Nuggets: Rio 600 pushes MP3 players forward

A stunner of an MP3 player, but it's low on memory and prone to the odd incompatibility tantrum

There's a lot of history behind the Rio. This is the device that set the RIAA off in the US, and forced a legal case that had the shrill Hilary Rosen hanging her head in shame after trying to force Diamond to shut the production lines down... Well, she didn't succeed and the Rio is back, slimmer, sexier and a damn sight easier to use than the original model.

Diamond was swallowed up by S3 and the result is a really aesthetically pleasing gadget.

The 600 is definitely a product of the next millennium with its sleek curves and rubberised buttons, but it's under the hood you're interested in, right? On-board storage space of 32MB isn't bad for an MP3 player, but if your collection is saved in 128Kb/s that leaves enough space for just five tunes (six if you're exceptionally lucky!).

OK, so if you save in WMA or at lower bit rates you can squeeze more tunes on, but really, manufacturers, would it hurt to double the RAM offerings on these devices?

Definitely the biggest improvement with the 600 is the time it takes to get the music onto the actual device. Anything pre-Windows 2000 took an aeon to push from PC to portable player, but using a USB connector, the 600 takes all of three minutes to transfer the entire 32Mb.

So what about the software? Well, this is one of those grey areas where tech support guys argue that differences in PC architectures cause problems... Hmm, not entirely convinced about that. Needless to say, some tweaking is definitely needed.

We installed the 600 on three different PCs. It worked on two out of three, but then only with some persuasion. The client software refused to recognise the player on all the machines, making the unit redundant. The problem is probably in the USB architecture itself and we do wonder whether a prudent step would have been to supply a standard serial transfer capability alongside the USB.

Anyway, the software is not great and definitely has pitched battles with Real's Jukebox, which at a guess is what the majority of MP3 users have on their machines. Tweaking, several reboots and a fair bit of praying does the trick eventually, but if this product or any of its siblings are to become really mainstream, then plenty of work needs to be done on the usability front.

The Rio600 comes very highly recommended despite Nuggets' grizzling. It's a sexy little bit of kit that is a joy to use (when you eventually figure out what its needs are) and with the enormous array of add-ons available at www.riostuff.com, this is a gadget that will remain a reliable pocket friend.

  • Rio 600 MP3 player

  • £160 (inc. VAT)

  • 68g (2.2 ounces)

  • 32Mb onboard Ram (expandable to 372Mb)

  • 10 hours playback using one AA battery

  • Customisable equaliser

  • USB cable and battery included

  • www.riohome.com


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