SonicBlue – Rio Sport S30S review

small, well-designed MP3 player
Photo of SonicBlue – Rio Sport S30S
£130

The Rio range of MP3 players, now made by SonicBlue, virtually invented the solid-state music player market and are still the devices to which most others are compared. The new Rio Sport S30S (and S35S – the only difference is the amount of internal memory) shows that the company has lost none of its urge to innovate.

This small, stopwatch-sized music player supports both the MP3 and Windows WMA music compression standards. It’s covered in a brick-red, rubberised coating and is designed to be tough enough to take with you when you go jogging or down to the gym. To help with this, it comes with a holder which can be fastened to a belt or to the supplied wrist-strap.

SonicBlue claims the S30S can run for up to 15 hours on a single AAA alkaline battery, and will also work with rechargeable cells, though these are not supplied. In normal use, 10 hours is probably a closer estimate, but is still ample for most purposes.

The device has a four-way press dial for playback control on its front face, below a miniature, backlit LCD display. This is particularly easy to read and shows track and artist details as well as useful status information, such as battery condition and a track list. Switches around the edge of the S30S provide power, menu and volume control.

A slide-off panel on the back of the device gives access to the battery and a Multimedia Card slot, which can take cards of up to 128MB. Using Microsoft’s WMA format, you can store up to two hours of music on the 64MB internal memory or up to six hours with the highest capacity card fitted. The S35S comes with 128MB internally.

SonicBlue provides a USB cable to connect the player to a Windows-based PC or a Macintosh running MacOS 9 or later. Windows users can install RealOne and Rio Music Manager for ripping and downloading music, while Macintosh devotees are provided with iTunes.

As well as its main digital music playing function, the S30S includes an FM tuner with station presets and a full-function stopwatch with facilities for split times.

A set of over the ear earphones is provided, though these have no adjustment and can prove uncomfortable if you have large ears – some members of the royal family may like to look elsewhere. Sound quality from both the player and the earphones is excellent and in most circumstances you’ll notice very little difference from a CD.

Company: SonicBlue

Contact: 0118 963 7420


Verdict
A well thought-out music player with all the trimmings, the S30S - and its higher capacity companion, the S35S - are what mobile entertainment systems should be; mobile and entertaining.