2.3.05

Review for the IRiver H340 Jukebox (or H3xx series)


After using my MP3 player for a month and a half, I think I am well placed to write a review on it, as from the statistics on my blog, I see that a lot of people have come here looking for information on the player. So, is the Iriver H340 MP3 player worth the hype? Is it the super duper MP3 player it claims to be?




Now, as a person, IÂ’m a natural critic, so itÂ’s easy for me to find faults with stuff. While a lot of people think this is a negative, a few of my friends use this in a positive way, by telling me about any ideas they have, and watching me pick holes in them. Any idea that survives
the ‘Boso’ test, must be a good one!! Anyway, I was afraid that this review may seem too negative, don’t take it that way at all. I love my H340, I love it a lot. I’ll try my best to do a well-balanced review. And to make sure you see that I like the player, I'll put the good bits first, and then the bad bits.


First of all, for anyone who has this player, or is thinking of getting one, www.misticriver.net should become your homepage. The website set up for iRiver enthusiasts has so much info on this player, and when things go wrong, searching through the forums always comes up with the right answer. Also, when you’re trying to do anything there is tons of information here. I downloaded software to convert videos to the ‘H3xx’ format from here, written in Java by a member of mistic river, and found out about the latest firmware, how to reduce startup time, etc. They have a very good review here .



OK, so let me first of all say what I like about the player.




Pros





  • The major plus is the price. For all the bells and whistles, itÂ’s quite cheap compared to competing products. And what are these wonderful features:



  • MP3 player (doh!)

  • 2in colour screen

  • FM Radio

  • Voice recorder (and recording from radio)

  • Picture Viewer

  • Videos (after firmware upgrade)

  • Text file viewer

  • 40GB Hard Drive

  • Works as external memory



And all this for just £299 !! The only player that comes close to all this is the Ipod photo, which doesn’t have a radio, video playback or voice recorder, and the 40GB version currently sells for about £349 at www.play.com. (Although with the recent price cuts from Apple, this will fall to about £300 I think). The Creative Zen Touch 20GB has half the space, no colour screen, no photos or videos (obviously) goes for about £160. The H320 (20GB Iriver) goes for about £220, but I don’t think these devices are in the same category.



All in all, I think the price is competitive, and this is the only place you can get all these features in one box.





  • Firmware upgradeable. This feature is a big big plus. The best example is the latest firmware update allows you to watch videos. A lot of the problems I will list below, can easily be fixed by firmware updates, so this gives hope for the future !! However, IÂ’m using the Korean firmware at the moment, as the EU firmware has a volume cap (because of a French law apparently), and I like my music loud !!





  • Sound Quality is simply top notch. IÂ’ve got a great set of headphones (Phillips HN050 to be precise) with noise cancellation, and when you put them on, you immediately find yourself transported to another world, and on a crowded train on the way to work, thereÂ’s nothing better than that !! But connected to my stereo, 2.1 speaker system, it gives top quality sound, and the EQ on it is also really good. IÂ’m a massive fan of excellent sound, and IÂ’ll give the player 8.5/10.





  • USB on the go. OK, youÂ’re on holiday, and youÂ’ve just discovered your digital camera memory is full. NO PROBLEM. Hook it up to your Iriver, which will get your pics off it, and free up your precious space. Absolutely brilliant. However, the list of supported cameras is disappointingly short, and my camera sadly isn'Â’t on the list, so I canÂ’'t test this feature. L However, when using the player as a host, you can only use USB 1.1, which is a lot slower than USB 2.0




OK, so that was the good bit. Now, letÂ’s talk about the drawbacks.



Cons





  • Playlists. This is my biggest gripe. With this player, playlists are a nightmare, and thatÂ’s putting things lightly. To create playlists, you need to connect the player to a PC, and then use Winamp (that silly out of date program, created by Nullsoft, a company that has since gone bust) to create .m3u playlists. Store these playlists on the player, and there you go. As a result, you canÂ’t really create playlists on the fly. So you create all your playlists at home/work, and if you change your mind, or want to fiddle with them, guess what, you canÂ’t. you canÂ’t even look at or navigate the list while itÂ’s playing, you have to wait for each song to play, one by one. Also, if your list has any song that has a filename longer than 52 characters, the entire list will fail when loading (and not tell you why!). As my last CD MP3 player had no playlists whatsoever, itÂ’s been easy for me to adapt, but this should come as standard. However, a firmware fix can take this problem away, but will Iriver bother? Only time will tell.

  • Search. ThereÂ’s no way to search through your music database for ‘that songÂ’. All your music is tagged right? Well, guess what? The player does not care! Navigation through your music is like using a file explorer. iRiver does ship an application that
    you can install in Windows that can manually scan the audio on the device
    and build the data base file, but it only supports MP3 files.

  • Buttons. Usually, when I get a new ‘toyÂ’, I rip it out of the box, and play with it, and in time IÂ’ve figured out how to do almost everything on it. Not so with this baby. You see, some of the buttons on the front of the player do more than one thing, and youÂ’'ll have to learn how to press them. A short tap will bring up one function, and a long press will bring up another. But with butter fingers like mine, it took 3 weeks to figure out how to press the buttons to do what I wanted to do. Not too much of a sticking point, but if IÂ’d written this review two weeks after buying the player, IÂ’ve have slated it completely due to this. I was trying to play my playlists, but everytime I hit the button, it went into the repeat mode. I was getting pretty frustrated, and the poorly written manual (another minus, but IÂ’ll restrain myself and not write anything about that) didnÂ’t mention that there were 2 ways to hit the button. Oh well. I'Â’ve become an expert now.

  • Battery. The battery on this is supposed to be really good. Well, unless I got a unit with a bad battery, then this is not true. IRiver claim the battery can last for up to 14 hours. I use the player for my commute every day , which lasts about an hour each way, and after 3 days (total 6 hours) itÂ’s almost dead. On the days I use the voice recording function at choir practice, if I havenÂ’t charged it the day before, it either dies during rehearsal, or dies on the way home. Also USB charging is a complete waste of time.

  • Bulky. Not a major problem, but a problem none the less. ItÂ’s a bit bigger and heavier than itÂ’s competitors, but for all the features it has, I can live with the extra
    bulge in my pocket.

  • Software. Or the lack of it. I took the CD that came with the player, put it into my PC and installed the software. And then? Nothing. CouldnÂ’t find the software, nothing in the start menu, no new icons on the desktop or taskbar, NOTHING. A few weeks later, while rebooting my computer with the player connected, a window popped up telling me something about ‘not staring up my PC with the Iriver player connected.Â’ So I know that thereÂ’s software on the PC somewhere, but the silly thing isnÂ’t working. Not that I need it, I can do everything I want to do and more, without the need for extra software. Iriver could have further reduced the cost by not shipping the units with CDs I guess.

  • Start-up time. This is not really a problem for me, but apparently as your music collection grows, it becomes one. When you turn on the player, it goes through all your files one by one. That way, it knows where the playlists are, among other things. Then it loads the firmware. Now, from click to finish, IÂ’ve timed mine at 21.9 seconds, and IÂ’ve got 24 GB of stuff on the player. In this review the guy claims that his takes up to a minute. However, I defragmented my drive last night, and used the Disk Cleanup facility in Windows to remove the 80 MB of stuff in the hidden ‘recycle binÂ’, but the start up time hasnÂ’t been a real issue for me. IÂ’ve never used any other hard drive based MP3, so I donÂ’t know how long they take.

  • Video playback. Now, considering the player wasnÂ’t really designed for video playback, then the fact that it plays any kind of video at all should have me thanking my stars. OK, here goes, the IRiver only plays videos in *.avi format, and even then, thereÂ’s a maximum file size, and the video must be at 10 frames per second
    maximum. If you go to www.misticriver.net you’ll find a variety of tools to convert your videos. I managed to rip a DVD using the java based iriverter (written by a misticriver user), but it ended up being a bit ‘jerky’. However, I did one other one, and it was fine, so I guess it’s a bit of hit and pray with this one. However, if you’re not very tech savvy, you might find that converting videos is too much hassle.




So there it is !! A lot of negative points? OK, look at it this way. If I had to buy a new player today, with all I know about the IRiver H340, IÂ’d probably buy it again. It may have its drawbacks, but itÂ’s still one hell of a player. And I still have not been able to find anything with all these features anywhere, you always get a wide selection, but never EVERYTHING. If itÂ’s not missing the FM radio, itÂ’s missing the voice recorder, if itÂ’s got both, then you canÂ’t watch videos. So, IÂ’ll buy this one again and again and again and again.



IÂ’ll give it 8.5/10. Very, very good, may even be classed as excellent, but could still do so much better :)


1 comment:

  1. [...] MP3 player gave up the ghost a few weeks ago. The battery just went dead, and it refused to come back on. [...]

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