Philips Streamium SL300i
The first major manufacturer to enter the digital media receiver fray, Philips successfully launched its debut Streamium model back in 2002. Since then, the company has continued to expand its Streamium lineup with increasingly capable products, such as the SL00i, a digital media receiver that wirelessly streams audio, image, and video files from your PC's hard drive and the Internet to your home entertainment system.
The vertically oriented SL300i ($299 list) looks more like a home networking device than an A/V component, but that's not a deal-breaking gripe since many competitors, such as SMC's, have similar styling. Although the Streamium lacks front-panel controls, a full-size remote is supplied for navigating the device's well-organized TV-based user interface. Most digital media receiver remotes have Page Up and Page Down keys to help scroll long track lists rapidly, but inconveniently, that's not the case here.
In addition to allowing users to individually add Internet radio station URLs, the Streamium supports a wide array of free and fee-based Web media services. Selections include the Adante on-demand classical music service, plus the Playhouse Radio for children, RadioFreeVirgin, Launchcast@Yahoo, Live365, and Musicmatch Internet radio services. Only Adante requires a subscription ($10/month), while optional Musicmatch and Live365 subscriptions get you access to a wider selection of stations than the services' free versions offer. You can also launch simple games, play iFilm short movies, and view Launch Music videos and Yahoo Movie trailers. What's more, Yahoo Photos' online photo galleries are supported, enabling you to remotely upload photos to your account, then view them on the Streamium. We signed up for a free Adante trial and liked the service and its sound quality, but we longed for some variety beyond classical tunes. Unlikeand audio-only competition such as and , the SL300i doesn't support , an on-demand subscription music service with a behemoth catalog of mainstream music. Despite its compatibility with , the SL300i also proved incapable of streaming tracks from Musicmatch On Demand, a competitor to Rhapsody.
Compared to some digital media receivers, including Philips's pricier SL400i ($449 list), the SL300i isn't especially well stocked in the connectivity department. Around back, you'll find composite and S-Video inputs, but the device lacks the higher-quality component-video output found on the 400i. The SL300i has two stereo analog RCA audio outputs but doesn't have a digital audio output, and there's no headphone jack for private listening. To its credit, the SL300i does have built-in 802.11g wireless networking in addition to an Ethernet port for wired networks.
The SL300i offers extensive file format support: it plays MP3, MP3Pro, Real Audio, and WAV audio files (and M3U playlists); and MPEG-1, MPEG-2, MPEG-4, DivX, and XviD video files; and it displays JPEG, BMP, and GIF image files. Unfortunately, it's not compatible with WMA or AAC files, including those from online music stores.