The Squeezebox Radio doesn’t have a touchscreen, so navigating its menu system has a rather traditional feel, and is controlled by the large rubberised button in the centre of its control panel. The main menu offers links to key features such as your computer’s library and Internet radio.
A fistful of additional features can be added to the device with the built-in app store. Let’s be clear – this isn’t the iPhone App Store we’re dealing with, as there are tens of apps available, not tens of tens of thousands, but most of the things we’d look for are here. At the top of the list is Spotify, a brilliant addition to this box’s roster. Also on hand are Napster, Deezer and Last.FM, while apps for separate sets of stations also let you organise your Squeezebox Radio more keenly.
The BBC radio app is particularly welcome, enabling you to flick to a stream more quickly than using the default Internet Radio interface. Although these apps all rely on pulling-down results and information from online, they’re remarkably quick to operate. We tested the radio with a standard 20MB home broadband connection and were presented with a mostly lag-free, slick experience.
The only real downer to using these streaming services that rely on searching more than casually browsing – thanks to the massive libraries on offer – is that you have to input text letter-by-letter using the control dial. It’s mercifully responsive, but it does leave you longing for a keyboard accessory or touchscreen virtual keyboard. This effect doesn’t pop up when scrolling through your computer's music library or browsing radio stations, as dial navigation feels right at home here, not far removed from using the touch sensitive circular panel of an iPod Classic.
Navigational woes can be eased somewhat by clever use of the six silver preset buttons. As long as you’re currently streaming or browsing though some form of content, be it a radio station, artist on your computer’s hard drive or an album on Spotify, a long press on one of these silver buttons will link it to this content. A quick tap on it at any point will take you right back there.
Updates are applied to the box directly over Wi-Fi, so the only communicating it really needs to do with your PC is when streaming music from its hard drive – and even then the setup process for this happens on your computer rather than the Squeezebox Radio. Just make sure your music is set to be freely shared on your computer, which needs to be on the same Wi-Fi network and turned on – it should show up within the Squeezebox menu.
While the menu system is easy enough to get to grips with, it’s not entirely bug-free. During out testing, some of our icons started randomly disappearing from the main menu, but these problems were sorted with a factory reset. The Squeezebox software is some way off the watertight quality of Apple's iOS system, but it is fast and does work. You’ll just need to employ a little patience every now and then.