The improved remote has only one jog dial but handles all functions.
iRiver also improved the remote, which now has dedicated buttons for play, fast-forward, rewind, and stop on its front, just to the right of the backlit, four-line LCD. A multifunction jog dial on the bottom of the remote controls volume and toggles between play modes (short press) and FM/CD (long press). The text and graphics on the screen are quite small, so if your eyesight is poor, go with another player. But iRiver did a great job with the menu layout, as all features--and there are quite a few--are easily accessible.
The included, wraparound Sennheiser MX300 headphones have a unique, sliding cover on the outside of each earpiece. Move the cover one way, and four small holes let in external sound--useful for jogging, bicycling, or other situations where you need to hear what's going on around you. To block outside noise a bit more, slide the covers over the holes. The effect is not dramatic but is noticeable.
An included car kit lets you bring 150-song MP3 CDs with you on commutes and road trips.
Other notable playback features include an autoresume feature that picks up right where you left off; two visualizations that move in sync with the music; a sleep function; eight EQ presets; bass and treble sliders; and the ability to fast-forward or rewind within a song at 1X, 2X, 4X, or 6X speeds. Unbelievably, the iMP-400 can display these features in 37 languages, including rare tongues such as Basque and Slovenian.
The iMP-400's FM radio tunes to stations digitally and uses the in-line remote cord as an antenna. You can search for strong channels by holding down the rewind or fast-forward buttons, and 20 presets help you access the stations that you listen to the most. To round out the package, iRiver includes a cassette-style adapter and a cigarette-lighter power adapter for easy connection to car stereos.
The external battery pad is attached by only a cord, but the internal, flat rechargeables fit snugly under the CD area.
FM radio reception was decent--about what we expect from a portable device. The tuner pulled in almost every station within range, so we have no complaints here.
Battery life was average for an MP3 CD player. The iMP-400 lasts 12 hours on its two flat, removable, nickel-metal-hydride batteries. To avoid fatiguing the cells from overcharging, the iMP-400 stops accepting juice when the batteries are fully charged. The player also automatically drains the battery when you start recharging, because you can get a fuller charge by starting with completely exhausted batteries.
To augment battery life, iRiver has again included a slightly awkward external battery case that holds two AAs. You can connect the battery pack to the player to add another 10 hours of playing time, for a grand total of 22 hours.