The iPod may have killed AM/FM radio for the latest generation of music fans, but Apple's ubergadget only lets you listen to your own music collection; there's no hipster DJ introducing you to your new favorite band. Music fans still crave new sounds and personalized Internet radio services such as Pandora and Last.fm have filled the "music discovery" gap by taking note of your music preferences and playing songs they'll think you'll like. Pandora's a great service, but it's not easy to listen to away from your PC, which is where the Livio Radio ($150) comes in.
The Livio Radio is the first Wi-Fi radio we've tested that is designed completely around the Pandora service, offering all the standard functions--like "thumbs up/down"--right on the front panel. The 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 Livio Radio hits the sweet spot for those looking for a simple, great-looking way to add Pandora to a bedroom, kitchen, or living room.
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The overall design ethos is a mix between Apple and Tivoli, and even though we're not generally fans of the Apple whitewash look, the Livio Radio pulls it off. The cabinet is made of thick, black textured plastic, which 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 glasslike look. The single speaker is behind a silver grille, and the right half is dominated by the blue LCD screen with playback controls underneath.
We've reviewed other Wi-Fi radios that can stream Pandora (such as the Grace GDI-IR2000 or Squeezebox Boom), but the Livio Radio is unique in that the design really centers on the streaming music service. The front panel controls include the "thumbs up" and "thumbs down" buttons that let you tell Pandora what songs you like, as well as the "skip forward" button to skip to the next song. Most other radios include preset buttons on the front for standard Internet radio stations, but the Livio makes it clear its main function is Pandora.
The Livio's connectivity package is generous. There's a headphone jack on the front panel, and around back there's also an auxiliary input (so you can connect an iPod in a pinch) and an analog stereo line out. The stereo line out is actually a minijack connector, but Livio includes a minijack-to-RCA adapter, making it easier to connect to a home theater receiver. Rounding out the connectivity is an Ethernet jack, if you prefer a more stable wired connection.
The included remote control is the slim credit-card-style variety; we prefer full-size remotes, but they're not common at this price point. The remote mostly duplicates the front panel controls, although there are some additional functions. We really appreciate the dedicated mute button and the five dedicated preset buttons for quick access to your favorite stations.