Hands-on with Philips' new wireless stereo

A budget-conscious streaming system.

Crave UK

It's a new week and a new month, and that means a new streaming audio solution for the home. We've seen plenty such as this, that, and the other, but this system's price tag falls only a little over 230 pounds (around $455) if you shop carefully, and quite taken we are with it too.

This is the Philips WAC3500D and it's aimed at the budget-conscious among you, or those of you with purse strings tighter than a duck's backside. It's got an 80GB internal hard disk, Wi-Fi, Ethernet, a CD player and it'll stream music from your PC or broadcast it to other Philips Streamium products. The internal drive lets you rip your CD collection to MP3 at a variety of bit rates--the process is relentlessly slow but still useful. But where's FLAC support, or even WAV?

It's a modern-looking affair, with a face made up of two sections: half-brushed aluminium, half-reflective plastic. Stuck into the plastic bit is a very small LCD screen--one of the areas where corners were clearly cut to keep prices so affordable. Still, it does a reasonable job of presenting menus.

But that's enough of the boring stuff. The streaming function worked really well when we used Philips' media manager software on our PC. We couldn't test the wireless functionality as our corporate Wi-Fi requires a Web-based log-on for guests, but when wired with Ethernet we were streaming music within 30 seconds. The limited codec support only includes WMA and MP3--no WAV, no FLAC, no AAC, no OGG, no Apple Lossless, unlike Sonos and Sony alternatives. Four of those don't cost a penny to include, so their exclusion is disappointing.

Sound quality is OK, but we'll need more time before we can give our final say. Expect that in our full review, due very soon.

(Source: Crave UK)