed only 5 people
(at present there are over 200 people working all over the world). Two
years ago SonicBlue offered ReignCom to become partners in CD/MP3 players
production as the former had no experience in this sphere. At that time
ReignCom didn't make finished products itself though the company had enough
expertise in optical technologies. The production facilities were soon
found in China. 9 engineers with their families were sent there to control
the process all days through. Soon, SonicBlue players under RioVolt trade
mark became the best-selling players in the world. At that time the most
popular models were SP100 and SP250 (River iMP-100 and iMP-250 respectively.
These models couldn't be distributed on the U.S. territory). On the launch
of iMP-350 Sony offered iRiver to buy the license for its production because
it was the slimmest and compact player ever produced.
In 2001 iRiver released SlimX 350 which was a great success in Korea.
Although the Korean market swarmed with manufacturers of such equipment,
SlimX 350 was Number One in the sales volumes occupying 69% of the whole
Korean market. In 2002 iRiver entered the U.S. market. Its advent generated
considerable excitement, and SonicBlue wanted to sell SlimX under its trade
mark as well. SlimX iMP-350 comes in two versions - with 8 MB Flash memory
(Type 1) and with 16 MB (Type 2). Type 1 includes 36 languages, and Type
2 - 37 including Chinese. The rapidly growing volumes were on account of
this language. That is why be careful when downloading a new firmware version
for your SlimX iMP-350.
The next solution was SlimX iMP-400 which had only 16 MB memory in order
to avoid any problems with modifications.
Finally, at CeBIT the company demonstrated two new models: SlimX iMP-500
and iMP-550. MP-550 is only 13.7 mm thick! Its diameter is a tad bigger
than that of a CD.
iMP-500 is a little thicker (13.9 mm) but its design and functionality
are at the same high level.
Both solutions have stylish cases that combine chrome-plate parts and
black upper and lower panels, a perfect match for a luxurious car. Both
models can play up to 50 hours with the standard AA batteries. Both have
an optical digital output, MP3 and WMA support. The 30-min antishock system
distinguish these models even more.
The mass production of the new models is scheduled for July and August.
If they are quite expensive for you, iRiver offers another solution,
iMP-150, which also sports a great deal of functions (complete remote control,
though an FM tuner is lacking). This player is a bit thicker because of
an LCD display placed on top.
This player is offered at $130-160.
The company carefully studies users' needs and wants. Users who want
a very cheap CD/MP3 player are not disregarded either. The developers removed
an FM tuner, made a remote control an optional component and gave birth
to iMP-50 expected to arrive by the end of May. Marilyn Chen, in her interview
to iXBT, said that they could cut the price even more by removing a network
adapter but it could cause problems in Russia and some European countries
because of the local electric network standards. The player works as long
as 16 hours and supports 36 languages. It's interesting that the LCD display
is placed underneath. I don't know whether end users will accept this marketing
step but I'm glad to see that the company tries to bring something original
into ordinary CD/MP3 players.
The expected price of iMP-50 is $ 120.
The new iRiver iFP-300 flash players can connect to a stereo-out of
any player and code audio content in the real-time mode copying it into
its built-in memory.
For example, using iFP-340T with 512 MB Flash memory you can record audio
files into the player without PC mediation. However, iFP-300 has a USB
connector as well so that you can download music from PC. Using an FM tuner
you can record radio broadcast, and the built-in microphone allows making
voice note any time. Like iFP-100, iFP-390T and 395T, this one comes bundled
with a special case with belts. They really come in handy while jogging
as you can easily fix the player on your hand.
JukeBoxes - HDD based players - were also demonstrated at iRiver's booth.
iHP-100 contains a 10GB hard drive, supports MP3, WMA and AAC and can work
as long as 14 hours. Files come into the player via the high-speed USB
2.0 interface. iHP-100 sports an FM tuner, a remote controller and a belt
iGP-100 uses IBM Microdrive which makes it compact in spite of the large
built-in memory (1.5 GB). IGP-100 is not deprived of an FM tuner, remote
control and a belt clip.
The mass production of iGP-100 is scheduled for May.
By the way, many users wonder why iRiver's players come to the European
and Russian markets later than they appear in South Korea. The company
explains that if any errors are revealed, it's much easier to detect and
correct them on the relatively narrow market.
Finally, I should mention the new field of application dealing with
DVD receivers. iHT-50 and iHT-100 are modern devices supporting Dolby Digital
EX, Dolby Digital ProLogic II, DTS 5.1/7.1 standard. At the moment these
solutions are positioned as multiformat DVD players supporting MP3, HDCD,
RDS and MPEG.
iRiver said that at the moment the price of such devices is quite high
for a successful competition. But the firm makes every effort to cut costs
of the receivers.
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