Sonic Rio Riot 20 MB MP3 Player

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What's to hate?!?!?

Mar 11, 2003 (Updated Jun 29, 2003)
Review by  
Rated a Very Helpful Review
  • User Rating: Very Good

  • Sound:
  • Ease of Use:
  • Durability:
  • Battery Life:
  • Portability:

Pros:20GB, Backlight, Li-Ion Battery & Life, LogiTrack Interface

Cons:Slow Interface, Can't Take Songs Off The RioRiot

The Bottom Line: Love it, I love it, I love it... EXCEPT THEM SLACKERS!

I have lowered my rating because of SonicBlue themselves. It's a long story, but the main idea is that they do not give out firmware updates (even though they CAN) and they don't respond to any emails you send into them - I sent about six or seven. I do like the product, but some bugfixes and features we could do with aren't getting done.


Yeah, right. I loved my MP3-CD player DEARLY. I cherished it, upgraded it, was gentle with it, cleaned it, and when the time came along, I tossed it onto the shelf so it could collect dust.
Don’t get me wrong here. I really felt bad about just abandoning it like that. Provided, I still have it, and it’s not that dusty, and I…. who am I trying to kid? I was running out of room, and the point was to use a single CD so I didn’t have to do any swapping, and if it got over two I would give up, plus I had about 30 more files to add which’d fill it up. The opportunity was ripe. I leaped into Circuit City and laid down some cash for the RioRiot.

‘The box is the only one left since the $100 price drop,’ says the salesman. ‘It’s a bargain at $199.99.’ You bet it is! I would have bought the thing for $300 on the spot without another thought, even if just for evaluation purposes. I was skeptical because of the reviews here at Epinions, especially because I had liked it when I saw it before. Thinking that it could be bad under the front interface, if you know what I mean, made me sort of shaken up.

The box is a bright red in color. It has a nice head on picture in the front, as well as a picture of the top, on the top. It has all the features listed on the back, as well as the same picture used on the front and a nice shot of the reverse backlight when in use. On one side is System Requirements; on the other is the Box Contents. Upon flipping the flap and lifting the lid you are greeted by a flat cardboard surface formed up of a couple pieces. It is packed quite well, so I think. The RioRiot lays in its carrying case, in the center of the box. The power adapter is under one side flap while the USB Cable is under the other.

The player itself is very sleek and moderately matte. It is larger than most MP3 Players, let alone Hard Drive-Based ones. This may make some groan or lose that particularly jovial smile, but it’s certainly coat-pocketable. Its main attraction, the 2.5” Reverse-Backlit Dot-Matrix Display is smack dab in the middle of the unit, with a circular Play-Stop-Forward-Backward joypad and a Menu button on the left side of it. On the right hand side is a Select button, a Back/Exit button and a scroll wheel. On the top left hand side is a small OFF/HOLD/ON switch, and on the left edge are two volume buttons, volume and –. The bottom holds the Headphone/USB Port and also the AC Adapter port. The remaining edge, the right one, is empty. The back holds a sticker with player information on it such as the model (‘RioRiot HD1200’), two ribs on either side for your hands to rest on (very nice) and a small ‘reset’ button for if your player literally locks up. Overall I love the design of the RioRiot. It’s comfy, even with the Carry Case on, and it has a HUGE display. Controls are positioned well, with the roto-dial under the thumb. You don’t even have to move your thumb to hit “OK”. “BACK”, however, requires a bit of movement of your fingers.

The other accessories are designed okay. The carrying case seems to be made with tough leather, and the Power Adapter I really don’t care about. The USB cable, however, is mediocre. It takes up the headphone port AND the space around it. It probably uses the headphone port to stabilize the plug so it won’t pop off or break. A headphone plug coming off the USB cable seems a good idea, though. Also with the kit, you get headphones, which are pretty nice, and really help you hear what the Riot’s all about. There’s also the usual manuals and software.

I love the interface of the Riot. Rio sports it as a feature, calling it the ‘Rio LogiTrack Interface’. That’s a little bit overkill, but it should have a name because of the obvious bit of time they spent on it, and LogiTrack seems appropriate (it obviously uses ‘logic’ of some sort). It’s really cool how you can organize your files, or rather, how the RioRiot organizes them for you. You can sort by Artist, Album, Song or Genre to start off. This method is easy, though not always desirable. For example, if you go to Genre, and click which genre you want you will get all the listed songs in that particular genre. Artist or Song sorting seems best to me. Album sorting, though, is just plain odd. I mean, what’s the chance you’re going to remember the album well when you’ve got 20GB of music on this MP3 player?
At first, i.e., the first ten artists uploaded to the player, and when you sort by Artist, you will just get the list. But then the real genius kicks in when you get more on there. The RioRiot will sort by letter, you just scroll up and down, A-Z and then ‘?’ for unknown and ‘#’ for Artists’ names that start with a number. Click once to go into that letter, scroll to artist, click once, pick album, click once, then pick song, click again and there you are! Also, the Rio has a neat little thing where it can adapt to your tastes and actually play the songs you listen to the most, the ones you haven’t in a long time, or the songs of a particular decade/year. There are a few other options, but those stand out the most.

I love the display. It’s got a hefty 2.5” of screen size. It’s very clear, and of course Rio provides a contrast control which has plenty of variation (12 selections, 1-12). I have settled on #5 for me, by the way. It also has a neat and power saving Reverse-Backlight. This way, the words/pixels on the display light up, but the background stays basically dark. This is very nice and very neat, but in dim light, it’s unreadable. However, turn off the backlight and you can see again. When the light’s bright enough to make the display unreadable, it’s bright enough to be read without the backlight. It has a roundish plastic cover over it and it’s set back quite a ways.

If I gave a rating like before on this, it’d be most likely a 9. The menus are easy to navigate and they are easy to understand. Upon pressing the (=) menu button, a menu slides out of the side with a very nice transition, and the Currently Playing screen actually dims, like the focus moved to the menus and the background is no longer in focus.


---------------PLAY MUSIC
Rio DJ
-- Entertain Me!
-----Plays a mix of music that lasts ___ minutes
-- Play All
-----Plays all songs on RioRiot
-- Top Tunes
-----Plays all favorite songs in order of # of listens
-- New Music
-----Plays all music that’s under ___ day(s) old
-- Memory Lane
-----Plays all songs not played in ___ days
-- Sounds of… (decade/year selectable)
-----Plays all songs from certain time
--Random Play
--(select playlist)

-----Goes into Radio mode

-- Bass/Treble
-----Bass: -6 - 6 dB
-----Treble: -6 - 6 dB

-- My Playlists
-- Delete…
-----An Album
-----An Artist
-----A Song
-----Everything! (note the exclamation point ?)
-- Play Options
-- Contrast
-----1-12 Slider
-- Backlight
-----Off, 1 sec, 2 sec, 5 sec, 10 sec, On
-- Power Saver
-----RioRiot turns off after Never, 1 min, 2 min, 5 min, 15 min of inactivity
-- Time/Date
-- ”The” Filter
-----The Filter off, on
-- Information
-----GB left, GB total, time, firmware version, albums/songs total etc

The radio is mediocre. It gives eight presets, which is adequate for what I use it for. It has only average reception, except when outside. Outside, it sounds overall very nice, with barely any static. There’s not much to say about it. Also, something annoying about it: holding the RW and FFWD buttons goes to next ‘come-in-clear’ frequency, not just the next one available. Pressing it repeatedly gets the job done.

The Riot uses USB1.0/1.1 to transfer songs, so it’s the slowest one to date. Also, you can’t re-copy them to your PC for backup OR put things other than music on the Riot, and even if you could you couldn’t retrieve it. This is sort of sucky, but for $199 it’s still okay. It goes relatively fast, on a fast PC. On my P4 1.4 I can get a 10MB song over to it in about ten seconds. It uses RealJukebox, and that’s basically it for transferring songs. MusicMatch isn’t supported.

The battery life is good, and with the firmware update it’s even longer. The battery is a Li-Ion type and it’s not replaceable. However, it does have some battery drain. If you leave it off for a few days it might be turned on to be 50% lower than it was last time you saw it. It seems broken in now, though, and it’s not doing it so often. Make sure you calibrate the battery right, though! The player has upgradeable firmware, meaning that you can run a program to rewrite it and, in future versions, add new features and fix bugs. This is pretty standard, though. I know that someone mentioned it vibrating enough for it to shock you and make your drop it. It’s really quiet and I can feel barely any vibration, though maybe I was just prepared. Who knows? And the sound is excellent. It has nice highs and clear lows. Better so than my SP90 RioVolt. I am really in favor of this thing soundwise.

I love the RioRiot. Why some people have to hate on it because of their iPods and SlimX’es is beyond me. I love the RioRiot and I’d buy it again if I could. I also recently got a new Archos Jukebox Recorder 20GB. Review expected soon.

Recommend this product? Yes

Amount Paid (US$): 199

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