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Once everything is working and the machine has booted (which takes about 10 seconds), you're greeted by three simple icons; namely Music, Internet Radio and Settings. There is a slightly annoying beep with every adjustment you make, but thankfully it can be turned off. The first two functions are really straightforward, with Music granting you access to your collection stored on a PC or any UPnP capable media server, and Internet Radio giving you access, surprisingly enough, radio over the Internet.
Speaking of which, if you haven't experienced Internet Radio before, you'll likely be stunned: literally thousands of channels are at your fingertips, from any country in the world. These are searchable by the genre of music they play, their popularity, language, region, and a myriad of other categories - and of course you can also assign favourites.
Streaming music from your PC, meanwhile, couldn't be simpler - if you're running Microsoft's Windows OS and Media Player 11 (included on the disc). The instructions in the provided manual are clear and concise, and all it takes is a few clicks, even with the NP1100 Streamium in standby mode. Going to Music on the menu then lets you select which machine you want to stream from, and hey presto, you're listening to the music collection from your bedroom PC or any NAS device supporting UPnP on your sitting room's sound system. Format support is decent with MP3, WMA and AAC part of the party, though support for FLAC and other lossless formats would be nice.
When putting the Streamium into standby, after politely telling you "goodbye" it will turn into a clock which also displays the date. This, it must be said, is a very handy feature, though I wish Philips had provided the option to turn it completely off.
In fact, my only real complaints with the NP1100 concern the screen: though it's large, it is also very low resolution, meaning you can only see a few of the options when going through lists. In addition, titles can rarely be displayed completely and text scrolls excruciatingly slowly, so forget about quickly reading the artist's name.
So how does Philips' effort compare to similar devices on the market? The Logitech Squeezebox Duet Network Music System is an interesting high-end alternative. Of course, for its price of around £250 you can get two of the Philips units, but in addition to dual digital audio connections and hub functionality, the Squeezebox Duet offers a beautiful remote with its own 2.4in full colour, higher resolution LCD screen.
Another device you might want to take a peek at is the Creative Xmod Wireless, though this is a bit different in functionality. It uses a main transmitter/hub that you connect up to the source through USB, and this in turn streams music to the receiver after applying the X-Fi treatment. It doesn't, however, have any of the Internet Radio capabilities of the NP1100, something that to our minds adds a lot of value. Also, there's no network or digital sound connectivity and most importantly, the lack of a screen means track selection is blind. Still, at around £60 it's half the price of the Philips.
The Philips NP1100 Streamium Network Music Player gives you the ability to stream your music collection from any networked source to any sound system or pair of headphones, and to listen to Internet Radio without turning on a PC. With attractive looks, good connectivity and simple usage, only a few niggles keep it from a recommended award.
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