Multimedia portables are at last making the sort of impact that the first MP3 players made, with truly versatile machines finally finding their way into high-street pockets.
iRiver is a name that's been on the scene for some time and the P7 is a PMP with which the company will be looking to make fresh waves. It’ll certainly need to offer something different to the Sony X-Series Walkman and, current champ, the iPod Touch.
The P7’s minimalist, silver and white design looks smart, though ours did attract dirt. And while the novel magazine-style interface takes some getting used to, once learnt it provides a clean and clear menu system.
The touchscreen controls are pretty responsive and there's a small control wand, too, though without a slot to tuck it away you won’t find yourself using it much. There’s also a microSD card slot to boost the slightly paltry 8GB storage (a 16GB version will set you back £30 more).
Music and movies
Bundled with the player is iRiver's latest 3 Plus software. Again, it's crisply presented and reasonably easy to get to grips with, so you’ll be quickly loading it up with music and movies.
You can also just drag and drop content from a Mac or PC straight to the portable, though we did find the P7 struggled to correctly tag our music when doing this.
The player supports WMV, AVI, MP4 and Xvid video files, and the large 4.3in screen comes into its own with video content free of noise and smooth with motion, despite its relatively low 480x272 resolution.
Good but not great
Colours are naturally presented with subtle shades handled well, but it lacks a little punch and the finite detail delivered by the iPod Touch, for example. It also struggles with off-axis viewing.
Still, the P7 has a good sense of timing with music, giving tracks plenty of space with an open presentation. It plays all the usual formats except AAC, which is rather a shame.
It doesn't quite have the bass reach and weight of the best in class and conversely there are hints of unwanted hardness to the treble with edgier recordings, but it remains a detailed, enjoyable listen.
On the subject of music and movies, iRiver claims the P7 will last for 50 hours of music playback, or 7 hours when it comes to video – and it seemed in that ball-park to us.
If you’re bored of your own tunes there’s also an FM radio at your disposal. Elsewhere you can, of course, view pictures on that big screen or play around with the built-in voice recorder.
Nevertheless, we think for a product of this type it’s missing a few key features. There's no web browsing, for example – for the money you might expect it – nor is there access to games or apps as seen on the iPod Touch.
While we applaud iRiver's attention to style and original design, the P7 gives a fair bit away to better-equipped, more versatile and simply better-performing PMPs.