Interface and music service
On the other hand, the Slacker G2 onscreen interface is innovative yet simple. On the main playback screen, huge album art dominates the entire screen. The station name and a battery meter takes up a fraction at the top; the track name, artist, a time-remaining bar, and the next artist are laid over in small text at the bottom. Scrolling to the very bottom of the screen automatically pulls up the last menu you were in, pushing the song info up and mostly out of sight at the top. The main menu is unsurprisingly sparse given the G2's relatively few functions. There are selections for stations, library, playlists, and settings. There's also a connect option, which lets you update firmware and refresh the songs on your saved stations anytime you are in range of a Wi-Fi connection that is open or for which you have the key.
Arguably, the coolest thing about the G2 is its wireless functionality and partnership with the Slacker Web Player. A more effortless way to get new music on-the-go simply does not exist--at least not at this cost. Slacker's basic music service is completely free, supported by advertising rather than a subscription fee. Users must deal with about 3 minutes of audio ads per hour and a skip limit of six tracks per hour. The limit also applies to Bans, which prevent a song from playing on a station when applied; contrarily, Hearts mark tracks as favorites, which then play more often on the given station. In this way, you can personalize the stations as you listen to them. If you elect to sign up for Slacker's Premium Radio service, which costs $7.50 a month, you can personalize your listening experience even more with the ability to save songs to your library on the device, which then automatically adds it to the library attached to your account online and in the software. (Premium users also do not get ads and have no skip or Ban limits.)
Performance and extras
Somewhat unfortunately, the Slacker G2 doesn't really include a lot of extras, aside from the ability to support playlists and choose between 10 preset EQs. There's no voice recorder or FM tuner (not that you would want or need the latter on such a device) and no support for photos or videos, which is a bit of a shame given the bright and relatively large display. However, Slacker does make use of the screen by providing artist bios and album reviews, which display as white text on the black background.
During testing, we found that tracks transferred from our personal library (which must be done via a wired connection) sounded better than songs played from the Slacker service. Of course, the G2 doesn't claim to be an audiophile's MP3 player. Quite the opposite, in fact: it's aimed at people who don't want to put a lot of effort into their listening experience, and it succeeds. That said, station tracks sound clear and decently warm. Bass is a little deficient, and high-end detail is not the greatest. Both of these improve with library tracks, which have more high-end sparkle, and a bit more low-end thump.
Wireless update performance was good during our testing, especially given the fact that our signal strength wavered between low and good the entire time (the result of a weak test network, rather than the device). It took about 15 to 20 minutes to refresh 11 stations. The Slacker G2, unlike its predecessor, does have the ability to "step through" terms and conditions pages that are necessary to access many public hot spots. The player's rated 15-hour battery life is not great, and its tested battery life of 9.8 hours is pretty dismal. On the plus side, the included wall charger is more efficient at charging than the USB port method used by most MP3 players.