By Gerry Blackwell
November 21, 2008
Sanyo R227 Internet Radio
Price: about $ 200
Advantages: This seems good; it looks good; works as Internet radio, FM tuner, media player; thousands of pre-programmed internet radio stations
The inconvenients: Difficult to configure media player functions; weak user interface
It had to happen.
Japan’s first major electronics maker has entered the increasingly crowded market for Wi-Fi-based internet radio devices, a market so far dominated by start-ups and radio specialists.
Sanyo will launch R227 Internet Radio in the United States in January. It is already available in Canada (for around US $ 200) and other markets.
I-radios are stand-alone devices that allow you to play Internet radio streams and podcasts without a computer or separate speaker system. They include built-in speakers and amplification, and connect to audio streams over the internet via a Wi-Fi (or wired) link to your local network.
Most also work as wireless media players, extracting audio files from your computers and hard drives, and as stand-alone FM radios.
The Sanyo R227 does all of this and has a few things to recommend over competing products. For starters, the price is right. I-radios with similar functionality sell for up to $ 650.
It is also one of the few on the market that has true stereo capability, this is true in the sense that it has two built-in speakers instead of one like most I radios. the speakers point to the sides in opposite directions, it is difficult to achieve a true stereo effect.
Still, the R227 sounds good, better than some more expensive products, but not nearly as good as the best, such as the Tivoli Audio NetWorks (which is also, at nearly $ 600, the most expensive.)
Some listeners might complain that the sound is a little too warm, a little too low, but to our ears it made listening easier for long periods of time. Most I-radios tend to sound too bright, bordering on glow.
And the R227 looks good. In terms of shape and size, it looks like an old-fashioned tabletop radio from the 1960s, but with a very modern piano gloss black steel finish and brushed steel with beautifully molded contours.
Debit side? Very basic I-radio features, poor user interface, and broken media player functionality.
Our out-of-the-box experience, however, was generally good. Connecting the RSS7 to a wireless test network was successful.
Like most I radios, the R227 includes a small monochrome LCD screen on the front to display menus, station and track lists, and FM frequencies.
A simple on-device software wizard, displayed on the LCD screen, guides you through the process of finding and selecting a network and entering an encryption key if necessary.
Our test network uses MAC address filtering, which requires adding the hardware address of each device to the software of the Wi-Fi router. The preproduction user manual we received from Sanyo, unlike the documentation for most I-radios, explained where to find the MAC address (in the device’s configuration menus) and even gave instructions on how to configure MAC filtering.
As a radio I, the R227 performs quite well. Sanyo uses chip technology, firmware and an internet radio database from Reciva Ltd. Reciva technology is also used in I radios from other suppliers.
Sanyo says the R227 is preprogrammed to bring “thousands” of Internet stations, without saying how numerous thousands. However, the Reciva database, according to the company’s website, currently includes 14,748 stations and 21,242 podcasts.
It’s not clear if the R227 can receive all of them, but it is capable of playing streams in all three major formats: MP3, WMA, and RealAudio.
The Sanyo radio is missing a few I-radio bells and whistles found in other products we have tried. You can browse stations by genre or location, for example, but within each location or genre, the stations are simply listed in alphabetical order. Some I-radios also organize stations by genre in each location and location in each genre.
There are no lists of recently tuned stations, new stations added to the database or favorites. And you can’t do a keyword search to find stations. These are all features that other I-radios offer.
Many also allow you and your radio to register with a web portal and use the portal to add new stations to the database and add database favorites that immediately appear in the listings in the database. radio.
You also cannot do this with the R227, although you can go to the Reciva site and request that new stations be added to the database. (They appear during the day.)
I-radios work as wireless media players, but generally not as well as specially designed devices such as Logitech’s SlimDevices products or Buffalo Technology’s LinkTheater line.
These products use proprietary server software running on a computer to organize media libraries and manage communication with the player. Rather, I-radios rely on features built into Microsoft Windows – either folder sharing or media library sharing (the latter requires a recent version of Windows Media Player.)
Our experience of configuring these features on the R227 has been more frustrating than with most of the I radios we have tried. Sanyo radio could play sample tracks in a shared folder on the main hard drive of the test system, but not the extracted files to a folder on an external hard drive.
It also had to search the network for PCs every time we went into Media Player mode. Other I-radios do this automatically and much faster, or record the list of PCs and folders from one session to another.
Then it has to scan the selected folders which in the case of the very large main music folder on our external drive took way too long and systematically caused the R227 to crash and then restart.
To be fair, this could be an issue with Media Player, with Vista, or with the way they are configured on our test system. We have had similar, albeit less serious, problems with media player functions on other I-radio products.
FM reception was good on the R227 and the search function worked well, finding medium strength stations in our area that other I radios we tried ignored.
We also like that the FM antenna is a dipole type – a flexible wire instead of a rigid telescopic antenna like on most I radios. A rigid antenna makes it difficult to place the radio on a shelf with a shelf on it. above because you cannot extend the antenna.
The R227’s user interface is definitely not one of its strong points. The buttons on the wireless remote control are too small and poorly organized.
For example, the Select key is at the top while the scroll keys (only up and down) are at the bottom. Virtually every electronic device on the planet today has a four-way scroll control with a select button in the middle. Why would Sanyo deviate from it?
A large jog dial on the front of the radio makes it easy to scroll through menus and lists, if for some odd reason you wanted to get up from your comfortable seat rather than using the remote. But the other keys on the front are too small and / or difficult to handle.
Not that the user interface is the most important criteria in evaluating a product like this. You can get used to a bad interface, but not bad sound.
Bottom line: the Sanyo R227 is far from perfect. Internet radio functionality is basic, media player functionality was difficult to configure, interface is poor. But it looks nice, it sounds remarkably good for a small radio, and the price is right.
Gerry Blackwell is a seasoned tech journalist and frequent contributor to Wi-Fi Planet. He is based in Canada.