The Noxon iRadio is the latest in this streaming internet radio device family, and the styling will quite simply polarise opinion.
We were split down the middle, I and my son loved the retro styling cues, my wife and daughter hated it. So we tried the old folk next door who were wooed by the technology but again, grandpa loved the looks, grandma thought it sucked elephants through a straw although she used the words "bloody horrible" to be fair.
This reaction was mirrored everywhere we took the iRadio, no two people could agree on the look of this gadget. So if you are in the market for something to stream your internet radio feeds wirelessly around the house, and you happen to live with someone else, best all take a long hard look at it before parting with your cash.
And there we come nicely to the second stumbling block for TerraTec: the cost. You can buy a perfectly usable and decent quality transistor radio, which can also be used wirelessly around the house although with a lot less choice of global channels it has to be said, from Argos for £20, add a tenner if you want one which will dock your iPod and play your MP3 library as well. What’s more, for £40 you can get all the advantages of a portable DAB digital radio. So why spend another £110 on this 215 x 120 x 110mm, 1kg, something else that needs an internet connection and will suck up your bandwidth allowance in order to deliver your radio fix?
It’s a very good question, and one that frankly we have been struggling to answer. You see we love the whole internet streaming radio concept because it opens the door to a huge variety of music from a myriad radio stations around the world we would never otherwise have heard of, let alone heard playing. We love the whole hooking into your wireless network concept to take that global radio choice around the house with you, allowing for any signal dead spots of course.
We even have to admit that we love the idea of not being just restricted to radio but having our entire PC based audio archive to hand whenever and wherever as well. But £150 is just an awful lot of money when the alternatives that can deliver good enough radio choice and playback your iPod archive are less than half as much.
So what exactly do you get for that money? There’s ease of setup for a start, our review unit established an ad-hoc connection with out laptop just like that and when we tried it with a wireless router it was just as happy to connect without hassle. There’s secure data transport to prevent others from jumping in on your feeds courtesy of the WPA encryption support, something that was missing from earlier models which only had WEP and forced you to downgrade your entire wireless network security or simply not bothering securing the iRadio itself. There’s support for MP3 and WMA format audio up to 320kbps, and Microsoft DRM10 copyright protected playback for good measure.
You don’t need your PC running as long as it can find an access point it is happy to use that, sans PC, courtesy of vTuner.com. You get a remote, a decent display to tell you exactly what you are tuning in to and allows for your stations to be sorted by genre or language. The iRadio is even cross platform, Mac users can use EyeConnect from Elgato to connect to the iRadio device.
The single speaker is a little disappointing, although the sound quality is pleasantly surprisingly good. It’s just not as good as coming out of two speakers because it will always lack that audio separation. Yet the speaker is more than most internet audio streaming devices come with, so be grateful for small blessings here. Indeed, the speaker is what turns this from being just another streaming device into a radio proper. But at £150 we would have liked to be listening in proper two speaker stereo it has to be said. It was fine when hooked up to our Hi-Fi via the line-out input, but that’s kind of missing the point of a portable radio isn’t it?
Oh, and the remote control is pants. Utter pants. We changed the battery as we assumed it was dead, such little range did the remote have, but to no avail. Unless within spitting distance of the radio itself it just refused to work.