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Photos: Sonos CR200 controller tested

The brand-new Sonos controller just landed in our hands from the Netherlands, and man, is this thing turning us on. It's the CR200, and is a great overhaul to the ageing controller

Nate Lanxon

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The brand new Sonos controller just landed in our hands from the Netherlands, and man, is this thing turning us on. It's the CR200, which we first reported on earlier this week, and it truly is the overhaul we have been waiting for.

For one thing, it's about half the size of the original controller, and although still a chunky son of a lady dog, it can at least be easily used with just the one hand. Also, the iPod-like scroll wheel of old has been ditched for a large, bright, beautifully responsive capacitive touchscreen.

Functionality remains the same as before. You can set up your queues of music for each ZonePlayer around the house, browse for and play music from your computer, set up radio stations from CNET UK's sister site Last.fm, and easily adjust the volume of all speakers around your house. All wirelessly, of course.

Probably the largest advantage to this new controller though, is the on-screen keyboard. Typing in artists and song titles using the old clickwheel was, frankly, a pain in the man-satchel. Now, using the touchscreen, it's fast and easy.

But here's the snag. As great as the controller is, similar functionality can be had with the free Sonos iPhone and iPod touch application from the iTunes App Store. For sure, the CR200 provides a dedicated and seamless experience, and far better use of battery power.

But the controller costs £280. If you have an iPod touch or iPhone and your Sonos system already connects to your Wi-Fi home network, we'd still strongly suggest you download the free app and see how it works for you before laying down your cash.

For everyone who wants the full Sonos experience, however, the CR200 is a truly impressive upgrade and a beautifully built piece of kit. And the main advantage over the iPod/iPhone option is that you don't need a Wi-Fi network to use it -- the entire Sonos system and controller works over its own, proprietary, built-in wireless system and automatically sets itself up.

Our hands-on photos and comparison with the old controller are over the page, and the CR200 will be on sale next week.

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The difference in size between the old and new controllers is enormous.
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The front panel has been completely redesigned. There's no longer a clickwheel and significantly fewer buttons.
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In fact, these buttons are the only physical ones on the entire system. They feel rather rubbery.
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The on-screen keyboard makes searching through a large library so much faster.
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Once connected to our in-house Sonos system, the bright screen displays artwork, song information and a number of on-screen controls.
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This is the main menu screen, with large icons for easy, touch-based navigation.
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The artist list. Flick the list up and down just like on the iPhone. Scrolling is smooth and well animated.

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