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iRiver T10

Shipping has begun for the iRiver T10 series of MP3 players, now famously known as the first flash-based players to support subscription-based downloads. Available in 512MB (red) or 1GB (blue), the iRiver T10 boasts a color screen and most of the features found in iRiver's popular 700/800 series. Listed at $200 for the 1GB and $150 for the 512MB, the T10 is a tad pricey, but it is currently one of two flash players (the other is the budget-conscious iRiver T30 series) that will work with Napster To Go, Yahoo Music Unlimited, and Rhapsody To Go.

Upside: The iRiver T10 is not supercompact, though the durable, athlete-friendly design is comfortable to hold. The four-line LCD is small, but the color screen--especially on the bright and bold main-menu screens--makes navigation easy on the eyes. Good sound quality (90dB signal-to-noise ratio) gets better with the five-band user EQ and SRS features turned on. Also in the T10's arsenal are an FM tuner; FM and voice recording; and compatibility with MP3 and OGG files, as well as purchased and subscription WMA files. Additionally, a single AA battery can power the T10 for up to a rated 45 hours. The sleek and outdoorsy design, which features a handy metal belt clip, a full-motion hold switch, and an armband, will appeal to many users. Finally, we really like the T10's cool graphic-equalizer screensaver.

Downside: The iRiver T10 is very Hummer-like: It fuses utility with an overstated luxury. In the age of shrinking flash players, the T10 arrives as a heavyweight at 1.7 ounces with battery, and it measures about 3.4 by 1.6 by 1.2 inches. It's actually a little bigger than the players in the 800 series. That said, the unit is comfortable to operate, except that the smooth five-direction pad is sunken a bit, so it's hard to get a real tactile sense when controlling the T10. It's a shame, since the rest of the body is quite ergonomic--at least when it's used in the left hand. Other notes: FM tuning is excellent; the voice recorder works well, but you record a lot of noise when you touch the device; the USB flap cover doesn't stay shut; and the player doesn't have a line-in recording feature.

Outlook: Janus (Windows DRM 10.0) compatibility is the big topic here, since hardware manufacturers and the music industry are ready and waiting for the public to dive into the world of subscription-based music. You have three popular services; a growing number of hard-drive-based players from Dell, Creative, Archos, and iRiver; and now, flash-based players (at CES, Panasonic announced its intentions on shipping Janus-compatible flash players, but we've yet to hear anything). In our early tests, the device was recognized by Rhapsody To Go, but our transferred files would not play. We'll have more on the iRiver T10 later.

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