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View Full Version : UK Computer Shopper round up of Wireless Media Players - Squeezebox 2/5



mattybain
2005-10-28, 07:28
Anyone seen this? Not sure why I bought the magazine as it rarely has anything interesting in it. Don't think I will buy it again after this :(

It has a round up of 7 wireless media players ranging from the Netgear MP101 at 75 with the squeezebox2 being the most expensive at 200 (not sure where they got that price from!)

The winner is the ROKU Soundbridge M1000 (5/5) and the Pinnacle Show Center (5/5).

Main problems with the Squeezebox were deeemed to be

- No DRM support - probably fair enough.
- Too expensive at 200 - as I said not sure where they got this price from, at the time you could have got it for 150.
- Only connects with one server , slimserver - Doesn't mention SS integration with I-Tunes
- No UPnP support

What suprised me the most with this roundup is that there is absolutely no mention of sound quality. Like is that not important??? Come on guys what is the point of having a Wireless media player if it sounds like cr*p. The screen also didn't get a mention which is surprising as we are comparing players with a seriously good screen with ones without one at all.

Also no mention of the 11g wireless, open source nature of the software, the number of plugins, WMA/FLAC native decoding etc etc

Shoddy.

Robin Bowes
2005-10-28, 10:02
mattybain said the following on 28/10/2005 15:28:

> - No UPnP support

Personally, I'd like to see UPnP support somewhere in either the SB or
slimserver.

> What suprised me the most with this roundup is that there is absolutely
> no mention of sound quality. Like is that not important???

The review was in UK *COMPUTER* Shopper, right? People who buy computers
also buy speakers that are rated at 5,000W. 'nuff said.


> Come on guys
> what is the point of having a Wireless media player if it sounds like
> cr*p. The screen also didn't get a mention which is surprising as we
> are comparing players with a seriously good screen with ones without
> one at all.
>
> Also no mention of the 11g wireless, open source nature of the
> software, the number of plugins, WMA/FLAC native decoding etc etc
>
> Shoddy.

It's a poor mag.

R.
--
http://robinbowes.com

If a man speaks in a forest,
and his wife's not there,
is he still wrong?

oktup
2005-11-03, 09:18
I just stumbled across this while in WHSmiths on my lunch break. The article in question is now available online - here's the introduction (http://www.pcpro.co.uk/shopper/labs/214/wireless-media-players/introduction.html), or just skip to the main part of the review (http://www.pcpro.co.uk/shopper/labs/214/wireless-media-players/products.html).

Note: it's unrestricted at first, but you seem to have to register (free) after a certain time or amount of viewing the site. Might just be a cookie thing but I can't be bothered investigating further ;)

danco
2005-11-03, 11:00
On 3/11/05 at 08:18 -0800, oktup wrote
>I just stumbled across this while in WHSmiths on my lunch break. The
>article in question is now available online -
>_'here's_the_introduction'
>(http://www.pcpro.co.uk/shopper/labs/214/wireless-media-players/introduction.html)_,
>or just skip to the _'main_part_of_the_review'
>(http://www.pcpro.co.uk/shopper/labs/214/wireless-media-players/products.html)_.
>

The online article didn't give that much detail of the testing and
its results. They did mention that they tested ogg and flac files, as
well as mp3.

I'm not myself convinced that the Squeezebox is the best solution for
those who only want to use mp3 files on a Windows box, and I wouldn't
expect PC Pro to consider how the SB works on a non-Windows system.

--
Daniel Cohen

max.spicer
2005-11-03, 11:34
Sounds like SlimDevices really need DRM support to make the press happy. They could also do with a much nicer looking device ... no wait, they just did that. ;-) It seems that the other feature that gets you marked down majorly is lack of upnp media server support. I personally don't care about DRM or other server support - I just want a great interface and great sound. Oddly, the review didn't really touch on these issues.

Max


I just stumbled across this while in WHSmiths on my lunch break. The article in question is now available online - here's the introduction (http://www.pcpro.co.uk/shopper/labs/214/wireless-media-players/introduction.html), or just skip to the main part of the review (http://www.pcpro.co.uk/shopper/labs/214/wireless-media-players/products.html).

Note: it's unrestricted at first, but you seem to have to register (free) after a certain time or amount of viewing the site. Might just be a cookie thing but I can't be bothered investigating further ;)

CardinalFang
2005-11-03, 11:57
This is no criticism of slim devices, after all I bought the product and intend to buy more, but...

I think we need to get a bit real here - the is not yet a mass-market device, the server software is not plug and play like the type of consumer products the mainstream are used to.

The SB3 is a great looking device, good remote and effective display and menus, but getting the server to work....I like to tweak just like most of us on this forum but how many average consumer product buyers hang around geeky music fora and would be happy to do the kind of fiddling with machines that most of us have had to do?

SlimServer and SB3 needs to be like iTunes and iPod to be a mainstream product. just my 2c worth...and of course that may not be the slim devices business plan.

Paul

Richie
2005-11-03, 13:05
> The SB3 is a great looking device, good remote and effective display
> and menus, but getting the server to work....I like to tweak just like
> most of us on this forum but how many average consumer product buyers
> hang around geeky music fora and would be happy to do the kind of
> fiddling with machines that most of us have had to do?

Personally I find it's installation very simple and haven't had to
carry out any tweaking other than changing a few settings in the web
interface. Nothing's so simple these days that it requires no
individual settings. I just download the nightlies at the weekend,
install and it works. I think the average consumer would have no
problem at all. Ok, I've had to wait for a few bugs to be fixed but
even the piece of software I probably use most of all - Windows,
suffers from that.

Richard

audiofi
2005-11-03, 13:55
They never do long term tests either, if they did they would get different results:
1) The Netgear MP101 struggles to connect to a wireless network from any substantial distance and when this happens it crashes.
2) The Terratec Noxon (not reviewed) beats the Netgear
3) The Netgear is discontinued
4) The lack of a search function on the Roku is noticeable on a large library
5) The Squeezebox is superbly reliable long term, I had issues with the Roku (failed screen followed by no wifi card in the replacement which meant I had to send the whole thing back etc.)

and why didn't they mention the support for BBC radio? Yes its a plugin, but I find that a big selling point!

CardinalFang
2005-11-03, 15:50
>Nothing's so simple these days that it requires no
individual settings. I just download the nightlies at the weekend,
install and it works. I think the average consumer would have no
problem at all. Ok, I've had to wait for a few bugs to be fixed but
even the piece of software I probably use most of all - Windows,
suffers from that.

Richard

It's still not what the consumer expects for a mass market consumer electronics product. Ever have to wait for bug fixes for your TV? Or for the rest of your HiFi?

Don't get me wrong, I love my SB, but it's a far cry from the out-of-the box experience I had with my iPod. I never had to turn off features in iTunes to make it play consistently, nor do I have to sit and wait whilst a painfully slow UI updated my playlists. That's what I want for my SB.

Again, this is no comment on Slim, they've never sold it as that type of product and it's clear from their web site and community aspect of the development that this is for a dedicated enthusiast community. That unfortunately means that the mass market won't "get" the product, just like they don't appreciate good HiFi that needs care in setting up, but buy B&O designer mid-fi instead that works out of the box, but is compromised sound-wise.

Paul

Richie
2005-11-03, 16:21
> It's still not what the consumer expects for a mass market consumer
> electronics product. Ever have to wait for bug fixes for your TV? Or
> for the rest of your HiFi?

No. But I have purchased products that don't properly and they have
gone back. One was a Sony TV. My SB has never not worked. It's always
played my music. Any bugs I've been interested in have never stopped
me using the SB for it's core purpose - playing music.

> Don't get me wrong, I love my SB, but it's a far cry from the
> out-of-the box experience I had with my iPod. I never had to turn off
> features in iTunes to make it play consistently, nor do I have to sit
> and wait whilst a painfully slow UI updated my playlists. That's what I
> want for my SB.

Can't comment on this since I've never used iTunes. I have read about
it though and it doesn't always seem to do what all people want. Given
Apple's resources compared to Slim's I'd expect it to be a little more
polished though. I've never had to turn features off in SlimServer and
I've never experienced a painfully slow UI.

> A good comparison would be FreeView TV in the UK. To a large extent the
> uptake of digital TV has been slowed by set top boxes that have slow and
> clunky interfaces which occasionally crash. I'll mutter and reboot, my
> wife will take it back to the shop for her money back...now SlimServer
> isn't that bad, but it is the weak link.

Maybe you just have bad luck, my Freeview box has never crashed (if it
has it's reset itself without my knowing about it).

> Again, this is no comment on Slim, they've never sold it as that type
> of product and it's clear from their web site and community aspect of
> the development that this is for a dedicated enthusiast community. That
> unfortunately means that the mass market won't "get" the product, just
> like they don't appreciate good HiFi that needs care in setting up, but
> buy B&O designer mid-fi instead that works out of the box, but is
> compromised sound-wise.
>
> Paul
>
>
> --
> CardinalFang

I think you underestimate peoples ability. Slimserver doesn't require
any more skill than any other piece of software I've installed. In
fact it's easier to use in my opinion. My first SB1 was up and running
within ten minutes of taking it out of the box. No fiddling or
tweaking necessary. I can't see it getting much easier.

Richard

MrC
2005-11-03, 20:23
It's still not what the consumer expects for a mass market consumer electronics product. Ever have to wait for bug fixes for your TV? Or for the rest of your HiFi?

Without adding or detracting from your main point, there plenty of consumer electronics products that require bug fixes, sometimes significant ones. For example, Dish Network's 921 and now more recently the 942 HD player have all sorts of bugs that frustrate users, and require firmware updates. Tivo has had its share, and the same holds true for Rios, Zen's, DVD player/recorders, Creatives' Harmony 880 remote, etc. Basically, any consumer device that requires / allows user setup, configuration, or updates will at one time or another incur such problems. TVs leave the factory preset, preconfigured, and mostly hardcoded. But even they sometimes need in-the-field service to replace unforeseen firmware or PROM bugs.

mkozlows
2005-11-03, 21:21
It's still not what the consumer expects for a mass market consumer electronics product. Ever have to wait for bug fixes for your TV? Or for the rest of your HiFi?

Don't get me wrong, I love my SB, but it's a far cry from the out-of-the box experience I had with my iPod.

Compared to other electronic devices I have (few of which are particularly esoteric):

Linksys wireless router: The router was WAY WAY harder to get setup. Orders of magnitude. Yet, tons of people have this thing, if all the "linksys" networks I see around are any key.

Motorola cablebox DVR: Easy to set up (the cable company does it), but hard to use and incredibly -- incredibly! -- buggy. It frequently turns the TV off when we're watching it, for instance.

Dell DJ MP3 player: Much harder to set up (mostly because it didn't come with the modern MTP/PFS firmware installed by default), and harder to get working reliably with DRMed music.

Roku M500 with UPNP/WMC: Harder to setup, much harder to use, and less reliable (it crashed several times, and would refuse to play songs on the first try several other times).

Digital Rebel: Harder to use properly (though the photography skill set is a different one from the computer skill set), but definitely more reliable in operation.

iPod: Okay, I'm just bitter here, but I never could get the damn thing to connect to my computer. It just wouldn't do it. Insane. (I know I'm an exception on this one.)

At any rate, I don't think the SB2 is way out of the norm for modern tech-gear, in terms of ease-of-use. I wouldn't give one to my mom, but anyone who can set up a wireless network in the first place can definitely get an SB2 working no problem.

CardinalFang
2005-11-04, 00:58
I think you underestimate peoples ability. Slimserver doesn't require
any more skill than any other piece of software I've installed. In
fact it's easier to use in my opinion. My first SB1 was up and running
within ten minutes of taking it out of the box. No fiddling or
tweaking necessary. I can't see it getting much easier.Richard

But that's my point, we aren't average consumers, we're technically able - we're on a forum for the product after all. If I had given an SB to my wife or any of my non-technical friends, they would have insisted that someone install it (like my mum did with here Freeview box) or taken it back to the store and bought something else that just plugged in. They don't like installing software or anything that makes them make decisions!

OK, I'll come clean - I'm the CTO of a software company that builds consumer products - games for mobile phones. They have to be dead simple to use and installation has to be almost unnoticeable apart from agreeing to install it. *Any* complication and the user doesn't install the game. We also build software for the handsets themselves. Any bugs and you're looking at a huge product recall, it just mustn't happen.

Our audience is the the main stream audience. Computer geeks and hard core gamers will tinker to get things working, not my mum or my wife or the average buyer. There are plenty of products mentioned in other posts that have problems too, but that doesn't make any difference to the person who's bought the product - just because everything is in this area is not foolproof doesn't make the buyer feel any more comfortable.

My only point was that unless it is completely idiot proof and transparently easy to use and set up (i.e fully automatic, no asking for IP addresses, network names - anything), it's not for the majority of people, only technically savvy ones. That's all, no comment on the product apart from that.

Paul

mherger
2005-11-04, 01:08
> But that's my point, we aren't average consumers, we're technically
> able - we're on a forum for the product after all.

I think PCs aren't for the average user - though everybody uses them. A PC
based product therefore can hardly be.

--

Michael

-----------------------------------------------------------
Help translate SlimServer by using the
SlimString Translation Helper (http://www.herger.net/slim/)

Fifer
2005-11-04, 01:30
It's still not what the consumer expects for a mass market consumer electronics product. Ever have to wait for bug fixes for your TV? Or for the rest of your HiFi?
Whilst I understand the point you are making here, I think it misses the OP's point which appeared to be that the SB scored very low relative to a bunch of similar products, rather than being compared to more mainstream consumer technology. I'm not aware that any of the other products in the review have a more intuitive UI or are perfectly bug-free and will require no fixes.

I think most of us would have expected the SB to score better in that particular group of products.

Gatchers
2005-11-04, 01:36
CardinalFang,

M<ost mobile phones are eventually ship accepted by an operator which will allow concessions on a number of bugs to go through as long as they don't affect the customer in too major a way. In fact, this same bug list might be considered unacceptable to another operator. Typical problems might be incorrect rendering of content from another operator by the WAP browser, or receiving a call whilst taking a picture, or slow phonebook with particular types of SIMs, etc.

I'd say the average firmware release for a given product (be it mobile phone, etc) has many bugs, most of which most of the users won't see. But, some will, some of the time.

The SB2 has quite a lot going on; it has to live in different wireless network conditions, it's dealing with many different types of content, and is connected to a very fully features server.

Coming in as a first time user with SlimServer 6.1.1, I found it to be quite a remarkable out of box experience - it found my WMA folder and my iTunes collection just fine, and was up and running days before my SB2 arrived.

Yes, I have connection issues, but my problem looks to be quite isolated, it's almost the kind of problem I would expect, whoever had made the product.

So I guess what I'm saying is that as a piece of consumer electronics kit, if it isn't quite 'there', it's definitely very very near it.

CardinalFang
2005-11-04, 02:03
So I guess what I'm saying is that as a piece of consumer electronics kit, if it isn't quite 'there', it's definitely very very near it.

I think we're all saying the same thing, these products are for people who don't mind installing software and ripping CDs.

I think we've drifted off the point as another poster has reminded me - the discussion was why did SB come off worse against similar products with similar installations and feature sets?

My take on that is that a big part of it probably comes down to looks, the SB3 should fix that. Journos always miss details and have agendas, they are not impartial.

Paul


PS, yes, you're right on the bugs on phones issues, if the user doesn't notice, then the operator may wave it through because the phone is otherwise a good one, but I have heard of phones not making it to market and being taken off operator lists because of issues. As a software vendor, I also know that if the bug is in your software and the OEM finds out, look out for a big bill! It even affects the OEMs - one year it cost Sony $92 million on recalls...

CardinalFang
2005-11-04, 02:11
I think most of us would have expected the SB to score better in that particular group of products.

Agreed, I wandered off onto my very own soapbox for a while there...

As I said in another post, I think a lot of it is down to looks and the SB3 fixes that. Also journalists are predisposed to one product or another because it fits their model of how the system should work. Bluntly, if you call up a journo when you offer a product for review and spend some time with them (schmooze in other words) you're far more likely to get a good review. Placing advertising also helps...(cough)

Paul

danco
2005-11-04, 03:19
On 4/11/05 at 01:03 -0800, CardinalFang wrote
>Gatchers Wrote:
>> So I guess what I'm saying is that as a piece of consumer electronics
>> kit, if it isn't quite 'there', it's definitely very very near it.
>
>I think we're all saying the same thing, these products are for people
>who don't mind installing software and ripping CDs.
>
>I think we've drifted off the point as another poster has reminded me -
>the discussion was why did SB come off worse against similar products
>with similar installations and feature sets?
>
>My take on that is that a big part of it probably comes down to looks,
>the SB3 should fix that. Journos always miss details and have agendas,
>they are not impartial.

Has anyone seen the full article and can summarise the contents? What
was available online was only the final score, and what they tested
for, not a report on how well items performed on the tests or
generally.

--
Daniel Cohen

bglad
2005-11-04, 03:45
why did SB come off worse against similar products with similar installations and feature sets?

The review concluded: "The Roku SoundBridge can play protected files, connect to almost any server, has a similarly flashy design and costs 25 less."

a product comparison chart on the slim site would help here

MKS
2005-11-04, 06:18
At any rate, I don't think the SB2 is way out of the norm for modern tech-gear, in terms of ease-of-use. I wouldn't give one to my mom, but anyone who can set up a wireless network in the first place can definitely get an SB2 working no problem.
A quick perusal of the Beginners' Forum shows that quite a few people are having trouble getting Squeezebox to work "out of the box" and to connect to the wireless network. I myself had quite a struggle to get my SB2 to find my wireless network.

I love my SB2 and it is revolutionising the way I listen to music, and allowing me to hear much more new music (via Internet Radio). The mere fact that audiophiles are trading in CD players and DAC's worth 1000's for an SB2 is proof enough for me that the internals of the SB2 are high-quality and worthy of scrutiny more than some other devices.

I have no idea how "easy" the other reviewed units are to set up, but I would guess that they have "issues" as well.

Mike

gingerneil
2005-11-04, 06:24
A quick perusal of the Beginners' Forum shows that quite a few people are having trouble getting Squeezebox to work "out of the box" and to connect to the wireless network. Mike

Thats a meaningless statement !! "quite a few" when compared to the number of total sales equals a tiny proportion ! Because you have to come to the web site to get the software, I would suggest that the website would be where most people start to look for help. Therefore, it follows that the number of posts to the beginnners section would suggest a TINY proportion have problems.
Those of us who frequented the Half Life 2 forums when Steam went live will know what I mean - those forums WERE overwhelmed !

MKS
2005-11-04, 06:40
Thats a meaningless statement !! "quite a few" when compared to the number of total sales equals a tiny proportion ! Because you have to come to the web site to get the software, I would suggest that the website would be where most people start to look for help. Therefore, it follows that the number of posts to the beginnners section would suggest a TINY proportion have problems.
Those of us who frequented the Half Life 2 forums when Steam went live will know what I mean - those forums WERE overwhelmed ! I stand by my comment. The proportion experiencing difficulty may be small, but if it really were that simple for the SB2 to be integrated into the wireless network then there wouldn't be so many similar threads on the topic. Most of the threads show that individuals having trouble had had no trouble with other network gear (as in my case also).

(Taking your analogy to extremes, and for this I apologise, but just to illustrate a point...) If you compare the number of people smoking to the number of people who smoke with cancer / heart disease then it would only be a TINY proportion. But the links are regarded as real, as they should be.

I don't think SlimDevices need to put a health warning on SB2's, but I hope they are doing some research into the difficulties some people are facing, and might make recommendations about settings / system requirements etc.

I have been really pleasantly surprised by the level of support in these Forums and by the quality and usefullness of the add-ons / plugins for SB / Slimserver. That's what reassures me that if I have problems they are likely to be supported and resolved quickly. I don't know that other devices would have that same community...

Fifer
2005-11-04, 06:47
(Taking your analogy to extremes, and for this I apologise, but just to illustrate a point...) If you compare the number of people smoking to the number of people who smoke with cancer / heart disease then it would only be a TINY proportion. But the links are regarded as real, as they should be.

If your analogy was valid I'd agree, but it isn't. It's estimated that around 50% of life-long smokers will die of a smoking related illness. That's not a tiny proportion.

MKS
2005-11-04, 06:51
If your analogy was valid I'd agree, but it isn't. It's estimated that around 50% of life-long smokers will die of a smoking related illness. That's not a tiny proportion.
Bah! I'll give up then ;-)

Michaelwagner
2005-11-04, 07:58
Don't throw away the valid point for the imperfect analogy.

Regardless of how many/what proportion, beginners are having problems and it needs to be taken seriously. I don't know if it's 1 in 100 or 1 in 10 or 1 in 1000, but there is one thing you can count on. I learned this as a dance teacher.

For every person who asks a question, there are 10 who were too timid to ask.

Fifer
2005-11-04, 08:42
I absolutely agree that as much help as possible should be provided, but that wasn't the point being debated, it was whether the number of help requests on the beginner's forum indicated a significant problem in the general population of users. This is a perennial poser on most technical forums. Statistically, there's very little relationship between the self-selecting sample who come here for help and the total population of owners.

CardinalFang
2005-11-04, 09:41
Statistically, there's very little relationship between the self-selecting sample who come here for help and the total population of owners.

Oh I don't know about that, I think a much bigger percentage of owners than you might think are on these fora. It's that kind of product. There are also plenty of people lurking and looking for tips and help, but not posting. I get a lot of information from sites without ever needing to post "help, I can't get it working".

Roku sell on high street stores with the promise of out-of-the-box ease of use and a easy-on-the-decor look. The truth may be different and SB isn't sold on that premise, although the SB3 fixes the looks, but a magazine targeting a mainstream audience isn't going to go for the better sounding, but slightly geeky product over the one that places adverts and presents a more "sophisticated" image.

I think the answer is somewhere in the middle, SB is a product that appeals to technically minded people who will search it out following recommendations or research and are looking for the best sounding player. It isn't for everyone and that's fine, because for those that do find it, it has the right qualities. To make it right for a bigger audience would involve a lot more investment and probably an end to open source development and go more down something like the Apple iTunes/Airport/iPod or Sonus proprietary route. Then we couldn't tweak.

And I wouldn't worry too much about the reviews. After all, if it got a good review and lots of people bought it, we'd all be complaining that it wasn't as good as it used to be! Just like when your favourite underground band gets discovered... :-)

Having said all that, why not aim to have the installation be as easy as possible so that for the vast majority of people, no tweaking is required?

I still think the Server should be re-written in Java though :-)

Paul

eq72521
2005-11-04, 11:14
Don't throw away the valid point for the imperfect analogy.

Regardless of how many/what proportion, beginners are having problems and it needs to be taken seriously. I don't know if it's 1 in 100 or 1 in 10 or 1 in 1000, but there is one thing you can count on. I learned this as a dance teacher.

For every person who asks a question, there are 10 who were too timid to ask.

Furthermore, everyone who has a problem will probably tell far more people about it than will someone who has a good (uneventful) experience.