Tuesday, February 22, 2005

iRiver H10. Impressions after a day of use.

Why ship dud products containing improperly tested firmware out? That's what really makes me mad. What the techie-perceived advantage of 'regular firmware updates' masks is an inability to test products properly. Geeks think regular updates are great, but have they considered how many of those iRiver / Cowon 'feature updates' actually give you new features instead of fixing bugs that Apple, Sony and to a slightly lesser extent Creative seem to have mostly fixed before the products are shipped?

These aren't hugely-complex applications like Windows for example... Getting the basic functions right in the shipped product is not that hard if you know what you're doing.

Out of the 7 intermediate-to-major problems (unrelated to usability, but simply things which aren't working as they are supposed to be) encountered in my first hour with the iRiver (5 more than the Zen Micro, 6 more than the iPod Mini), 3 of them seems to have been cured by the firmware upgrade.

Still not enough to start writing in detail about it, but enough to start getting a feel of this thing. I've not been paying attention to audio quality, etc (although it seems fine to me, apart from a click-buzz when you're adjusting volume) but just using the player normally, listening to my stuff.

I'm just calling it as I experience it here, but the number of usability-impacting bugs on the H10 is probably the highest of any player I've had in the last two years. It's even higher than the (at that time) just-released Cowon iAudio M3, which I thought set an unbreakable record for second-firmware unresolved faults. These problems will undoubtedly be solved in time. Cowon at that time was releasing a new firmware version every couple of weeks or so if I'm not mistaken and some time after I sold the M3 I know most of the most glaring problems were solved. iRiver will probably do it a bit slower, but I'm sure for their sake the H10 will end up being a stable player. But the thing is, you (and I) don't have to stand for this lack of pre-release testing.

If you like the look of the H10, my advice at this point in time will be... don't buy it now unless you're prepared to suffer some irritating issues. Geeks used to 'working around' unstable things will probably have less problems with this, but to the consumer and people like me who like things just to work, it may be an irritation too far.

The question is, can iRiver get a stable firmware release before Apple and Creative release their competing (and most probably better-tested) broadsides? I await a response from iRiver.

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