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60GB iRiver U10 due Jan 06

Exclusive: we've just got back from fondling the kooky and frankly beautiful iRiver U10. First thoughts? Hugely innovative, easy to use and incredibly well built. Plus we found out there are 8, 30 and 60GB versions on the way...

In case you hadn’t noticed, iRiver’s been bigging up its new MP3 player, the U10, as the biggest thing since clown shoes, Canary Wharf and John Prescott’s double chin.

To see what all the fuss is about, we went to have a look for ourselves. Before we get into first impressions, however, know this: iRiver is planning an 8GB U10 before the year’s out, followed by 30 and 60GB versions at next year’s CES. You heard it here first.

First impressions

The first thing that struck us was how small the thing is – the photos are deceiving. Take a matchbox and add a couple of millimetres in each direction. That’s how big the U10 is.

The interface is nutsy and completely unique. iRiver describe it as Direct Click. What that means is the whole front fascia is raised a fraction above the main unit with four microswitches underneath it. To navigate through the menus you push of the edges – left, right, up or down. The whole experience is unusually tactile, very original and seems to work well, though we’re not sure whether it’ll get annoying with prolonged use.

Other thoughts: the retro dock is gorgeous and its speaker sounds like a cheap iPod dock; the screen’s incredibly hi-res and does a good job with movies and text files; the graphical user interface is intuitive and bears no resemblance to previous iRiver GUIs.

To get the full U10 specs read our earlier article here.