"As close to perfection as you can get"4.5 starson by christopherwoods
Pros: Line and optical in AND out, FM tuner, large HD, fully-fledged remote control, good codec support, can be upgraded with third-party Rockbox firmware to increase flexibility (voids warranty)
Cons: Monochrome LCD screen, only 1300mAh battery (it lasts a fair while, but it can be upgraded, though that voids the warranty)
Summary: I love my H140, and I bought my original unit at least a year and a half ago (it said iHP-140 on the front!). In fact, I love it so much that when I dropped mine whilst outside onto a concrete surface, knackering the hard drive (fortunately it was insured) I actually brokered a deal with the insurance company whereby they gave me a cheque to the value of a replacement model I sourced on eBay a couple of months ago, and I managed to get a replacement.
Unfortunately, eBay really is your only option for sourcing a new H140, aside from going to an enthusiast's web site. I'm glad I made the effort though, as this player still blows many DAPs out of the water. I can easily do without a colour screen, and it uses less battery for it. With Rockbox loaded onto my player (I have no real worries about voiding the warranty, as I probably wouldn't be able to get a replacement now anyway) it can do even more, but even with the stock firmware, some of its features include:
Recording from line in or internal microphone (or via line in with included (cheap) lapel mic, though you could use your own mic
MP3, Ogg, WAV and WMA (unprotected only) support, but DRM = bad and therefore I have no qualms about not being able to play DRMed music.
With Rockbox installed, I finally have true gapless and/or nicely crossfaded playback of audio, and it's entirely futureproofed for playback of future formats (provided codecs are written for Rockbox which can decode in realtime or faster-than realtime... Crucially, lossless (FLAC) support is added with Rockbox, as are a few other formats, and M4A support is there, but as I write this, it's not quite fast enough to playback audio without pauses - it's getting there though! The player copes surprisingly well considering it only has a 120MHz Motorola Crossfire CPU, which is about average for DAPs)
Thanks to the great layout of buttons both on the player and on the remote (if you choose to use it), all functions are easily accessible. The joystick in the centre of the player lets you do pretty much anything too, combined with the start and stop buttons (top two on the right of the player). The FM radio is as good as you'd expect on a portable device.
The player's ability to both record and output via the dual-purpose Line/Optical In/Out sockets is invaluable for me as a student studying a Music degree course - I've used my player to benchmark audio systems and pipe audio both in and out of a pro mixing desk setup in the past year, which I'd like to see anybody do with an iPod! (I'm sure you can probably buy an adaptor to add the functionality to an iPod, but with the iRiver it comes included... Can't beat that).
On the actual circuitboard, the audio output is handled by a Philips DAC, and it sports a 90dB SNR, coping with frequencies well into the subbass range (20Hz) to well above the range of average human hearing (20KHz and above). It sounds fantastic through my home hifi system (whether connected via Line Out or via Optical TOSLink), and it sounds great when paired up with a pair of quality headphones.
The H140 doesn't need to (pointlessly) be synced with a computer using WMP or iTunes or similar third-party software - you can do so if you like, or you can get a variety of third-party tools which can accomplish this, generate playlists, organise your collection, sync it between your PC and the player, but I just use it as a hard drive - you plug it in, the device is recognised and installed onto your PC, without the need for any drivers, as a USB Mass Storage device, appearing in your system as a Toshiba hard drive-based device (it has a Tosh 40gb drive in it). If you want to spend the money and open up your player, you can with a Torx screwdriver (T4 or T5 will do it), and you can fit up to 127Gb - if you can afford it, as the miniature HDs used in the players are both quite hard to get hold of and quite expensive, but with the new drives coming out based on perpendicular storage techniques, you can get upwards of 70gb drives which will work quite happily in the device, given that it just uses a standard IDE connector inside (granted, it's miniaturised and suited to fit only these tiny drives, but it's still IDE).
The player is slightly (and only very slightly) thicker than 3G iPod, but who cares really... It's the same height, almost the same weight, and it has way more functionality than the iPod, plus it's cheaper (it was then and still is now, if you can find somewhere to get your hands on one!). It's a great shame that some of the advances and features put into the H140 were discarded for iRiver's later models, and I think this is probably the peak in terms of DAP quality that the market will see for quite a few years. It can cater to regular users, people who want 'something more' from their music player, and people who want to use it in any which way possible - it's an MP3 player, external hard drive and radio, straight out of the box, and you can extend its functionality with third-party firmware to give it a new lease of life if you feel the original firmware is starting to get a little tired.
All in all, I only give it a 9/10 for the simple fact that I wish my battery lasted longer (but don't we all wish batteries lasted longer), it has a monochrome screen as opposed to a colour one, and the fact it can't act as a USB Host for other USB devices such as digital cameras (the amount of times I've been miles away from a computer and run out of space on my camera's SD card, and wished I had a way of shuffling pictures off... It's the only real feature missing from the H100 series, but I don't even think the technology was around then!).
Long live my H140...