Name: colourSTREAM (ROBERTS)
Type: DAB/Internet Radio with iPod Dock
Specs: Click here for full specs
Price: £176.09 from Amazon
Image Gallery: Click here
Billed as a next-gen radio system, the ROBERTS colourSTREAM has a list of features as long as your arm. Everything from DAB to internet radio stations are included, while a touchscreen and iPod dock make it very much a device for Generation App. There’s a lot to love here, but a few niggling issues prevent the colourSTREAM from achieving five-star status.
While quite large at 340(w) x 130(h) x 260(d) mm and 3.4 kg in weight, the colourSTREAM’s gloss-black finish and curved edges will make it slip in comfortably in most homes. This attractive look is only improved upon turning the radio on, when the front-mounted, bright and colourful resistive touchscreen fires up with a blue ring and strip of lights surround the central volume and power dial.
As mentioned before, the colourSTREAM can pipe in music from an excellently varied number of sources. These include DAB, FM, internet radio, iPod, a networked PC, a music-filled USB drive, AUX source or via Last.fm (to which a 30-day premium subscription is included within the colourSTREAM’s asking price). Many of these obviously require a network connection, and the colourSTREAM makes the set-up process very painless. A set-up wizard launches upon first switching on the radio; you can either set a wired LAN as your connection of choice, or a Wi-Fi one. Using the touchscreen text entry keypad made finding our network very easy, as well as entering our WEP key, and we were good to go within 5 or 10 minutes.
Once the wizard is complete, the colourSTREAM launches its home screen, which, with it’s icon-based interface, will be look eerily familiar to iPhone users. From here you’re able to select your source, with each given a separate brightly coloured tile.
As we mentioned earlier, setting up the internet connection was incredibly easy, and we never once experienced a signal drop-out from whichever networked source we accessed, despite a notoriously flakey Wi-Fi connection being used. The colourSTREAM UI however, left a little to be desired. While it’s sensibly laid out, allowing you to intuitively browse tens of thousands of internet web stations and search for them by text-entry, the small number of channels displayed on screen at once meant for painfully long lists to scroll through. This was particularly noticeable when browsing our relatively large PC-based mp3 collection; if we weren’t using the text entry screen to pinpoint a specific track, it was a real chore to navigate.
This problem is exacerbated by the sluggish speed of the system; you’ll often wait a few seconds for the screen to refresh your browsing scroll, which can result in you pushing the down-scroll touch button too many times by mistake, believing your tap of the resistive touchscreen to have gone unrecognised, and making you over-shoot the track you’re looking for. Also, giving support for iPods, but not iPhones, seems quite the oversight.
Despite these problems, the colourSTREAM still manages to impress in the audio department. A full-bodied warm sound blasts out of the 2 x 15 watts speakers at a reasonably loud level, making even the comparatively low bitrate internet radio streams and podcasts sound great. There’s also the option to tweak custom equaliser settings, or pick from a lengthy list of presets to suit all ears. The included remote control is nice and sturdy too, with dedicated “Love” and “Ban” buttons for those who make plenty of use of the Last.fm functionality, though all the buttons are a little stiff to push.
It’s got its problems which hold it back from true greatness, but we do have a soft spot for the ROBERTS colourSTREAM. It’s the easiest internet radio to set-up we’ve ever used, and while the UI is sluggish and a little cramped in places, it’s so self-explanatory that even a technophobe could navigate it, providing they have the patience. Not a bad first attempt by ROBERTS by any means, and we look forward to seeing them explore touchscreen interfaces in future releases.