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