FuzzyBad-Mofo writes "On 8/24/2004, I took the plunge and bought a Rio Karma digital music player. My needs were simple: Decent storage capacity, Linux friendly, and Ogg Vorbis compatible. The Karma has a generous 20 GB capacity, decent battery life, is OS-agnostic, and plays a wide variety of file formats, including Ogg." Read on for the rest of FuzzyBad-Mofo's review.
Despite living in an urban area, I had a little trouble tracking down a retailer with the Karma in stock. Best Buy was sold out, but Circuit City had them (for full price, boo hiss). I was impressed with the solid feel of the device, and promptly started setting it up. Since I currently only have Linux machines at home, the included software was useless. Fortunately, the Karma also includes Ethernet connectivity through the docking cradle. In minutes the cradle was connected to my Linksys router and a static IP assigned using the Karma's joystick interface (not fun).
Once this was done, I connected via web browser to the Karma's IP address and was greeted with a nice splash page, and a couple of links to download the Java-based transfer software and to visit Rio's Karma page. I initially had trouble with the transfer software, but eventually found the developer's site on the internet; he has improved the software greatly from the version that ships with the Karma.
The docking cradle also has stereo line-level RCA ports, which is nice for integration with a home stereo. I ended up buying a 20' CAT-5 cable to give my Karma a permanent home next to the stereo. It's pretty wonderful to select 4 hours of random music for the evening, and not have to worry about changing CDs. Later, I also bought an RF adapter for use in the car, which works by broadcasting on an FM frequency you simply tune into.
The Karma is not bad to walk around with either. It is a little bulky, and I would prefer a narrower body, but it fits ok in a loose-fitting pants or jacket pocket. As with any hard-drive based player, jogging/running/biking with it is probably not a good idea.
Lockups: the Karma has taken a lot of flak for locking up, and I can't say that it's not justified. The player has locked once when I was loading music on it, in which case I simply reset with a bent paper clip and it was good to go. However, several days ago I was walking with it, attempted to change songs midstride, and it locked hard. Since I was on my way to work with no paperclip in sight (and the unit won't turn off when it locks up), the hard drive spun and seeked for 40 minutes until I got in the office. At that point, the unit was warm to the touch and had drained half the battery. After reset, the unit would not power up properly. Going into rescue mode showed that it was having trouble reading the disk. (crap!) After reading some message boards where others have experienced similar problems, I decided that I had little to lose and smacked it flat down on the desk. The Karma made a little grinding noise and booted up! It has worked perfectly since then, but I'm somewhat concerned about my purchase. Rio only offers a three-month warranty by default, so I would recommend going with an extended warranty if you decide to purchase a Karma.
Scary lockups aside, this has been a great little player. I believe it is Rio's first HDD-based player, and I'm looking forward to seeing future revisions of the Karma.
Thanks to FuzzyBad-MoFo for the review!