Philips Streamium SLA5520i review

Price when reviewed

This latest addition to Philips’ digital music line foregoes the bells and whistles of its predecessors. On the all-plastic housing, you’ll find a socket for the PSU, a reset button and a single 3.5mm analogue audio line-out. The six-line blue-lit LCD measures just 2.8in diagonally, although it goes some way to compensate with sheer brightness. Nonetheless, you’ll struggle to make out what it’s displaying from much more than 6ft away.

You’ll need to leave a PC switched on to act as a media server and, as a UPnP device, you can use any compatible server software, such as Windows Media Connect, MusicMatch or Philips’ own supplied Media Manager software.

Once you’ve pointed the software at a media library, you can connect the Streamium to an 802.11b/g wireless network – there’s no wired Ethernet. The Setup wizard then appears, displaying available networks.

Once connected, the Home screen shows a list of the available software servers, as well as options for Internet Radio and Favorites. The former supports both WMA and MP3 stations, plus streaming stations you can connect to without needing to switch on a PC. You’ll need to register your device first to use these, though, by entering your email address via the remote control. You’ll then receive an email asking you to register at Philips’ website, where you can then manage your Streamium’s preferences. You’ll have to be registered and logged in to do everything from auto-updating the time to managing internet radio stations and upgrading firmware. Clever, but unnecessarily complicated.

Enthusiasts will find some frustrations, such as how songs are listed alphabetically when browsed by artist. If you know your music collection by album, it’s horribly counter-intuitive. You can’t turn off the screen and keep it playing either. Only WMA and MP3 formats are supported, although it can also play WMA DRM-protected files.

The SLA5520i is a curious mix of reassuringly simple and needlessly confusing. If you’re looking to make the most of your digital music collection, look elsewhere. For daily playback of a small MP3 library, though, it’s a good-value option.

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