In my experience iRiver products never quite hit the mark. Despite the fact that iRiver players tend to exhibit superior sound quality to pretty much anything else on the market (bar Sony), the clumsy design and poor user interface tend to overshadow those aural delights. But this time iRiver seems to have got almost everything right and the clix 2 is possibly the most desirable portable media player available.
The clix represents the evolution of the iRiver U10 that Benny reviewed over a year ago. Although the U10 was an innovative and feature rich player, it was hugely overpriced and lacked the design chic that oozes from the core of Apple products. I’m not sure who iRiver employed to design the clix, but whoever it was deserves a big promotion – the clix really does look THAT good.
Unlike most small MP3/media players, the clix is designed to be used in a landscape orientation, although you can switch it round to portrait if you prefer. The reason that the landscape orientation works so well is that there are no buttons or switches on the fascia to spoil the clean lines. In fact, the clix looks like a very small TV, and I think that’s exactly the look that iRiver was going for.
There’s a 2.2in screen at the centre of the clix with a resolution of 320 x 240. But this isn’t just any screen, iRiver has equipped the clix with an AMOLED or Active Matrix Organic LED screen. While many players use small OLED screens due to the low power they draw and the emissive nature of the technology, an Active Matrix OLED screen applies a thin film transistor (TFT) sheet. The TFT aspect of the screen allows each pixel to be charged separately with an independent degree of brightness, the transistors also allow for very fast switching, making this screen far more suited to viewing video than a standard Passive Matrix OLED display.
Leaving the intrinsic technology behind the screen to one side, there is only one really important thing that you need to know, it looks absolutely fantastic! The screen is unbelievably bright, the colours strikingly vivid and the viewing angle close to infinite. Viewing pictures on the clix is an absolute joy, but even more impressive is how good a job it does of playing back video. I’d always considered watching video on a device this size as being a marketing gimmick, but on the clix it’s actually an enjoyable experience. I’m not sure if it’s the landscape aspect ratio of the device, or the fact that the front of the player is devoid of buttons or labels, but there’s something about the clix that makes it a viable pocket sized movie machine. And when you’re watching video, that Active Matrix OLED really does show its colours – literally! The images are bright, vibrant and amazingly clear, no matter how much action is going on.