Though it looks and feels like a cheap, plastic iPod knockoff, the all-white Radio YourWay has a certain kitchen-appliance appeal. Its large, backlit LCD packs in lots of information--everything from bit rate to play mode to a digital clock. On the downside, all these elements are jammed together, making for a decidedly crowded-looking display.
Thankfully, the controls are clearly labeled, most notably the red-accented record button. The main control cluster consists of a play/pause/power button surrounded by a four-way pad, which itself is flanked by four other buttons--all keeping with the circular, iPod-like motif. However, we frequently had to consult the manual to figure out certain aspects of the interface. For instance, while playing a tune, the only way to get back to the song list is to pause playback, then press the up or down button. We also had trouble figuring out how to exit certain menus. You can master the Radio YourWay with practice, but it's not nearly as intuitive as it should be.
The player supports MP3 and unprotected WMA files, meaning you can't play songs purchased from most online services. But true to its name, the Radio YourWay is heavy on radio features. Indeed, it's the only player we've seen to support AM and FM radio. That's great for listening to local ball games and catching your favorite hometown talk shows. However, the bigger news is that in addition to on-the-fly recording, you can program the player to record shows at designated times. In other words, you no longer have to miss This American Life just because you didn't have the radio on. The Radio YourWay has slots for 20 recordings. Ironically, it limits you to just 10 presets for radio stations and lacks an automatic preset feature.
A VCR-like menu makes it relatively easy to set up daily or weekly radio recordings. Set the band, the frequency, the MP3 bit rate (32Kbps to 256Kbps), and the start/end times, and you're done; in contrast, this product's predecessor recorded into the proprietary RVF format only. Just make sure you leave the Radio YourWay in a spot where reception is good; otherwise, you'll wind up with static-filled recordings. For FM, that means leaving the headphones or included wire antenna plugged in, whereas a built-in antenna manages AM reception. You also have to make sure there's enough memory available to store the show. The amount of storage is weak if you're listening to standard MP3s, but you can get more than 8 hours of recording with the 128MB model and 34 hours with the 512MB version at the lowest bit rate, which is just fine for AM radio. If internal RAM is tight, you can easily opt to record to an SD card.