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For Geeks on the Go

The downside? A proprietary operating system and quirky hardware interface. Once I became accustomed to the PMP-120, however, I quickly found myself dreaming up new and inventive uses for this capable unit.

The first thing you'll notice about the PMP-120 is its ergonomic design. Two curving bars beneath and on either end of the unit work double duty, providing a stable grip and a removable Li-Ion battery on one end and, on the other, a picture-frame stand that lets you prop up the unit on your desk for hands-free viewing. The device is easy to handle, even one-handed.


On the other hand (as it were), the hardware navigation frustrated my early efforts to perform even the most mundane tasks. You won't be able to use the PMP-120 out of the box--expect to read and reread the user manual. For example, the four-way selector, power, record and play/pause buttons made perfect sense on initial inspection. But when I tried to select and display images or movies, I was forced to learn to click the play/pause button quickly or slowly to perform very disparate actions: short click to play or pause, long click to stop a current selection. Worse, the same button doubles as a forward and backward button for menu navigation. If you open a preference item using the play/pause button and you want to return to the previous menu, for example, you must hit and then hold the same button. Many of the buttons (select and record, for instance) require this same nuance (nuisance?) of short and long clicks. I'm waiting for Samuel Morse's estate to file a patent lawsuit.

There are also two buttons clearly labeled A and B, the meaning of which was, unfortunately, lost on me. Thankfully, there's a contextual help button to show you the way, depending on where you are in the OS. Obviously, the folks at iRiver found the hardware navigation difficult as well. (For a device with better ease of navigation, see our review of the Creative Zen Portable Media Center at ID# 1524rd1.)

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