With the iPod Touch showing no sign of losing its spot at the top of PMP Hill, the Seoul men (and women) of iriver have tried a new line of attack. The Spinn is its first touch-screen PMP and sports a nifty operational ‘wheel’ that provides a new and slightly eccentric user experience.

Unfortunately, the result of three separate control methods – external buttons, touch screen, and wheel – can be a kafuffle. One-handed operation is nigh on impossible, while the design mocks those afflicted with left-handedness.   

Skinny chassis, big screen

Above gripes aside, the Spinn blueprint results in a big 3.3in widescreen from a compact case. At just 70g, it’s lightweight, too. Add a smart silver and white colour scheme and the iRiver’s a classy, though slightly plastic-fantastic, looking sort.

iriver bundles its Plus 3 software, which isn’t as intuitive as iTunes but does offer a (normally) handy transcoder for video files. Last, but by no means least, the packaging is not only round, it’s metal. Perhaps it would have been best to use more metal for the player and less for the wrapping? Oh well…

AAC? I don’t think so

Fully loaded – though please note this machine is not interested in AAC files – the UI can frustrate, but the ‘vibration’ system is strangely pleasing. Unlike rivals such as Creative’s Zen X-Fi, though, this machine refused to ‘see’ or transcode some Windows Media Player recorded TV.

Still, the video files the iRiver does play look excellent. You get plenty of picture detail and colours are good and punchy. It handles moving action well, too, meaning little or no image break-up.

A poor reflection on others

Take care when watching in bright surroundings, though: the iRiver screen appears to have more of an issue with reflection than those from the likes of the iPod Touch and Sony Walkmans. Even Philips’ significantly cheaper (£99) SA5285 delivers a more reflection-busting screen. Hold the Spinn at an angle, avoiding direct light, and you minimise the issue.

Less open to fixes is the iRiver’s singing voice. Admittedly, it’s not helped by a pretty poor set of bundled buds, but with even a headphone upgrade, sonics sound a touch hard. Detail levels are high and it doesn’t scrimp on bass, but this isn’t the smoothest ever musical ride.

Radio rocks

We’ve no issues, though, with the Bluetooth option – just make sure you pair with decent cans – plus the FM tuner sounds big, and has an iron tuning fist. The FM recording function’s not a bad thing either – for best results switch the recording quality to ‘high’.

iriver makes some big claims about the Spinn, and they’re not all spin. This machine has the makings of a champion, but Apple remains in front, with time to showboat before it takes the tape. 


Stuff says... 

iRiver Spinn review

Fair play to iRiver for taking the fight to Apple, but the Spinn lacks the necessary final touches to fully satisfy