Initially, we also found fault in the way you control the MCi500H. For instance, the 'OK' button, found in the centre of the D-pad that sits on the main unit and is repeated on the remote, looks like it should be used to select (i.e. open) items as you browse your music collection, much like the way the central button on an iPod's scroll wheel works. Instead it doubles up as the play button so pressing it while highlighting an artist will start the MCi500H playing all the songs by that artist.
To browse your music you actually use the right and left buttons to delve deeper into a folder tree or work your way back out, respectively. Because of this the left and right buttons don't double up for skipping forward and back through tracks, either. Instead there are separate buttons for this.
In essence we found a few operations less than intuitive but once we'd got the hang of its idiosyncrasies we found the MCi500H quick and easy to use.
However, what we couldn't come to terms with, no matter how long we persisted, was the sound quality. Despite the move to a proper Hi-Fi setup, the MCi500H just doesn't have the fidelity to rival even a basic conventional Hi-Fi. There's oodles of volume and the sound stage is certainly more expansive and involving than the all-in-one boxes but, while there's plenty of it, bass sounds boomy and uncontrolled yet lacks any real punch. Likewise the muted top-end limits any real sense of involvement in the music you're listening to. Put simply, you can spend quite a bit less and get significantly better sound quality from a conventional micro system.
Of course, what Philps has striven for with the MCi500H and the Streamium range in general is to offer a lower cost alternative to high-end network music systems, like the Logitech Squeezebox and Sonos ranges, that packs in plenty of features, is easy to use, and doesn't compromise on sound quality too much and for the most part it has succeeded. Certainly we can think of no quicker or cheaper entry into the world of networked music. However, if you're tempted by the MCi500H as a standalone unit to just play your mp3 collection we'd recommend you just buy a decent micro system and an iPod dock instead.
If you plan to use the Philips Streamium MCi500H as the hub to a low cost network music system then it's definitely worth considering but as a standalone mp3 compatible micro system it doesn't quite cut it.