RioRiot is able to absorb, tote most users' CD libraries

WHAT'S HOT

May 02, 2002

If you have iPod envy but no Mac to match it, SONICblue's new RioRiot digital music player might be what you're waiting for. Although slightly bigger and less elegant than Apple's svelte digital music player, the $399 RioRiot holds four times as much as the original iPod.

SonicBlue says the device's 20-gigabyte hard drive holds 400 albums worth of music, a figure I can't dispute - after spending hours pouring 474 of my favorite songs into it, I still had 17.5 gigabytes of space to spare.

Compatible with Windows PCs and Apple Macintosh computers, the RioRiot is bundled with both Apple iTunes and Real Jukebox 2.0 to manage your music collection. The player also conveniently supports both MP3 and WMA music formats.

Its hefty storage comes at a cost - size. Unlike the iPod, which fits easily into a shirt pocket, the 10-ounce RioRiot is about the size of a 70s-era Walkman. It fits in the palm - barely. Still, it's hard to dislike a device that allows you to tote your entire CD collection.

One nice RioRiot feature not found on the iPod is a built-in FM tuner. I also liked the Rio-Riot's onboard DJ software, which tracks how often you play songs and can whip up various "mixes" based on everything from genre to your least or most played tunes.

Unfortunately, the RioRiot lacks the iPod's elegant design and glistening good looks. It has the feel of a prototype that was rushed into production, with control buttons that aren't as intuitive as the iPod's wheel-and-button combination. The Rio-Riot's power and earphone jacks look so much alike and are placed so close together that I nearly shorted out the device.

The company says the rechargeable lithium-ion battery is good for more than 10 hours, but mine conked out at closer to seven. Still, more than enough for jogging or most flights.

Michael Stroh Information: www.rio home.com or 408-588-8000.

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