Hands-on Friday: The Logitech Transporter

Although it was originally developed a few years ago by SlimDevices, the Logitech Transporter has seen its way through a number of enhancements. Realizing its worth to the consumer, Logitech acquired SlimDevices just to sell the Transporter along with th

Logitech Transporter
Logitech Transporter CNET Networks

Although it was originally developed a few years ago by SlimDevices, the Logitech Transporter has seen its way through a number of enhancements. Realizing its worth to the consumer, Logitech acquired SlimDevices just to sell the Transporter along with the company's SqueezeNetwork. In doing so, Logitech has added some of its own flair, but has basically kept the Transporter securely fastened in its original design. That said, the unit I used is not the silver you see pictured here, but the new fully-black design.

Regardless of its history or color differences, the Logitech Transporter is a well-built device with a slew of fine qualities. But without the ability to access videos or even use it with a television, its qualities still don't justify the steep price tag.

Installation

Installing the Logitech Transporter could not have been easier. In a matter of minutes I had the device out of the box, antennas connected and sound system ready to accept audio.

Before you begin installing the Transporter into your home theater system, the company recommends installing its SlimServer on all the computers you want the Transporter to connect to. The SilmServer can be installed on just about any operating system (I used it on Windows and Mac) and collects all of the audio in your computer. From there, it sends this information out to the network where your Transporter will connect and play the music. Once installed, the SlimServer must be turned on along with your computer. If either is off, you won't be able to play audio through the device.

Once the SlimServer was ready to go, I connected the device to my sound system. The Transporter supports analog (balanced and unbalanced), optical, Coax S/PDIF, BNC S/PDIF, AES/EBU and infrared input/output, which means you can connect this device to just about any speaker system or amplifier in the home. Unfortunately the Transporter doesn't come with any wires, so you will need to have some handy before you set it up.

Once connected to the sound system, I went through the task of establishing a connection to my wireless network. Although the Transporter also has an Ethernet port if you want to run wires, I felt it would be best if I used a wireless connection instead. The Transporter automatically recognized my network and asked me to use the right arrow to set up a connection. In a matter of seconds, I was now connected to my network and ready to play music from my computers.

Design

The Logitech Transporter is a great-looking (yet somewhat retro) device that offers a crystal-clear monochrome display. It also features brackets that will allow you to rack-mount the device -- a feature I wish more products offered. The front of the system is simple with a knob in the middle that allows you to navigate your way through the menu, but can be somewhat useless without the help of the remote. The buttons on the front could have protruded out a bit further to make it easier to use them, but by the same token, they offer all of the functionality you need to get the device up and running.

The Transporter menu system can become quite frustrating. Because it doesn't offer any output to a television, you need to use the small screen on the left to navigate your way through the menu. And with such an expansive offering, it takes too long to get to your song. It would have been nice if Logitech added a faster navigation method instead of awkward screen savers, but c'est la vie.

The strongest design feature of the Logitech Transporter is its remote. Basically a slightly lengthened (and black) Wii remote, the design is simply brilliant. Not only do the buttons light up so you don't need lights during that romantic evening with your loved one, the remote features all of the controls you need to get your way through the menu and barely runs down the two-AA batteries. If I had one issue with the remote, I would have to say that Logitech should have included quick launch buttons so I didn't need to fiddle my away around the menu using the arrow keys (the only way to navigate the system). With quick launch buttons, all of the issues mentioned above with time could easily be mitigated.

Features

The Transporter is extremely rich in features that offer an ideal solution for any home need. Not only does the device sport an alarm clock that will wake you up to your favorite songs (it recognizes and plays just about any music player's music), it offers an addictive game called SlimTris that is basically a modified, left-to-right version of Tetris.

One of my favorite features while connected to the SlimServer was the ability to access Internet Radio. With selections like Live Music Archive, Live 365, Radioio and SHOUTcast, I spent most of my time listening to old and new songs I have never heard before. All in all, there are no issues when connecting the Internet radio stations and sound quality is simply superb. The aforementioned stations are completely available and require nothing more than a jaunt to a different menu. While I used the product, this feature was probably my favorite.

Music library playback takes much of the same form as you would expect from a product like the Apple TV. Depending on the program you're using, the Transporter will collect all of the playlists and song lists and display them exactly as they're displayed on your computer. If you're an iTunes user, you will find that the player basically replicates your entire menu system onto the display in the same order as you will find it on your computer. All in all, sound quality is above average and the extensive audio controls offered by the player will only help you out. Simply put, the Transporter will give audiophiles a field day.

Unfortunately the Transporter can only access one SlimServer computer at a time and without a hard drive like you would find on the Apple TV, you can't save any songs to the device.

All of the aforementioned features are available on the default SlimServer, which is basically a copy of your computer's entire audio library with a few extras thrown in. But the Transporter also offers something called the SqueezeNetwork, which offers loads of extras and access to services you can't find on the SlimServer.

Upon accessing the SqueezeNetwork, the Transporter automatically assigns itself a player pin that will need to be plugged into any of the services you want to use. For example, if you want to listen to Pandora on the player, you will need to create an account and input your Transporter pin. Upon doing so, you can listen to all of your favorite Pandora songs without a hitch. If you're not the Pandora type, the Transporter also supports Rhapsody, which works in the same way.

A nice feature that can be found on both the SqueezeNetwork and the SlimServer is the ability to listen to a song and make it a favorite. Upon doing so, the Transporter creates a favorites playlist and gives you easy access to your favorite songs.

One of the main concerns I had going in was how well the SqueezeNetwork would play the music -- after all, I was connecting to an Internet stream. Much to my delight, there are no buffering issues using the Network and Rhapsody and Pandora songs played without a hitch. Not only that, but deciding on whether or not you like a Pandora song is made simple by using those pesky remote arrows again.

Besides Pandora and Rhapsody, the SqueezeNetwork also includes sound effects and nature sounds which are actually quite pleasant on a stressful day. But the other highlight of the Network is the ability to read RSS feeds.

By default, the Transporter lists all of the newest stories from BBC World News, CNET news, The New York Times, Rolling Stone, Slashdot and Yahoo!. If you want to add new feeds, simply get your way over to the server and add the URL to the ticker. In just seconds, the new feed will be included in the menu system. And while this works well, the player doesn't give you the option of reading the entire story, so you basically only get the headlines.

If you're a podcast fan, the SqueezeNetwork also gives you access to Podcast Alley and Odeo.

All in all, the SqueezeNetwork was one of my favorite features on the Transporter. Not only does it allow you to use it while your computers are off, the massive number of options make it a place where you will spend most of your time. Sound quality over the SqueezeNetwork was equal to the music sound quality and getting updates on the news while the songs were playing made it a welcome addition.

Bottom Line

When it's all said and done, the Logitech Transporter is a great product for anyone who is looking for an audio solution for the home. That said, the physical size of the device is too big and sound quality, while still above average, could be better. The main issues I have with the Logitech Transporter is the lack of a hard drive and no video support. In a day and age where people are watching videos at an astounding rate, how could the company have left that out?

To sum up, the overall quality of the Logitech Transporter is well-above competing products, but the aforementioned issues and the $2,000 price tag are enough for me to recommend staying away from this product until it gets the kinks (and price) worked out.

Check out the CNET Reviews Editor's take.

Check back each Friday on The Digital Home as Don performs a hands-on evaluation of some of the hottest home products around. Next week: The Panasonic TH-42PX77u

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Smart Home
About the author

Don Reisinger is a technology columnist who has covered everything from HDTVs to computers to Flowbee Haircut Systems. Besides his work with CNET, Don's work has been featured in a variety of other publications including PC World and a host of Ziff-Davis publications.

 

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