One of our favorite products of 2008 was the Grace ITC-IR1000 Wi-Fi radio. It was affordable, with an excellent feature set, and its sound quality was top-notch for the price. The Grace GDI-IR2000 is its successor, and it fixes two of our biggest criticisms by adding a remote to the package as well as an auxiliary input, so you can easily connect an iPod. We also loved the new "stay connected" feature, which allows the GDI-IR2000 to start playing music faster when you turn it on. On the downside, we felt like the GDI-IR2000 was a step backward in terms of sound quality; it's not bad, but it sounded tinny and muffled next to the ITC-IR1000. If you're not picky about sound quality, the GDI-IR2000 is an outstanding value and improves on all the major shortcomings of its predecessor. If sound quality is important to you, try to hunt down an ITC-IR1000 before they're discontinued or consider stepping up to the excellent (but more expensive) Squeezebox Boom.
The look of the GDI-IR2000 is nearly identical to that of its predecessor. From the front, the left side is dominated by a 5-inch, 5-watt speaker behind a black grille. Toward the center are nine buttons used to load presets, navigate menus, and control playback with digital music. The small knob underneath controls volume and the larger knob is used to navigate menus; you push the menu knob to make selections. The faceplate is all black, with thin silver trimming around the outside. Last year's model had an external Wi-Fi antenna in the back, while the GDI-IR2000's antenna is contained inside the unit. In all, we think it's a stylish look.
On the upper right of the unit is the LCD display, which looks sharper than last year's model. It can display four lines of text, which usually includes the stations you're listening to, the song currently playing, the time, and the date. Our only quibble is that at some extreme angles--like if you're standing over it and it's on a table--the display washes out and becomes unreadable.
One of our biggest knocks on last year's model was that it lacked a remote, so we were glad that the GDI-IR2000 includes a clicker. It's a typical credit-card style remote that comes with many inexpensive electronics. It has all the functions included on the front of the unit, but also like the front, there's no mute button. We would have preferred a more substantial remote, like the one included on the Squeezebox Boom, but it's perfectly acceptable at this price point.
The Grace is a Wi-Fi radio, meaning it tunes into the thousands of free Internet radio stations rather than standard AM/FM fare. If you can't stand what's available on AM/FM (neither can we) and don't want to pay for satellite radio (neither do we), there's plenty of great stations available online for just about everybody.
With so many stations available, the main difficulty is sifting through it all. The main way to do this is using the LCD display, which breaks it down by Location and Genre. While the interface is perfectly fine, we recommend ditching it in favor of the online portal, Reciva. This is actually the service that powers the Grace and after you associate your radio with your free account, it's a much easier interface to find and tag your favorite stations for listening. The GDI-IR2000 itself has only 10 presets available, but you can save as many stations as you want using Reciva.
You can also add podcasts to your radio, as well, using Reciva. We plugged in the RSS feed for WNYC's "Radio Lab" on Reciva and almost instantly a list of the recent episodes popped up on our radio. In just a few seconds, we were listening to the recent "Diagnosis" episode--no need to wait for it to download first.