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Philips DAB AE5230 Radio review: Philips DAB AE5230 Radio

Philips' inexpensive entry into the digital radio world offers few surprises, either nice or nasty.

Alex Kidman
Alex Kidman is a freelance word writing machine masquerading as a person, a disguise he's managed for over fifteen years now, including a three year stint at ZDNet/CNET Australia. He likes cats, retro gaming and terrible puns.
Alex Kidman
3 min read


Philips DAB AE5230 Radio

The Good

Choice of AC or battery power. Simple operation.

The Bad

Stand is poorly built. Needs six AAs for portable playback. Flat audio.

The Bottom Line

Philips' inexpensive entry into the digital radio world offers few surprises, either nice or nasty.


We're starting to see a bit of variance in the DAB+ radio market when it comes to design. While the first wave of DAB+ units tended towards retro styles — presumably to entice long-term radio enthusiasts with a taste for nostalgia — there's a number of models that avert this trend and go for a more modern look.

And then there's the Philips DAB AE5230, which doesn't. This is a DAB+ model designed to look like a classic transistor radio in black and silver plastic. It's small enough to be technically portable at 200x104x45mm and 650g, but only in a shoulder bag sense. Power is supplied either via an AC adapter for desk-based audio, or from AA batteries if you want to go portable. You'll need a fair few AAs to hand though, as the Philips DAB AE5230 will happily gobble up six in order to provide DAB+ reception on the go.

By itself the AE5230 isn't capable of standing upright. A small and rather wobbly plastic stand extends from the back, and while it does do the job of holding up the AE5230 to an acceptable standard, it's not particularly sturdy.


The AE5230 is, like many inexpensive DAB+ units, a mono-only unit with a single speaker rated by Philips at 300mW RMS. Rather cheekily, the marketing spiel muddies the water by pointing out that it's "stereo headphone" capable. Which is to say that it's got a 3.5mm headphone jack out one side that you could get better audio quality from. It's just that the same factor is true of just about any mono DAB+ radio; it still doesn't make them any less mono.

At first glance the AE5230 seems a little bare on the controls front. The top houses buttons for presetting up to 10 DAB and 10 FM stations, although the method for storing the last five are a little fiddly. Stations 1-5 are easy — just hold down the relevant button for a couple of seconds — but stations 6-10 require you to hold down the "5+" button and then one of the original five. This is also required to recall your stored stations above five, which is less than optimal.

The front of the AE5230 houses the LCD display and buttons for menu and selection, as well as scanning and volume control. Layout is logical and easy enough to understand even without consulting the instruction pamphlet. Philips touts the AE5230 as having a "large backlit LCD display for easy viewing in low light". We won't quibble about its ability to be seen in low light, but the word we'd use to describe its size certainly isn't "large". That's not a particular problem right now, as the amount of information digital radio stations are transmitting is woefully low, and the two-line display on the AE5230 keeps up with it, but if they do start transmitting more information, smaller displays like this will struggle to keep up.


As with a lot of DAB+ models, what we're finding when testing is that you're solidly stuck in a rather garbage in, garbage out arrangement when it comes to audio quality. Most DAB+ signals tend to flatten out the high points of most music, which can be annoying if you're particularly familiar with a given track. If you're coming from a predominantly AM radio world the difference in quality is remarkable, but those who already get good FM won't spot as much of a difference.

Combine that with a fairly weak mono speaker and the audio coming out of the AE5230 isn't really exceptional in any way at all. To a certain extent that's to be expected at this price point, where you're paying more for the ability to receive digital radio than the quality of the speakers it's coming out of. That's true of most models in the budget space, so the AE5230 isn't unique in this observation.