Looking more like the remote control for an air conditioning unit than a portable music device, the 6GB E10 is nevertheless appealing to the eye, if a little blocky. Measuring 96 x 45 x 14mm, it's a bit taller than SanDisk's e200 series players, but spurns the neon accents and spinning scroll wheels in favour of basic black or white.
If we have one complaint about the design of the E10, it's that there seems to be a lot of wasted space. With the relatively small (1.5-inch, 128 by 128 pixel) display squished up the top, and the four circular navigation buttons occupying little real estate, the player has a sparse look, and seems bulkier than necessary. Being hard-drive rather than flash-based, it's understandable that the unit can't get much smaller, but the screen still feels undersized. Still, if you're into minimalism and think the iPod Nano's wafer-thinness is more wussy than wonderful, you'll be happy with the E10.
As for the few remaining buttons dotting the E10's smooth surfaces, one side has dedicated volume controls (always appreciated by us at CNET.com.au), and the other accommodates a hold switch that doubles as a TV remote control activator -- more on that unusual feature later.
The menu structure of the E10 is like that of the lovely iRiver Clix: list-based, intuitive and with no manual-reading required. Pressing the right nav button delves into the menu layers, and the left key lifts you up a level in the hierarchy. No scroll wheels, no rockers and no touch-sensitive patches you have to stroke with your finger -- sometimes it's refreshing to get back to basics.
Besides playing MP3, WMA, ASF and OGG-formatted tunes, the E10 handles photos in JPEG flavour as well as MPEG-4 video. There's an FM radio with recording function, some cute but rudimentary Flash games, and a voice recorder to round out the features list.
Unlike the 2GB Clix, which uses Windows Media Player 11 for file transfer, the E10 comes supplied with iRiver's Plus syncing software. We received version 2, but version 3 can now be downloaded free from the iRiver site.
The most striking feature of the E10 is that it moonlights as a basic TV remote control, able to change channels, adjust volume and turn a telly on or off. The functions work as long as your teev isn't too old, and providing it was made by a supported manufacturer such as Samsung, LG, Sony, Panasonic and Philips. The feature seems closer to a novelty than a practical inclusion to us, but mischief-seeking pranksters may get a kick out of stealthily switching off the televised soccer game transfixing a crowd at the pub. Just don't blame iRiver when incensed punters tip beer on your head.
Video playback on the square display couldn't compare to the pretty pictures we saw on the Clix, but quality was acceptable. Given the hassle of converting the sizes and formats of video files, the E10 is more suited to those who aren't all that fussed about watching clips on their portable device.
iRiver claims the E10 will keep on puffing for 32 hours before the battery gives up the ghost, but our tests clocked battery life at closer to 20 hours. This is more than acceptable in the context of the player's competition, but it was disappointing to find our real-world tests falling so far short of the lofty 32-hour claim.
While the E10 couldn't quite match the sass and sexiness of the Clix, it was still a solid performer. If video playback isn't a big deal, and you'd like three times the room for your tunes, the E10 offers the same smooth navigation and quirky extras for only a little extra cash outlay.