Streaming. For those in the know, it's nothing to do with gurgling brooks and forest streams, nor even with streamlining. Rather, it refers to the transfer of digital media over a network, whether that's wired or wireless. There are many devices that do this for video, but recently, dedicated music streamers have become ever more popular.
With music systems that incorporate wireless technology usually starting in the £400 range, what if you've already got a perfectly decent stereo system and just lack that wireless functionality? In that case, you'd be better off looking at something like the Logitech Squeezebox Duet Network Music System. However, since this little box comes in at the £260 line, it's not exactly the most affordable solution. Today we're looking at the Philips NP1100 Streamium Network Music Player, a device that essentially offers largely comparable functionality, but for less than half the price.
Inside the box you'll find the player, remote, RCA and power cables, and a quick start guide plus CD-ROM. At just over 140cm, the power lead is just a tad on the short side for a device you're meant to be able to plug in anywhere, though it does mean a minimum of cable clutter.
The front of the unit is gorgeously minimalistic. The 4in (10cm) LCD screen is framed by a very thick glossy black bezel, and this in turn is framed by a transparent plastic frame that extends around the unit's sides. The effect is similar to the styling on many of the company's other products, such as its Philips Cineos LCD TVs or HTS8140 Ambisound Home Cinema System, and is altogether rather attractive.
Its elegance is broken only by the 'Philips' logo in silver, the Streamium brand name and tiny Wi-Fi logo in white. The unit's sides and back are also silver. At the top resides the small power button, which switches the unit between standby and on.
Connectivity, meanwhile, is pretty good: at the back there are stereo phono jacks, a coaxial digital out, a 3.5mm headphone jack and sockets for Ethernet and power. Of course, this being a Streamium product, you also get 802.11 b/g Wi-Fi as well.
Despite being somewhat basic - lacking features like its own display or backlit buttons - the remote is quite accomplished and a pleasure to use; which is typical for Philips, who have a lot of experience in this field. Buttons are smooth, high quality soft-touch rubberised plastic, and shaped perfectly for precise control. Layout is logical and it's very easy to find the buttons you want without even looking. Another bonus is that the device uses AAA batteries, meaning you can use rechargeables - cheaper for you and so much better for the environment.
Yet, not everything is as accomplished. It would have been nice to have some minimal adjustment controls like volume on the unit itself rather than only the remote, for if you ever temporarily mislay or lose it. A bit of tilt adjustment would also have been appreciated on the NP1100 Streamium, especially considering the screen's odd colour shift in relation to viewing angles. You see, when viewed from the front, it consists of white pixels on a blue background, but at certain angles this might change to white on purple, or even black on light blue. This is probably purposeful on Philips' part, since it does help make the display legible from most angles, but it's not effective 100 per cent of the time.
Getting onto how the device performs, it pretty much does what it says on the box. After a firmware update and a restart, the system plays a short intro which tells you about the NP1100's features, after which you'll need to enter region, date and time. Annoyingly, I needed to re-apply my wireless settings after the reset, including typing the lengthy password all over again using the mobile-phone like pad on the remote - something you won't want to do too often!