Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Rio Forge 512mb MP3 Player

Here is another older review I did a while back. Rio is out of business now but these can still be found on ebay for cheap. Just make sure you avoid the "sport" models since those don't have the SD slot for expandable memory.

requirements: flash based, expandable memory, FM, resume

- about $170 shipped from newegg. I believe a $20 rebate has just started so you should be able to find a better deal now.
- solid state player with 512mb internal memory and a SD slot for expansion. Takes up to a 1 gig sd card though I'm thinking it's possible larger ones will be supported. Read/writes standard Fat32. No software needed. Just drag and drop with file explorer. When you plug it in you get two drive letters, one for the internal memory, and one for the sd card. This is very convenient. usb 2.0. I'm currently using it with a 512mb sd card for a total of 1 gig of storage.
- to remove the sd card you have to take out the battery first.
- flashed to latest 1.20 firmware. There are reports of faulty hardware if you get firmware version 1.01 out of the box. If you get 1.16 out of the box then you have the latest hardware revision. All 512mb versions are at least 1.16 because they didn't introduce the 512mb version until later. If you get the 128 or 256 then beware. I tried a 1.01 128mb version from best buy and the big problem is the fm reception is horrible so I returned it. I can confirm that the 512mb has much much better fm reception. You also gain the ability to record from fm (wav format).
- supports mp3, wma, and audible even.
- amazing resume/bookmark support. When turning the unit off or switching between mp3 and fm it ALWAYS remembers the exact track and second where you left off. I believe everything gets written to flash memory so I believe even with a dead batter it will remember where you left off. You have 10 independent bookmarks you can set. Saving a bookmark couldn't be easier. Hold down the middle button, a menu pops up letting you pick your bookmark(1-10) and save. This is the best implementation of resume/bookmark I've seen on any player. This is a critical feature for those who listen to audio books.
- claims of up to 20hrs on a single AAA battery. There is even a NIMH/alkaline setting so the battery indicator will be correct.
- 5 band equalizer. not just presets but a real equalizer.
- has a standard usb mini connector. the little plastic cover for the usb port is very easy to lose.
- comes with an arm band and a clip. You can bend the clip so everything fits very tightly. The headphones aren't too bad actually and wrap around your ear for a very good fit.
- good stop watch with lots of lap times
- tons of settings. You can configure many aspects of this player.
- volume and sound quality seem fine.
- when you first turn it on after changing songs it has to rebuild the database. This takes a while. After that boot time is about 4 sec.
- navigation: It has really good navigation based on id3 tags. You can choose by artist which will then drill down to albums. You can go straight to albums, genre, specific track, year, and new music (time based - when you added the songs). Every single level has a play all option, so you can play everything in memory, all albums of a specific artist, a specific album, etc.
- m3u play lists are supported. I've tried ones generated by audiograbber and ones from mp3tag. Just make sure you use relative paths.
- nice display and back light. Shows lots of information like codec and bitrate along with the usual mp3 tag info.
- no glitches or lock ups so far.

bottom line:
A great solid state player that's a tad over priced.

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