Rio Chiba 256MB MP3 player

Farewell, jog-dial controls


Accessories

Rio also bundles a plastic belt clip with the Chiba. It's not only very basic - just a plastic holder with a metal clip attached - but because the earphone port is on the bottom of the player, you have to connect it through a hole in the holster. For some bizarre reason, it didn't occur to Digital Networks to design the holster in such a way as to allow you to remove the player while the 'phones are attached.

There's an alkaline battery bundled too. Digital Networks claims you get 18 hours' of continuous playback from a single cell, and our intense but non-continuous usage over a period of several days suggests that's about right.

Verdict

We liked the Rio Chiba. Its compact size, looks and feature set - particularly the FM radio and the good, customisable equaliser - make it a real pleasure to use. So does its responsive, easy-to-navigate UI.

While the Chiba's sound quality is generally very good, the noise that leaks into the audio system at high volumes and during power-on and -off is a disappointment, and the player loses rating points as result. Fortunately, it doesn't get in the way of the music and it's not even audible unless the volume is turned way up loud. But it's nonetheless a sign of sloppiness on Digital Networks' part. This is not an issue we've experienced with other players of comparable type, but we did notice it again on the Rio Fuse, which we'll be reviewing shortly. So it's clearly a design issue and not a one-off glitch with our evalution unit.

Chiba's strong cross-platform support - a rare commodity in the world of portable digital music players - helps compensate for the noise issue. All that's missing is Linux and Ogg Vorbis support.

But it's the joystick control that make the Chiba stand out. It's a novel approach, and one that is genuinely better than the accepted standard, the jog wheel. It will be copied, of course, but Digital Networks deserves credit for offering it first. ®

Digital Networks Rio Chiba 256MB
Rating 75%
Pros — Superb joystick control system
— Good price
— Stylish looks
— Cross-platform software support
Cons — Background noise at high volumes
— Adding memory cards is tricky
— The el cheapo belt clip
Price $200
More info The Rio Chiba web site

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