Review Price free/subscription
Wi-Fi is useful for all manner of things around the house: you can transfer files and share an Internet connection between multiple PCs. You can even stream media - store your music and video in one central location and play it on a device in a completely different place - something that's especially useful now that most of us have our music and video collections ripped and stored on a PC or laptop hard disk.
And there's a multitude of products on the market aimed at letting you do exactly that, from do-it-all media streaming boxes that let you watch HD video and view pictures on your telly as well as play music through your hi-fi, to specialist systems for audio only. My current favourite has to be Logitech's superb Squeezebox Duet system, with its simple, yet powerful operation, and beautifully well-thought out design. But it has a drawback - you have to already own a decent stereo system to make it worth your while investing. If you don't, buying everything at once can get a little expensive: the Squeezebox system costs £279, and that's for just one player and the remote.
If wireless music sounds a good idea, but you don't like the mix and match approach - or the potentially spiralling cost - Philips' new WACS7500 (follow up to the WACS7000 I reviewed) could have the answer. It's a wireless music system, but one you don't have to own a hi-fi, or even a PC to run successfully - everything is completely self-contained. And it's not just a starter kit either. For £700 you get a two-box system: one Centre - a big beefy hi-fi unit which represents the business end of the set-up - and one Station - a smaller and less fully-featured device. Both have built in flat panel speakers, subwoofers and amplifiers and both look pretty swanky, dressed in glossy black with sculpted Perspex trim and cool white lights.
The essential premise is simple. The Centre has an 80GB hard disk on board to which you can rip CDs using its top-mounted slot-loading CD player, complete with track names, artist names and even album art picked up using a preinstalled Gracenote database. You simply load a disc, hit record, and the disc will rip at 4x speed, or you can rip while playing. These ripped CDs can then be played back in HD mode on the centre itself - and you can browse in the normal way once this is done, via artist, album, genre and so on - or you can stream them to the station.