Slim Devices Squeezebox

Slim Devices Squeezebox

Slim Devices

  —   £140   —   Electronics

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I have had a network MP3 player now for a number of years, having invested early in a cd3o device.  This was a faceless device, that had a vocal DJ that would tell you the current track.  It worked very well although it wasn't without its setup problems.  For example, with it being faceless, it either worked or didn't.  So things like network settings was challenging at times.  But it worked flawlessly in my shower room providing me many hours of wet drenching tunes.

When we recently moved house, I wanted to really put a bit of effort into the my new shower room and really kit it out with an integrated solution.  My first purchase was a pair of water-proof ceiling speakers that would take the abuse of the steam and moisture.  This proved to be a rather painless eBAY purchase and mounting them into the ceiling was a piece of cake.

Having just sold a boat load of stuff on eBAY, I had a bit of free-money that I thought, why not look around and see what was available.  I had heard about the Slim Devices unit before and had it narrowed down to that one or the NetGear one.  Both in and around the same price point.  But the Slim Devices won out in the end for a number of reasons; it was the better looking device, the display was bigger, and the community around it was stronger as Slim Devices opened up all the protocols allowing you to use the device for a whole manner of things.  For example, there are plugins that allow to monitor servers, weather, news, email and a whole host of things, using the device as a secondary monitor.  A neat email checker plugin, pauses the current track, plays a little tune, and shows you who it is from and then continues with the music.  Very cool.

The device arrived on the Tuesday morning and it impressed me so much that I had another bought and delivered 2 days later for my wife in her bathroom (secret of a great marriage, separate bathrooms!).  So what did it do to win my praise?

The screen is stunning and sharp.  I cannot tell you how great this display is, even through steamed up shower doors it never fails to impress.  The screen has the capability of display graphics, only in 2 colours granted, but this allows for scrolling text to be really smooth, and some really cool graphics for bouncing in time with the music, including a really cool analogue meter display.

Setup of the device is a breeze.  You install server software on either Windows, Apple or Linux, and a single server installation can manage lots of clients.  The server streams the music from your collection or the internet (Shoutcast etc all supported), and comes with a beautiful web interface for controlling playlists and various settings.  For example, you can use this as your alarm clock and be waken up to anything.  A killer feature in my view, is the sleep function - automatically turn-off after a given timeout.  Perfect for timing those 30minute showers!

At the unit side, you get a very responsive remote control with an interface that is not disimilar to any interactive television, with forward/backward/up/down arrows for the majority of the navigation.  The server allows you to customize the menu to your own most used items, giving you the chance to remove all the nonsense.  But there isn't that much nonsense, its all laid out logically, complete with a very nice browse feature.

Many of these systems rely on the fact that your MP3 collection is properly tagged.  Sometimes this isn't the case, especially if you have iTunes (which it can integrate with incidentally).  This unit allows you to browse the file space from the remote control, getting you to the precise song you know you have but for some reason its not being picked up.

After living with the unit now for over a week, I still can't say enough good things about it.  To be able to stand in the shower, and read the latest headlines scroll past from the BBC and c|net is a nice way to start the day (the RSS reader plugin comes ready out of the box).

If you want something a little special and not want to spend a huge amount of money, then this really is the unit you can't afford to pass up.


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