Our favourite alternative MP3 player has returned with a new slimline design and a refined spec list. But can it hunt down the Nano?
We’ve long championed the iRiver Clix as a great alternative to the iPod Nano. Like the Bjork of flash players, it has a quirky charm and is much more versatile than Apple’s classic – alongside music, you get video playback, an FM radio and Java games.
But without iconic looks and the crucial lust factor the Clix has remained in the Nano’s shadow, prompting iRiver to release a sequel. The Clix 2 isn’t a radical overhaul – there’s still 4GB of storage (an 8GB model is due later this year) and the unique ‘D-Click’ navigation system – but small and spec tweaks help to polish an already impressive act.
The most obvious change is that the Clix 2 is much slimmer and sleeker than its boxy predecessor. Now featuring a curved front and reverse, the player slips into your pocket quicker than a wet bar of soap. With a 12mm waist, it’s also outrageously thin considering its functionality.
Navigating such a small player could have been a nightmare were it not for iRiver’s clever ‘D-Click’ system. With the directional buttons hidden beneath the screen’s bezel, you just follow the on-screen icons and press the corresponding button.
It isn’t quite as likeable as Apple’s clickwheel, and the whole front section does at times feel like it’s going to come off. But the bonuses outweigh the negatives – the button-free front gives the player great minimalist looks, and allows it to squeeze on more screen than it has any right to offer.
The 2.2in display won’t exactly have Archos squirming, but it’s surprisingly watchable. Thanks to new support for 30fps video files – twice the frame rate of its predecssor – and high bit-rate AVIs, short clips look great on the bright screen and the battery can handle eight hours of them. The only headache is getting them on there – there’s no bundled app for ripping DVDs, and we found the recommended iRiverter software to be painfully slow.
The music experience is much smoother. The Clix 2 comes with iRiver Plus 3 software, but it’s easier to use it with Windows Media Player 11. It supports a huge range of file formats too including DRM-protected WMA files (Napster, Virgin and HMV are all supported) and geek-favourite Ogg Vorbis, and sound quality is excellent provided you replace the feeble bundled headphones.
Friend of the Mac
Even Mac users are invited to the party as the Clix 2 can be switched to drag-and-drop mode, although we’d recommend selecting this before you’ve filled it up with music – doing this instantly wipes the memory.
The Clix 2’s versatility makes it the perfect choice for anyone who uses both PCs and Macs, and likes video with their music. It can’t match the Nano’s premium feel or iTunes experience, but there's no better all-rounder on the market.