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Of the actual new products iriver unveiled at CES this year (as mentioned before, only 4 of the 12 devices on the NDA were truly new), my favorite was surprisingly the P7. Even though its feature set is somewhat ordinary by today’s standards and its design isn’t much different than the P10 from last year’s show, I really liked the interface and was impressed by the 50-hour audio battery life and accessories.

The player is more screen than anything else and its edges/corners are sharp (versus the P10′s rounded form factor). Build quality is great; none of that cheap plastic iriver was using a bit too much of last year. It’s actually what I imagine a pared-down version of the Archos 5 would be like; this may not make sense given that they’re two different companies with little in common, but the Archos was what I thought of when I picked up the P7. It’s a positive association, in any case, and I’m looking forward to the player’s release.

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The P7 lacks the momentum-based scrolling of other players, but the UI is more finger-friendly than iriver’s other touchscreen players and there’s a nice set of unobtrusive hardware controls at the top that make it easy to get to the main menu screen (shown in first photo above and in press shot below).

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The home screen may not be self-explanatory when you first look at it because it doesn’t have the standard icons most expect for functions like music, video, and photos. Instead, the iriver P7′s main menu is set up more like a desktop with active widgets. I like it.

Off the top of my head, I can’t think of any other player that has this kind of dynamic home screen. Variation keeps things interesting, as it can sometimes get boring to see the same boring icons all the time and not be able to customize the main menu beyond colors and wallpapers.

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Since the P7 was my favorite device at the iriver booth, it was only fitting to have my favorite booth rep, Matt Thompson, give us a demo and pose for a picture. Side note: I put him on the site last year, but I don’t think he’ll be here next year because he just finished directing/producing a movie and is on his way to becoming a bonafide movie star!

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It isn’t clear whether the dock and leather case come bundled with the player (based on the accessory bundle of previous iriver players, I’m guessing that they’re not in the box), but I’d get one in a heartbeat if they were. Oh, who am I kidding? I think I’ll buy one no matter what.