Review of Rio MP3 Players

Below you will find some useful information and comments about a few of the most popular MP3 players by Rio, including the Nitrus, Carbon, Cali, and Forge. None of these MP3 players are perfect, but each offers a unique set of strengths and weaknesses that should be taken into consideration before you purchase any one of them. Be sure to compare price, usability, and the overall performance of each.

Rio Carbon 5 GB MP3 Player

Manufacturers Description: The Rio Carbon is capable of holding up to 80 hours of MP3 (160 hours WMA) music, and with up to 20 hours of battery life on a single charge, music lovers need not worry about running out of juice.

Sporting an ultrathin and tapered design and with 25 percent more memory than iPod Mini, this tiny MP3 player--about the size of a business card--will slide into any pocket, virtually unnoticeable. The Rio Carbon is capable of holding up to 80 hours of MP3 music (160 hours of WMA), and with up to 20 hours of battery life on a single charge, music lovers need not worry about running out of juice. Supporting USB 2.0 and a host of file formats, users can download music efficiently and easily from most of their favorite online music sites. The Rio Carbon also includes voice recording and provides seamless integration and support of both the Windows and Mac platforms.


- 5 GB of memory stores up to 80 hours of MP3 music or 160 hours of WMA music
- Plays MP3, WMA, and Audible audio formats
- Built-in microphone for voice recording
- Easily drag and drop data and music files onto your player
- Rechargeable battery offers up to 20 hours of battery life on a single charge
- USB 2.0 for faster downloads
- Charge from USB or the included power adapter
- Windows and Mac compatible
- Includes Rio Music Manager, the most intuitive way to create and manage your digital music library

Comments: Users tend to agree that this is one of the best mp3 players Rio has developed. It's really quite small and slim, and can actually fit in your pockets. 5GB of memory really doesn't sound like all that much any more, but I think most new user will find that that is plenty of space. The long battery is nice (20 compared with iPod's 12), and the interface is easy enough to work with. One little dissapointment is the inability to hit any buttons on the device when it is in its carrying case. Also, it does have some compatibility issues with Mac music programs like iTunes. If you really love Mac, you may want to consider iPod or Shuffle instead (this goes for all Rio products).

Price: $230

Rio Cali 128 MB Sport MP3 Player

Manufacturers Description: Wrapped in grippy, protective rubber, the Cali 128 is built to play hard. Solid-state electronics carry over 30 songs with no skips -- ever. Comfortable Sport Clip earphones, case with armband, and integrated stopwatch with lap timer make the Cali a functional sport accessory. 5-band adjustable equalizer gives more control over your sound than most players. Onboard FM tuner means you always have something to listen to. An empty expansion slot allows you to add up to 512 MB of additional SDTM or MMCTM memory. Simple menus and intuitive controls make for easy one-handed operation.


- 128 MB of memory plays back over 2 hours of MP3 or 4 hours of WMA music (over 30 MP3 or 60 WMA songs)*
- Expansion slot to add up to 512 MB additional memory using SD or MMC cards (sold separately)
- USB 1.1 connects to almost any computer
- Transfer content between multiple PCs
- 18-hour continuous playback using one Energizer AAA Battery
- 5-Band adjustable equalizer with pre-sets

Comments: Anyone considering buying this device should be aware of some odd functional issues that may be frustrating. First of all, when changing memory cards, many users have had to actually take out the batteries in order to get the device to recognize the new memory card (another note: some users have had problems getting the device to accept 3rd party memory cards). Also, it seems that the player may not be able to play regular mp3 formats you may have on your pc hard drive. Rio admits that these mp3 files need to be converted through their own software in order for them to work. These, and other odd quirks, undermine this particular player quite a bit. On the positive side, the device has good battery life, plays clear, crisp music, and has a good radio feature as well.

Price: $120

Rio Forge 512 MB Sport MP3 Player

Manufacturers Description: The Rio Forge series is our latest generation of flash based sport players. The Rio Forge was designed for people that like to play hard and use music to play even harder. The new design integrates the grippy, protective rubber from previous models with a new shiny stainless steel face plate for added durability. Up to 20 hours of battery life allows you hours of non-stop work out time. Comfortable Sport Clip earphones and a newly designed case with armband keep your player and music secure and accessible. Simple menus and intuitive controls make for easy one-handed operation. Stopwatch and Lap Timer make the Rio Forge the ultimate gym or running companion. Plus, the new FM record feature allows you to record radio content onto your player to listen to at a later time.


- Holds 16 hours worth of Music
- Storage capacity may be upgraded up to 1 GB
- Durable Stainless Steel Face
- 512 MB of storage
- Stopwatch feature for work-outs
- Up to 20 hours of battery life

Comments: This latest generation of sport mp3 players by Rio is perhaps the best so far. What we really liked about this device is the easy to use and intuitive user interface and clear LCD screen. The one downside is the 512mb upper limit in storage (although technically you can upgrade to 1GB), which is a little low compared with the market average. Even so, the features like the FM tuner and stop watch make this a really cool little sport mp3 player. It's about as durable and user friendly as they come, plus the battery life is friendly for those long work-outs. Thumbs up on this one.

Price: $180

Rio Nitrus 1.5 GB MP3 Jukebox

Manufacturers Description: The revolutionary Rio Nitrus packs 1.5 GB into a stealthy, razor-thin design. With the ability to carry over 375 songs, never before has this much capacity been offered on a player this small. Fast USB 2.0 connection loads the player quickly. Simple menus, thoughtful controls, and a clear display make navigation instinctive. A 5-band adjustable equalizer provides a custom listening experience. Quality components throughout yield a player without compromise.


- 1.5GB HDD plays back over 25 hours of MP3 or 50 hours of WMA music (over 375 MP3 or 750 WMA songs)
- USB 2.0 for fast transfers
- Transfer content between multiple PCs
- 16-hour continuous playback with the rechargeable LiIon battery
- 5-Band adjustable equalizer with pre-sets

Comments: This is an overall fairly solid mp3 player with a few design and engineering defects that should be mentioned. First, the buttons are not quite as easy to use, or as well laid out as some of Rio's other players. Specifically, the volume buttons are smaller and closer together than they should be. Another thing is problems with the battery life, some users getting significantly less time out of their batteries than they are supposed to. And you really can't expect to get the full 16 hours. Also, the scrolling feature doesn't seem to help much. On the plus side, the device is big enough in storage size (1.5GB), and small enough in physical size to appeal to alot of potential consumers. The sound is also quite good and just about every volume level.

Price: $175

Bradley James is a senior editor at, a website containing many helpful consumer electronics review articles. For more information on Rio mp3 players, please visit our Rio mp3 webpage.

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