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iRock! 530 Portable MP3 Player: If you're a person on the go who loves your MP3s, you'll need a MP3 player. The lightweight iRock comes with 128MB of built-in memory, and produces very good sound.

Date: January 15, 2003
Manufacturer:
Written By:

Introduction

If you are a person who loves music and is always on the go, then you have probably considered purchasing a portable Mp3 player. With a P2P file-sharing application such as Kazaa paired with a high-speed Internet connection you can download Mp3's from your favorite artist in a matter of seconds. While the RIAA may be whining and moaning to everybody within earshot, chances are Mp3 downloading won't be thwarted for a long time.


Click to Enlarge

When portable Mp3 players were first introduced they were sold at astronomical prices, and the players lacked features and storage space. Very few people were willing to pay $300+ for a device that held less than an hour of music. Now, portable players are far cheaper, much smaller, and no longer lack storage space.

iRock! is a spin-off of Motorola that manufactures a wide range of Mp3-based products. Today we are looking at the iRock! 530, a small, stylish player that has 128 MB's of built-in memory.

Features/Specifications

o High speed downloading via USB
o High speed downloading via USB
o Expandable memory capacity with external SmartMedia Card (SMC) slot (up to 256MB total!)
o 520- up to 192MB of total storage(nearly 3.5 hours of music)
o 530- up to 256MB of total storage(nearly 4.5 hours of music)
Easy to use modify function settings with one key
- EQ: Normal/Rock/Classic/Jazz
- Bass Boost
- Repeat: Repeat 1/Repeat All/Random
- Bookmark
Dynamic LCD Display
o Long Battery Life: 8 hours with one AAA
o Applicable PC and Macintosh¨ (iTunesª) digital music management software
o 2.5" x 2.8" x .7" (63.5 mm x 71.1mm x 17.8mm)
o Display: STN LCD
o Power Supply: 1 AAA battery
o Battery Life: 8 hours with 1 AAA battery
o Memory: 64MB (520), or 128MB (530) embedded flash
o Expandable Memory: external SMC slot for up to 128MB SMC card
o Signal to Noise Ratio: 90dB
o Harmonic Distortion: <0.25%
o Maximum Output: 10mW
o Audio Connector: 3.5mm headphone jack
o Microprocessor: 8 bit CISC Processor
o Interface: full speed USB

Included with the unit is a single AAA battery, pink carrying strap, set of headphones and a CD with software and drivers. The AAA battery was a bit of a surprise, since most electronic products leave that up to you, but we'll take it.


The first thing that will strike you when seeing the iRock is exactly how small the unit really is. It is actually less than three inches tall, and extremely light. The unit doesn't have a flimsy or cheap feel to it, however. Actually, despite its small size and light weight, the iRock is a very solid product. On the back of the unit is a Smart Media slot that will allow you to add another 128 MB's of memory, for a total of 256 MB's.

On the right side of the unit is a rocker switch that allows for complete control over the unit. You can skip tracks, turn the unit on and off, and cycle through the playback modes (Classical, Pop, and Rock) with the switch. The buttons beneath the rocker switch allow you to adjust the volume. One of the reasons iRock was able to keep the unit so small was by allowing a single switch to control so many different options. The iRock! 530 has certainly gone through a clever design process, and I applaud the team that designed this unit.

The top of the unit features a headphone jack and a lock switch. The lock switch lets you lock all of the buttons on the player, which is a smart idea if you are jogging, or doing other activity where you may accidentally push a button. Also on the top of the unit is a small pass-through for the carrying strap. I wouldn't use the carrying strap personally, as it looks too feminine. I have a manly man reputation to keep up, and carrying around a small electronic device is already threatening to damage my reputation.

On the left side of the unit is the Mode button, which cycles through the playback options, at which point you use the rocker switch to turn them on and off. The USB jack is also on the left side of the unit. You left the flap, which is actually a bit tough, since the unit is so small, and the USB cable plugs right in. Once the cable is plugged in you simply plug the other end into your PC, at which point your PC should recognize the device and load the correct drivers, provided you have already installed them.
Once the unit is plugged in you simply start the iRock! download manager and drag and drop Mp3's onto the player. Transferring a 4 MB Mp3 to the player takes just a few seconds. The unit will hold around anywhere from 1-3 hours of Mp3's, depending on the bit rate.

Playback and Sound Quality

The only drawbacks of this unit have to do with the display. First of all, there isn't a back light, which doesn't really matter all that much, since you can't see the name of the song you are playing anyway. I got to thinking, and after discussing things with my friend Ryan, who also owns an iRock!, I decided that title support isn't necessary since you can always just preview the first seconds of the song. Since the unit doesn't hold too much music, it isn't really hard to find the song you are looking for.
The iRock! 530 produces crisp, clear sound. As a matter of fact, I was very surprised out how good this tiny player made my Mp3's sound. Too bad the included headphones put a damper on the entire experience. While I could listen for a a few minutes, after fifteen or more units of use, the headphones would begin to really hurt my ears, and unfortunately I had to resort to purchasing new ones from Radio Shack.

My overall listening experience was very enjoyable on the iRock!, and the battery did last eight+ hours, as advertised on the box and on the iRock! website. Perhaps it's time for a...

Conclusion

The iRock! 530 is an exceptional product, despite a couple of small issues regarding functionality. The sound output was very good, and the adjustable music-style's were an interesting touch. The included headphones were of substandard quality, and I actually ended up discarding them due to the discomfort they caused in my ear. The LCD screen was very basic, but functional. I think that for the price, this unit certainly is deserving of an Viper's Lair Editors Choice Award. Kudos to iRock! on a great product at an affordable price. Look for a review of the iRock! Bling portable CD/Mp3/FM player sometime in the near future here at Viper's Lair!

Pro's
Small and lightweight, easy to hide from your boss while at work
Included software easy to use and setup
Relatively inexpensive ($129 on the iRock! website)
Produces great sound
Excellent battery life

Con's
Small size makes it easy to lose
Lacking a few features (title's, back lit display)

Bottom Line
If you need a no-nonsense MP3 player, then the iRock! 530 is definitely worth a look. At under , I feel it is a great bargain, and definitely worthy of our Editor's Choice award.

If you got any comments, be sure to hit us up in our forums.

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