Review: iriver T5

Iriver_t5_box

The iriver T5 was quietly released alongside the T6 a few weeks ago and is the second USB stick-style digital audio player the company has put out since the summer. It sports a slightly different design than the T7 Volcano/Stix and has a stopwatch function, but did iriver really need another USB stick player (and one with a lower model number, no less)?

The answer is fairly obvious but with prices starting at under $40, it wouldn’t hurt to at least glance at my full iriver T5 review below.

Iriver_t5_review

This review is based on the iriver T5 running firmware version 1.20.

System Specifications

Capacities:
2GB, 4GB
Supported audio:
MP3, WMA, OGG
Extras:
FM radio, FM & voice recorder, stopwatch
Display: 1" two-line OLED (64 x 128)
Dimensions: 3" x 1" x 0.5"
Weight: 0.9 ounces
Colors:
Black, silver

Contents

Iriver_t5_contents

Inside the box you’ll find a pair of earphones, quick start guide, warranty booklet, installation CD, clear plastic clip, and of course the T5.

Iriver_t5_clip

The plastic clip attaches to the back and "locks" into place thanks to the grooves/notches located on either side of the device.

Design

Unlike the iriver T7, the T5 looks almost exactly like a USB flash drive.

Iriver_t5_design

The casing feels much sturdier than most flash drives, though, as it doesn’t creak, wiggle, or feel like it could be pried open. The hard plastic is smooth and thick; even the USB cap feels incredibly durable: it would take a lot of force to crack it.

Though the form factor itself isn’t awe-inspiring, there are still some design flourishes present. The orange accents and purely decorative curved line around the little joystick are prime examples of this. I wouldn’t go so far as to say that the T5 is stylish, but its design isn’t mind-numbingly boring.

Size

Iriver_t5_size

The T5 may look like a standard USB drive, but it’s actually much bigger.

Iriver_t5_usbcomp

Here you can see that it’s closer in size to the AT&T USBConnect Mercury (3G modem) than regular thumb drives.

Iriver_t5_comp

Left to right: Cowon S9, Microsoft Zune 4, iriver T6, Creative ZEN, SanDisk Sansa Fuze, iriver T5, iriver Lplayer, SanDisk Sansa Clip, and iriver S10.

Display

The display area has a diagonal measurement of about 1.2 inches, but the OLED itself has only a 1-inch diagonal. Needless to say, it’s very small.

Iriver_t5_disp

Brightness and backlight timer settings are the extent of the customizations available to the user, as the black background, white text, and font size are all fixed. The display is big enough to be readable, but its usefulness is limited because it only supports two lines of text. This makes searching for a particular song/album quite tedious (even though the player maxes out at 4GB, it can still hold hundreds of songs).

Controls

The most obvious navigational control on the T5 is the ~0.25-inch joystick.

Iriver_t5_cntrl1

Iriver_t5_cntrl2

It protrudes quite a bit from the casing, so it’s easy to find and use blindly. Its movement is more accurate than the iriver T50/T60 joystick and though only five directions are recognized by the player (left, right, up, down, center), the control moves freely within the recessed circle cut-out it sits in.

Iriver_t5_top

The joystick shares its navigational duties with the power/back button on the top of the player. In addition to turning the T5 on/off and moving to a previous screen/level, the button is also used to bring up the main menu screen. Though it lays flush against the casing, tactile feedback is good enough to never cause the user to question whether the button-press has been registered.

The rectangular hole above the power/back button is one of the two notches used to hold the detachable clip in place. Beside the button, as you can plainly see, is the reset pinhole.

Iriver_t5_right

Continuing the hardware tour, you’ll see the mic, hold switch, and second clip notch on the bottom of the player and a lanyard loop and 3.5mm headphone jack on the right.

Transferring Content

USB stick-style players may be lacking in design and features, but they sure make connecting to a computer and transferring media convenient.

Iriver_t5_transfer

With the USB jack built into the unit, there’s obviously no need to carry around a connection cable. Just plug it directly into a computer’s USB port and there it is, listed as removable storage just like a memory card, flash drive, or any other MSC/UMS device.

Iriver_t5_msc

Once the T5 is recognized by the computer, loading content is as straightforward as can be via drag-and-drop.

Audio

Contrary to what you might expect from a stick DAP, the iriver T5 delivers surprisingly good sound quality. Even with my Ultimate Ears triple.fi 10 Pro, which carry an MSRP of $400 but are now on sale for $300, the T5 sounds fairly good and better than expected.

Iriver_t5_audio

My ears find it significantly better than the T6 they were listening to earlier, though their happiness could be due to the T5’s emphasis on the midrange, which is nice and smooth. Bass is a tad exaggerated, even with a flat/normal EQ, and not as clean as on DAPs with better sound quality (e.g., Sansa Clip), but there’s definitely still a sense of depth there. Treble lacks detail and sounds as though it’s a bit "under" the other frequencies, though, so the T5’s soundstage obviously isn’t the best you’ll come across in a budget DAP. If your ears, headphones, and personal tastes are less nitpicky, however, they should be more than satisfied with the T5.

Playback features include six preset EQs (normal, classic, jazz, rock, xbass, pop) and five play modes (normal, repeat one, repeat, shuffle, shuffle + repeat).

Extras

Like just about every other DAP on the market not made by Apple, the iriver T5 has an FM radio and recording functions (FM and voice, WAV format). Their capabilities are exactly the same as they always are, so they aren’t worth discussing here.

One of the more "unique" extras that is often found on Apple products and not always on other DAPs is a stopwatch. The T5’s stopwatch is basic, but it supports multiple laps and is a handy feature to use while running (the player’s clip is nicely suited for this task as well).

Battery Life

The T5’s non-removable battery has an estimated runtime of 13 hours. Not great, sure, but good enough for a full day’s use. And if used solely as a gym companion, the player could probably stand to be charged just once a week (depending on the frequency and length of your workouts, of course).

Conclusion

The iriver T5 doesn’t offer anything new or exciting to the DAP world, but it’s not too bad for less than $40. The convenience of having a USB jack built in and being able to wear the player using the detachable plastic clip can’t be denied either. Sound quality, design, and build quality all score respectable marks as well.

Iriver_t5_final

The player would’ve made a nice stocking stuffer a few days ago and I can see it being a doorprize at an office party, but unless you plan to give it away or you get it as a gift, there isn’t a compelling reason to go out and buy one. If iriver didn’t already have the T7, it would be easier to see the value of the something like the T5. Releasing the two players within six months of each other, however, doesn’t make sense unless consumers were clamoring for a wearable stopwatch that plays music.

In short, the T5 is good but unnecessary in iriver’s lineup. Keep it if you get it for free, but if you’ve got about $40 to spend on a supplemental DAP, get the Sansa Clip instead.

The iriver T5 is available now from Warehouse123 and other retailers.

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Jenn K. Lee

Jenn K. Lee is the founder of Pocketables. She loves gadgets the way most women love shoes and purses. The pieces in her tech wardrobe that go with everything are currently the Samsung Galaxy Note II, Sony Tablet P, and Nexus 7, but there are still a couple of vintage UMPCs/MIDs in the back of her closet.

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13 thoughts on “Review: iriver T5

  • December 29, 2008 at 5:49 am
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    Do the controls allow fast fwd/rwd within a track? Will a track continue from the same place when powered back on?

    I love the stick concept but I need these features since I listen to podcasts.

    Reply
  • December 29, 2008 at 12:29 pm
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    Yes to your first question, but no to your second one. There’s no bookmarking function, so once you turn the player off, whatever you were listening to starts from the beginning when you turn it back on.

    Reply
  • December 31, 2008 at 2:31 pm
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    Jenn, nice review!

    Jerry, I can’t agree with you. From build quality to sound quality, creative will never match!

    Reply
  • December 31, 2008 at 8:42 pm
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    agree with johnney about the build quality of the creatives. i have an old Muvo USB-type player and it creaks.

    battery life of the T5 is pretty disappointing.

    Reply
  • January 26, 2009 at 9:21 am
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    Does anyone know how to play folders continuously? I did’t manage to get past one folder then stop (normal mode) and one folder in loop (repeat).
    All music seems to go through all the files, but some files’ tags are not recognized so there’s a whole bunch of alphabetically sorted files which are real mess when prefix ids the track number (for no visible reason, I keep my library properly tagged, even tried to leave id3v2 or id3v1 type comments only)

    Reply
  • January 27, 2009 at 9:23 am
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    Replying to myself:-) : appeared that I didn’t test the id3v1 part properly, but later I found that id3v2.3 is supported but not v2.4 (that appeared to be per specs when I found detailed specs on the Web, pity iRiver didn’t include proper specs table, I looked in leaflets that came in the package and user manual pdf file, didn’t find anything).
    Now I wish it had a more convenient firmware.
    When “all music” is played, the whole bunch of files is sorted alphabetically, playing an album (via artist or album mode) sorts the tracks alphabetically too. That’s totally not convenient. Meanwhile will stick to “file browser” navigation which is too many button-presses away.
    Verdict so far: build quality seems to be ok, but interface layout is bad and not practical. I already miss my T10 that passed away and drove me to buy this one.
    Rockbox for T5 anyone?

    Reply
  • January 29, 2009 at 12:33 am
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    Hi Jenn. Thanks for the review. I had the Sansa clip but the sound was not loud enough to drown out the music in my gym. Is the T5 louder?

    Thanks,
    Alex.

    Reply
  • January 29, 2009 at 12:37 pm
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    I don’t have the T5 anymore to do a direct comparison but from what I remember, the Clip was louder. Sorry!

    Reply
  • March 3, 2009 at 7:54 am
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    Thanks, Jenn.
    I now have the option to get a Sony NWZ-E438 from work. Any info on it?

    Thanks,
    Alex.

    Reply
  • March 12, 2009 at 11:55 pm
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    Can someone compare it to a Apacer AU350?

    Reply
  • August 31, 2009 at 5:08 am
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    Where can I find operational instructins for the iriver T5 ?
    Thanks for any help

    Reply

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