Jockeying for position in the budget digital audio player market is iriver's Lplayer. It stands out from the crowd by supporting quite a few audio and video formats that you wouldn't normally expect in a sub-$100 player, and it offers plenty of volume. We just wish that iriver would have opted for a slightly more appealing and intuitive design.
Available in black, white, and pink, the 2.3 x 1.6 x 0.9-inch Lplayer drops easily into a shirt or pants pocket, and at 1.5 ounces, you could very easily forget that it's there. In terms of aesthetics, the Lplayer isn't as stylish as theSanDisk Sansa Fuze, but it's no eyesore, either.
Taking a cue from theiriver Clix, the Lplayer utilizes the D-Click control system that let us navigate menus and controlling the playback by pressing up, down, left, or right on the outer edges of the mini-music box.
We weren't too keen on the placement of the volume button. It's on the bottom of the device, which proves awkward to use, unless you don't mind constantly rotating the player 90 degrees. Conspicuous by its absence is a media card slot for loading additional content after users max out the 4GB of internal memory.
Audio Formats and Sound Quality
In addition to MP3, the Lplayer supports WMA, ASF, FLAC, and OGG Q10 audio formats (the Sansa Fuze offers only MP3, WAV, and WMA). Using the bundled iriverPlus3 software, we loaded audio, video, and photo files from our PC to the Lplayer. The bundled plastic earbuds delivered surprisingly loud volume when playing Fiona Apple's "Sleep To Dream," but typical of most budget players, the bass was mediocre. This was remedied by plugging in a pair of Sony MDR-V150 headphones, which gave us a richer soundscape, but the audio still didn't match the excellent sound quality of the Sansa Fuze.
If you're in the mood for the spontaneity of radio you can use the FM tuner, which, both indoors and outdoors in New York City, alternated between nearly crystal clear audio and static-filled depending on the station. You can save favorite stations to 20 presets and, should you find a tune you like, can record that song directly to the device.
Video Formats, Tiny Screen
The Lplayer can display JPEG, BMP, GIF, and PNG images, and play MPEG-4, WMV9, and XviD video. This one-ups the SanDisk Sansa Fuze, which offers just JPEG and MPEG-4. (To its credit, the Fuze does support audiobooks.) Viewing a home movie of the Coney Island Mermaid Parade on the Lplayer proved hard on the eyes; the tiny 2-inch display isn't conducive to a viewing clips for more than a few minutes. However, the 320 x 240-pixel resolution made for a sharp image.
The player is rated for 4 hours of video playback and 12 hours of audio. In our experience watching clips and playing music, the Lplayer gave us approximately 5 hours of juice before needing to recharge.
Priced at $99.99, the Lplayer is a solid music player that's compatible with a number of audio/video formats for the hardcore multimedia set. If you're satisfied with its limited amount of memory, and don't mind the odd placement of the volume button, you'll find the Lplayer a capable device. However, the similarly priced SanDisk Sansa Fuze offers superb sound quality, memory expansion, and a more stylish design.