Rio Karma – Digital Audio Player Review


Key Specifications

  • Review Price: £239.00

I really love the idea of hard disk based digital music players. The ability to have all of your music in your pocket all the time is a pretty compelling argument for the technology. Unfortunately I still haven’t managed to justify the purchase of such a player for myself. The main reason for this is that I drive to work every day, so when I’m travelling I’m listening to the stereo in my car, and when I get to work I’ll play my music directly from my PC. But when I get to play with one of these devices, it always rekindles my desire to own one.

I remember when the very first MP3 player surfaced while I was still working at PC Pro magazine. There was a huge buzz around the office while everyone tried to have a play with the little device that was branded Rio. Back then the manufacturer was Diamond (a graphics card manufacturer at the time), and the name of the player was Rio. But now, many years later, Rio is actually the company name, and there is a whole host of players in its range. So, although Apple can claim to have started the whole hard disk MP3 player revolution, Rio can claim to have started the entire MP3 player revolution.

Looking at the Rio Karma it doesn’t illicit the kind of desire that an Apple iPod does. There’s no denying that the iPod looks fantastic and this is one of its biggest selling points. I bought an iPod as a birthday present for my wife earlier on in the year – a purchase based more on the fact that she loved the way it looked rather than functionality and features. But looks aren’t everything, and once you pick up the Rio Karma you realise that it is far more pleasing than the iPod from a tactile point of view. The square design of the Karma means that it fits snugly in the palm, even if you have small hands like me. It is considerably thicker than the iPod, but with a rubber grip on one side it’s far less likely to slip out of your hand. Also, despite its plastic casing, it feels more robust than the iPod. That said, the screen area is very susceptible to scratches and the review unit that Rio sent me was already well marked. With a weight of 156g the Karma is pretty light, and represents a 20g saving on the iPod.

The Karma is finished in black, grey and silver, with the red four-way joystick standing out. The joystick controls menu navigation up, down, left and right, while pressing it in will select the highlighted option. While playing music, pressing the joystick up will pause/play, pressing down will stop, left will jump back a track and right will jump forward. To the left of the joystick is a silver menu button – this will bring up the menus, and will also jump back a level when you’re in sub menus. In the top right corner you’ll find a jog wheel which does pretty much the same thing as the joystick. With the jog wheel you can move through the menus, while pressing it in will select the options. On the top of the casing is the power button and on the left you’ll find the volume controls and a lock switch to avoid inadvertent button presses. The screen is large 49mm affair, with a resolution of 160 x 128. The text and graphics are clear, and the blue Indiglo type backlight is effective and good looking.

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