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Gadget Review

SlimX Player

By Kailas Narendran
COLUMNIST

Pros

* Super thin

* Great performance

* Easy to use and operate

Cons

* Marginal radio performance

* Lots of wires for non-mobile use

The Lowdown

The SlimX player from iRiver is the next step in slim, pocket-size CD players for the modern, active lifestyle. The player is essentially the area of a standard compact disc, and only half an inch thick.

The device comes with a remote control unit that provides an easy to read, backlit dot matrix display. The interface provides easy access to the most popular functions (play, stop, and the like all have their own buttons) while still providing a great deal of flexibility through an easily usable and navigable menu system.

The device comes with gum-stick sized nickel-metal hydride batteries (and a built-in charger), to provide up to 50 hours of playback and enough memory to provide skip-free operation.

Supersize

I was blown away by the size of this device. It’s so small that it unobtrusively fits into your pocket during anything from long nights in lab to your afternoon workout in the Z-center. The thickness of the device seems to be dictated simply by the thickness of the batteries, which is quite impressive. Since all the controls are located on the remote, it’s possible to throw the player in your pocket or backpack, and still have easy access to your music.

Interface and flexibility

The user interface effectively provides the ability to quickly control music play, while still having access to advanced options such as a graphic equalizer, directory lists, visualizations and more. Even though you’d need to look over the user manual to figure out how to use all the features of the system, it’s simple enough to get it to start playing music right out of the box.

In addition to playing MP3s, the system can play WMA and ASF files, and even your Winamp M3U playlists! It also displays song tag info on the brightly backlit screen while playing for easy song searching.

If you are using the player while moving around, it’s great to have the remote control unit. Instead of carrying the player in your hands, you can slip it into your backpack or pocket and the remote (and extra wire length afforded by it) kills two birds with one stone. If you’re just sitting in one place, it results in a bit of extra wire that creates a mess. Unfortunately there’s no way around that problem -- the remote is required for operation.

Ray-dee-oh?

As much as I love my personal music collection, sometimes it’s nice to take a break and catch up on the latest furniture commercials by listening to the radio. While the SlimX does give you the radio option, the reception is marginal since the wire for the remote is used as the antenna.

If you’re really into Bernie and Phyl’s, or any of the other radio luminaries in Boston, this won’t give you the crystal clear jingles you want.

The bottom line

The design of this portable music system really makes the sell. I haven’t seen something as small, sleek, and functional as this system to date. You can buy the SlimX-550 system off of iRiver’s website for $180 (with a car power adapter, cassette adapter, external battery pack, carrying case, etc.). If you go for just the player, I found it around the internet for as low as $110.

While this product’s price point hits at about 50 percent more than the bottom of the line MP3/CD players, which go for around $70, its elegant design and rechargeable batteries make up the difference if used regularly. You can find out more information at http://www.iRiver.com in addition to seeing pictures of iRiver products with Playboy bunnies. I love capitalism!