Many of the gadgets I get to review are sort of variations on a theme – nothing particular new, but sometimes things just done better. Every so often, I get to use something that is potentially “ground-breaking” as a consumer device. The Com One Phoenix WiFi radio is potentially one of these devices.
Imagine the ability to listen to virtually any Wi-Fi radio station in the world – without a computer – right out of the box. That’s the idea behind the Com One Phoenix Wi-Fi radio. Does it work? Is this the next “gotta have it” device? Read on for my thoughts.
This was one of those new gadgets that I was really looking forward to trying out. I have been using a Squeezebox for a few months, streaming content from my computer to my Stereo – but it was not without its own unique character flaws and didn’t always work as I had hoped.
The idea of having a table-top radio that has built in speakers (yet can also be connected to better speakers) and built in Wi-Fi was very attractive.
The Phoenix Radio is from Com One, a relative new comer in the world of personal electronics.
About Com One
Com One (www.com-one.biz), is a cutting edge technology company offering Bluetooth® and
Wi-Fi® solutions. From audio speakers and stereo headsets to adapters and dongles for all of the most popular consumer electronics, laptops and telephony devices, Com One’s goal is to facilitate wireless connections and become the leader in Internet Radio. Com One became a subsidiary of Baracoda (www.baracoda.com) when the brand was purchased in 2005. Baracoda, the global leader in Bluetooth barcode scanning and RFID solutions, was founded in 2001 by Thomas Serval, who currently serves as CEO.
The “Official” line on the new Phoenix Radio, as revealed at this year’s CES is as follows:
The Phoenix Radio’s new firmware upgrade provides improved Wi-FI quality and stability with a WPA connection that is 25% faster than the previous version and with an enhanced dynamic network bandwidth manager. Plus, a unique “My Network” feature allows you to access UPnP music sources present on your home network or computer.
Other features of The Phoenix Wi-Fi radio include:
- thousands of radio stations programmable online via drag-and-drop database
- ability to self-provision additional radio stations and audio sources
- alarm clock with snooze and sleep functions
- eight preset radio station buttons and search mode
- rechargeable AA batteries and integrated internal charger for portability
- lightweight – under two pounds
- integrated stereo speakers and spatialization enhancer for digital sound quality
- can plug into any hi-fi stereo system or headphones with analog outputs
- allows for Bluetooth® connectivity to hi-fi stereo or other device with adapter offered through Com One
- connects to any 802.11 wireless network with its easy Wi-F® connection
- no computer necessary to listen
- bookmark favorite stations for instant access
- listen to missed shows with radio-on-demand or podcasts
- embedded software for easy connection to the Internet-based service distribution platform, content & service customization
- provides access to UPnP music sources present on your home network.
- firmware upgrades available over the air
- push & pull interactivity and management of subscription or click & buy functions
- lets you listen to MP3, ASF, WMA, PCM/WAV, Real Audio
Com One’s Phoenix Wi-Fi Radio is readily available online with large retail locations following suit. MSRP is $249. For more information visit www.com-one.biz.
2. Using the device
The first thing I noticed about the Com One Phoenix WiFi Radio was how simple it looked an how solid and light it felt. The Phoenix Wi-Fi radio is understated and simple in design. White molded plastic with an LCD screen in the middle surrounded by two small speakers.
Under the screen are two knobs – a navigation pad and a volume control. Under that lie preset keys and a “home” and “bookmark” button.
On the back you find a jack to connect the included power adapter – which also charges the included rechargeable batteries. Next to that are an audio out jack (for connecting to a stereo system or headphones,) a reset button and a USB adapter.
The USB adapter was curious, but one cool thing about this radio is that you can load in a USB key or MP3 player and play the music through the Phoenix radio.
The setup of the Phoenix Wi-Fi radio was very straightforward and easy. The first time you turn on the radio, you are prompted to enter your language settings. Then, you choose your Wi-Fi connection from the list that the radio “sees.” If you have WEP or WPA security, it is easy enough to enter your password using the navigation pad and the volume control to adjust the letters and numbers.
Select the automatic DHCP mode and hope for the best. I go the “connected” check mark right away. Next, I just entered my time zone and I was set to navigate the menus.
Ease of Use:
The controls are very basic and easy to use – this is an extremely user friendly high tech gadget. The menu offers Radio stations, Podcasts, bookmarked stations, other services (which include Audio Books)Audio backgrounds and alarm tones.
Another feature is the “My Network” feature that is listed in the menu of options. (we will discuss that later.)
To get started listening to a Wi-Fi radio station, just select radio and then either search by local stations, genre or international selections. Navigate with the navigation pad, select a station and push the “Play” button. That really is all there is to it.
Within minutes I was listening to Internet Rock stations from around the globe. I then tried podcasts and audio books with no problems.
Once you get the basics down, you can try some of the more advanced and cool features of this device. My favorite was the “My Network” option which allowed me (after configuration) to login to the Phoenix radio web site and associate my radio with my desktop computer (which contained all my music files.) I was then able to navigate the music on my computer (using it as a server) through the Phoenix Radio and then play my content.
I could also (through the web site) add more stations to the built in memory of stations on the radio. This was similar to using the Squeeze Network on the Squeezebox – but a little easier to configure and use. Once this connection was made, this little radio could not only play hundreds of Internet radio stations (and I could add more) but it could play my MP3 tracks and playlists from my home PC – very cool indeed.
As a “Table radio,” the sound quality of the Phoenix Wi-Fi radio was just OK – not bad – but two little tiny speakers can only put out so much sound. The beauty was when I plugged the audio out jack into a decent set of speakers or my stereo system. With the addition of the included Equalizer controls I could tailor the sound and produce nice quality streaming music. Now, the bit rate of the stream certainly dictated the overall quality of the music. Some stations only came in via mono – others were 64 kbs and others were at 128kbs and sounded great.
There is a lot to like about this little radio. It is attractive, lightweight, portable and easy to use. It can access hundreds of Internet radio stations and when configured to use your Home PC as a “server” it can access all the stored content on your computer (provided it isn’t protected like Itunes downloads.)
The Phoenix Wi-Fi radio was easy to use and fun. It is a pretty cool little gadget which can do an awful lot. The $249.00 price tag seems reasonable given all the functionality. The only issue I had was that at times, I could not get online with the radio. Other times, it was up and running in no time. This could very well be a function of my totally overloaded wireless network – but there was no real understanding why it worked sometimes and not others.
The only omission I felt was an included remote control. I think with a small LCD screen and lots of clicks to navigate for music necessary, a remote of some kind would make the process a little easier.
Final Grade: A
Pros: very cool, easy to use, lots of features
Cons: sometimes, it did not connect to the network
The Phoenix WiFi Radio from Com One is available at www.com-one.biz and from several online retailers at $249.00