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Home > Hardware Reviews > Mobiles

Tuesday, May 15, 2007
Squeezebox Slim Devices

2. Design and Operation, Conclusion

Basics

What's included:

  • Squeezebox Network Music Player
  • AC Power adaptor (appropriate plug by region)
  • User's manual
  • SlimServer software (requires download)
  • Custom infrared remote, 2 AAA batteries included
  • 6-foot gold plated RCA patch cord

System requirements:

  • All systems: 256MB RAM, ethernet or wireless network, and 20MB hard disk space
  • Macintosh: Mac OS X 10.3 or later
  • Windows: 733Mhz Pentium running Windows NT/2000/XP
  • Linux/BSD/Solaris/Other: Perl 5.8.3 or later

Physical

General

  • Dimensions: 7.6"W x 3.7"H x 3.1"D (192mm x 93mm x 80mm) including stand
  • Finish: choice of high gloss white or black

Display

  • Large, high-resolution vacuum fluorescent display
  • 320x32 greyscale pixels
  • Beautiful high-speed, full-screen visualizers
  • Bitmapped graphics, multiple fonts, animation, and images
  • Brightness control

Infrared remote

  • Standard 38Khz IR
  • Hand-held remote, 30 buttons
  • Durable black or white finish
  • Includes "SmartScroll" algorithms to quickly access favorite songs within large lists
  • Custom codes do not conflict with other devices
  • Data format fully compatible with most programmable and universal remotes
  • Templates available for Pronto and other remotes
  • Supports discrete on/off and other "shortcut" codes

SlimServer Software

Slim Devices introduces SlimServer 6.5.1, our powerful and free Open Source software. Not only will it power any Squeezebox or Transporter, but also any software MP3 player on your network. SlimServer 6.5.1 runs on Windows, Mac, Linux, BSD and Solaris.

This robust Open Source software includes contributions from a worldwide community of developers who are driven by the desire to work on exciting projects. The efforts of Slim Devices' Open Source community results in rapid development and a rich set of features, evolving in response to user feedback.

  • Web Interface—control the player and manage playlists from a web browser
  • MP3 & WMA Internet radio
  • Alarm clock
  • Automatically imports iTunes library and playlists (Windows and Mac)
  • Automatically imports metadata tags
  • Browse and search by title, artist, album or genre
  • Shuffle and repeat albums or songs
  • Create, save, and import .pls, .cue and .m3u playlist files
  • Displays current date and time when not playing
  • Open protocol and command line API—easy to control from other applications
  • Expandable through 3rd party plug-ins and skins
  • Supports multiple synchronized players
  • Cross platform Open Source software, written in Perl (GPL)
  • Listen from any computer using an MP3 software player (Winamp or iTunes)

OK, that's all the technical stuff - let's get on with the review!

Design:

The Squeezebox is a very attractive unit (my test unit was in all Black) that is 7.6"W x 3.7"H x 3.1"D. There are no buttons on the front of the device - just a very large and readable green LED screen. On the back are the audio inputs/outputs. The Squeezebox has both analog Audio outputs and Digital Optical and Digital Coax jacks. There is also a Headphone jack in the back and the power switch and Ethernet jack.

There are two models of the Squeezebox - one has built in 80211.g wireless and one has just the ethernet jack. My test unit has the built in wireless feature which was great.

The Squeezebox comes with a remote that is very intuitive and easy to use and controls all the features necessary for streaming you entire music library (and then some) to the Squeezebox.

How it Works:

Well, it is kind of like magic - but you want a more technical explanation. Once you download the free software called SlimServer and start it up on your PC, you just configure the Squeezebox (detailed below) and power it up. Over your wireless network, via the SlimServer software, the Squeezebox sucks out all your music - directly from iTunes with all your playlists, Windows Media Playlists, assorted MP3 files - in short - whatever format you use to organize and store your music. You control all of your music from the Squeezebox and all songs, artists and playlists now show up on the big bright screen. Just amazing.

Configuring the Squeezebox:

When I saw how easy it was to set up the Squeezebox I was a little nervous that the software configuration must be complicated - I was happily mistaken. First, I just plugged the audio jacks to my stereo and plugged in the power cord.

Next, I installed the free software (downloaded from www.slimdevices.com/download) and set it up according to the instructions.

The first thing to configure was the networking on the Squeezebox - it found my wireless network, the SSID appeared on the screen, I put in my WPA encryption password with the remote, let it obtain an IP address and that was it - I was connected. I only had to do this one time and from then on each time I started the Slimserver software on the computer, I just turned on the Squeezebox and was connected to my music.

Using the Squeezebox:

The Squeezebox uses a menu system on the screen via the remote. The arrow keys on the remote either move you to the next option via the up an down keys, or into the next menu by selecting the forward key.

The first thing to do is connect to Slimserver (which the Squeezebox does as soon as you turn on the power.) You navigate your music with the remote and can have it organized (just like iTunes) by Genre, artist, album, song, Playlist (yes, your playlists are completely accessible) or folders.

Press "Browse" and you can browse through your entire music library. What is amazing is that you can have Slimserver running on two separate computers and you can navigate to music on either computer (if your music is in multiple places.) You can shuffle songs, albums, playlists - whatever you want.

Using SqueezeNetwork:

But wait, there is more. If having access to all your music wirelessly without having to plug in your iPod is not enough - the Squeezebox also can connect to various Internet Radio stations via their proprietary squeezenetwork. I just set up an account (free) on www.squeezenetwork.com and put in the PIN from my Squeezebox and I had access to thousands of internet radio stations and the ability to connect to On demand music from Rhapsody, Pandora and more. It should be noted that you get a 90 day free subscription to Pandora with the Squeezebox. There are also hundreds of "Natural Sounds" that you can broadcast through your stereo to wake up your kids sleeping on the couch (the Thunder Storm and Freight Train sounds were great for that) or to just provide some natural ambiance.

Squeezenetwork can be controlled via the computer or the Squeezebox - which was very cool. I could navigate to a great internet radio station from France on the computer, push play, and the music came through my stereo.

In short, there are more options for streaming both your local as well as internet content, than you will most likely ever use.

If that isn't enough, you can also program wireless RSS news feeds to stream across the screen.

Sound Quality:

The Sound quality was simply amazing. For testing purposes, I plugged my iPod into one jack on the stereo and the Squeezebox into the other and played the same songs. The Squeezebox was so much clearer, fuller and sounded way less "compressed" than the audio on the iPod. The difference was stunning. I have virtually eliminated the need to use my iPod for home listening, parties or background music in the house.

Overall Conclusions:

This is an amazing device - a technological marvel - a revolutionary product. At this point in the year, I would say that this is the "must have" innovation of the year. It is easy to configure, simple to use, incredibly powerful and one of those things that I now can't imagine being without. The sound quality is great, the freedom to listen to all your music as well as internet radio and On Demand radio creates limitless possibilities for liberating your digital music. No more CD's, No more iPods - just control all your music from the Squeezebox. If you are a music lover and love gadgets - run and get yourself a Squeezebox.

Pros:

  • Innovative
  • Powerful
  • Easy to Use
  • Great Sound

Cons:

  • Wireless Network use can drop off if your wireless network is not strong

The Squeezebox is available from Slim Devices and can be purchased at their web site: www.slimdevices.com for US$249.00 and US$299.00. It is also available from many retailers.




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