Last year, we looked at the Livio Radio and praised it for its easy access to thousands of Internet radio stations, Wi-Fi security compatibilities, Pandora playback, and connectivity options. One year later, Livio has released The NPR Radio, a device that remains mostly the same as last year, but replaces Pandora with an NPR-focused content-delivery system.
This is the first Wi-Fi radio we've tested that is designed around the NPR network, offering access to more than 800 NPR stations as well as specific programs, podcasts, and other content. The radio's gorgeous design is outstanding for the price; it's easy to use and you won't find anything that looks this good until you spend about twice as much. Its competitors will better serve audiophiles and feature-junkies, but the NPR Radio by Livio hits the sweet spot for those NPR junkies looking for a simple, great-looking way to add National Public Radio to a bedroom, kitchen, or living room.
The overall design ethos is a mix between Apple and , and even though we're not generally fans of the Apple whitewash look, the NPR Radio pulls it off. The cabinet is made of thick, black textured plastic that gives it a quality feel and doesn't smudge. The front panel is off-white and accented by a layer of clear plastic that gives it a classy glass-like look. The single speaker is behind a black grille and a blue LCD screen with playback controls underneath it dominates the right half. The only element that doesn't quite have that high-end feel is the loose-feeling plastic menu-volume knob, but that's our only nitpick on an otherwise outstanding design.
The Livio Radio's main function is to play NPR radio stations and content. Its main menu gives you access to NPR stations around the country (by region), specific NPR content, podcasts, and the capability to search through the enormous library of media. We really liked the capability to jump to specific sections in a program. For example, choosing "All Things Considered" lets you listen to the entire program, skip to a certain segment, or jump to a spot in the timeline. Better yet, these segments are labeled by chapter, so there is no guessing involved.
For most NPR programs, you have the capability to listen to about two weeks' worth of past content; anything beyond that isn't directly accessible from the radio. You can customize your own NPR menu by adding certain items from the network to your "favorites," which is then just a button click away from the radio or remote control.