Who made touch popular? Was it Apple, or was it dark horse Hewlett-Packard? Wherever the trend started it shows no sign of abating, especially when it comes to entertainment devices. While we see plenty of touchscreen MP3 players here at CNET Australia, we've only seen a couple of touchscreen radios, the not-too-bad iRiver B30 handheld and the surprisingly disappointing Pure Sensia desktop.
Now Grundig has taken Pure's idea and distilled it (though how it's possible to distil something that's already pure is a matter of conjecture). The Trio Touch is a slideshow-compatible DAB+ radio and iPod dock, which features a 3.5-inch touchscreen and internet connectivity via Ethernet.
The build is plastic but not tacky, and the engineers have shown attention to detail with the rubberised bottoms on the detachable speakers and real speaker binding posts. The device's controls are minimal and consist of the touchscreen and a volume control that doubles as a power button.
The screen is intuitive to navigate and quite responsive — unlike Pure's visually-impressive-but-hard-to-use 5.7-inch portal. The menus are sensibly laid out and quick to traverse. Grundig also does away with fripperies such as weather and Facebook, and sticks to what people want from a music player: music! The player includes streaming from DLNA devices (including FLAC support) and provides access to internet radio stations.
In addition, the Trio has Last.FM integration which will show you some of your scrobbles (from other devices), and if you click on the "iPod" icon at the bottom of the screen while listening to iPod it will allow you to stream artists similar to the one playing.
The system comes with a remote control that is very friendly, feels cosy in the hand and is simple to operate.
While the Trio is primarily a DAB+ radio, we found this was actually the least successful function of the device. No matter whether we used the radio in a strong or weak signal area, we found that the tuner wasn't very sensitive. If you stood or sat in the wrong spot relative to the device you could lose reception altogether. While the ability to show DAB+ slideshows such as weather and "now playing" information was a welcome feature, the small screen didn't make them very pleasurable to read. Most of the information you need scrolls through the text field of the display anyway and proved to be more useful.
Sound quality was decent if not spectacular, but we appreciated the ability to detach the speakers and get a better stereo image. The sound is a little closed though, lacking a sense of refinement and presence with vocals, but its rear-ported speakers did afford it some gutsy bass. In comparison, the Sony CMTFX350i DAB+ micro system was able to present music in a more natural fashion, though without the bass thump, and at half the price.
The Grundig's ability to control both iPod and streamed media via the remote is a plus, even if it is a little slower than using the touchscreen. Sound quality on streamed files was quite flattering, but this also meant that it was difficult to hear the difference between a high-quality FLAC file and a 128Kbps MP3 file.
Though it's possible to connect another set of speakers to the speaker posts, our experiments weren't very successful. Upgrading to a pair of Wharfedale Diamond 8.1 speakers brought a bigger sound, but the on-board amplification wasn't able to keep up and dynamics were squashed. The boon here, though, is that you can use the optical output instead to stream most of the digital functions (but not iPod) through to a stereo system. If you want iPod as well you can connect the analog-outs instead.
At its RRP of AU$549, the Grundig is a solid but not spectacular buy; however, if you look around online you'll find it for a little over AU$400. If then you set the speakers aside, the Grundig becomes one of the cheapest digital radio/streaming add-ons available at the moment.