Sonos Controller for Mac and PC (2012) pictures and hands-on

Sonos has updated its Mac and PC software, bringing with it a number of new features and a complete overhaul to the user interface. Pocket-lint has been using the new software for the past week to see how much of a difference it makes.

The apps, according to their maker, "will make it easier than ever to find, control and play music in any room - right from your favourite desktop or laptop".

Put simply, that statement is bang on. The Mac and PC software has been out of touch with the rest of the music system for some time and the update brings a new approach that now resembles the iOS and Android apps, in particular, the iPad app interface. It also refers to several new features, including a mini-player window and full screen mode.

The new Mini Controller is just as it sounds and, like iTunes, you can now shrink the app down to just an album cover. You can then have it hovering in a spare space on your desktop rather than giving you a stack of information you don't need. The addition of the album cover is a nice touch and still lets you enjoy cover art - which has almost been lost with the move to a constant flow of digital tunes out of our speakers.

Likewise, the move to full-screen mode isn't compulsory, but is welcomed if you like that kind of thing on the Mac. While we aren't sure it works with some apps, having your music full screen here somehow does: maybe it's all about reminding us of the ease of use the iPad app offers.

As iPad users will tell you, the benefit of having a larger workspace is that it is so much easier to manage and control everything.

Also like the iPad app, the interface is broken down into a number of tiles and columns regardless of whether you are using it on the PC or the Mac. The top bar is all about the player controls, volume and search, while the middle rest of the interface is broken down into three columns: rooms, now playing and music.

The "rooms" column is where you manage your zones and the new system lets you group zones quickly and easily. 

"Now playing" details the track that is playing and your all-important queue with a similar interface to the iPad. It allows you to edit, save and clear quickly. Tracks can be dragged up and down the queue to re-arrange the order.

The third column is about searching and selecting your music and the source - be it your local music or something from a service like Spotify.  

Acknowledging that multiple search boxes are a user interface nightmare, the controller now offers a single-search box which can change which service it searches via a drop down menu. The system is very similar to how you can quickly change search engines in Firefox, and if that doesn't make sense either, just know that it is easy.

Everything, as you would imagine, is now drag and dropable, and managing your queue is considerably easier. Find the track you want, drag it to the queue, move on. It really is that simple.

The new controller also brings instant volume control and a one-touch Party Mode that lets you set the volume in your grouped rooms simultaneously. It is simple but clever. 

Also drastically improved is the ability to access both the Sleep Timer and Alarms from the main window without having to go hunting for them in the menu settings. Although you still don't get the chance to set the length of time you want your alarm to go on. It sounds like we are picking faults for picking faults' sake, but is it really hard to let us set an alarm to play the music for the time you want rather than set incremental times?

We've been playing with the new software on both the PC and the Mac for a while on two separate systems, one on the PC with two zones (one by the time the screenshots were taken, because of spring cleaning), and one on the Mac with five zones. And it must be said that the new Sonos Controller is a vast improvement both in looks and performance.

There are still frustrations. You can't, for example, control playback via your keyboard's playback keys. Nor can you use the software to turn your computer into a further Zone in order to truly have one music software app to manage all your music services in your house, be it a Sonos system or your desktop.

However, we're still very impressed. Sonos Controller 3.7 is more than a lick of paint.

The free update is available on your system from today with the apps for Android and iOS updating shortly.

What do you think of the new software update? Let us know in the comments below...

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