Philips describes its Philips Streamium NP2900 network music player as a way of experiencing music without borders. It acts as a wireless server providing access to the tunes stored on your home PC or on other connected devices and can also be used as an internet radio.
The Philips Streamium NP2900 is an updated version of the NP1100 we looked at last year but found rather hefty and its menu clunky to negotiate. Happily, both the design and navigation issues have now been addressed.
In common with other products in the Philips Streamium range of home entertainment products, the Philips Streamium NP2900 sports a sleek black exterior with a silver band. The redesigned box now takes the form of a wide sound bar on a sturdy metal stand. (Its predecessor was rather more box than bar.)
To be truthful, the Philips Streamium NP2900 bears more than a passing resemblance to the Logitech Squeezebox, one of the best-known and classiest looking wireless sound systems of this type. The unit weighs 1.48kg and is 69mm deep - just heavy enough and shallow enough to sit on a shelf and not topple over.
The Philips Streamium NP2900 pumps out up to 30 Watts of sound via two pairs of speakers that sandwich the full-colour 4in LCD that dominates the unit's front and that is used to display album art and photos. A chunky black antenna swivels up at the back right to pick up a Wi-Fi signal and can tuck out of sight if you prefer to connect to your network via ethernet.
As well as the ethernet and DC mains power connections midway down the back of the Philips Streamium NP2900, there's a headphone jack, a digital out connection and left and right audio out connections. A wall-mounting bracket is provided and this fits proud of the connections at the back and is neatly labelled.
You get a smart remote control that, unlike some, has functions that match those of the device it's intended to control. Functions allow direct access to different EQ settings including living sound and full sound, the shuffle and internet radio. You can also Favourite particular songs or radio stations using the remote control. The US version of the Philips Streamium NP2900 supports Rhapsody and comes with a month-long subscription to the service.
Power and volume buttons are also provided on the Philips Streamium NP2900 itself, along with a mute button that comes in handy if you want to silence the alarm.
Given the Philips Streamium NP2900's trim dimensions, the inclusion of a clock and alarm clock make sense, as the bedroom is an ideal location for it. We also liked the fact that this is a proper internet radio and network music player with all the controls built into the device itself - a more satisfactory setup than an iPod dock. Better yet, it has some cracking speakers and a lovely tone.
The simplicity of the Philips Streamium NP2900 setup is another big plus. Plug it in, let it automatically acquire the settings for your home network and then start discovering web radio stations or rediscovering gems stored in your music library. Unlike the remote controls on some such devices - the Apple TV, for example - you don't have to spend an age individually selecting characters on your onscreen keyboard - the remote control's numeric keypad also has letters assigned to it, so entering your password takes only a few seconds.
In recent weeks, Philips has issued a firmware update to the Philips Streamium NP2900 to include a SuperScroll feature that makes it much faster to get to the artist or album you want. Hold down the up or down arrow and you begin to jump letter by letter rather than entry by entry - a barrier to enjoyment previously and on the predecessor NP110 unit.
We were also pleased by how quickly we were able to acquire network settings and begin browsing the contents of our iTunes library as well as individual music folders stored elsewhere.
As well as anything in MP3, WAV, WMA or Ogg Vorbis format, the Philips Streamium NP2900 can play any AAC-encoded track in your iTunes library that doesn't have DRM protection. We enjoyed experimenting with the EQ settings, of which there are five. These allow you to emphasise different parts of the music. You can also switch between a FullSound and LivingSound - the latter is intended to widen the optimal listening zone so you don't get a distorted playback if you're not midway between the speakers. It's a similar principle to one Philips has tried with the under-unit speaker bar for its large-screen TVs.
The Philips Streamium NP2900 can play an album while displaying a slideshow of your photos too - just press the Play/Pause button on the remote to go from a static image to viewing as slideshow. The NP2900 does this unfussily, with none of the twee transitions some manufacturers insist on including.
You can use the Philips network music player without having to have your PC switched on - as long as your network is active, you can enjoy internet radio. After only a couple of seconds buffering we were chilling out to Radio Tropicana from Guatemala and enjoying the frenzy of some Azerbaijaini violins. Once stations were acquired, playback was smooth and interfere free.
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