At the beginning of the month details of the Sonos CR200 controller leaked onto the web, and many Sonos fans, myself included breathed a sigh of relief. If you're not aware of Sonos' multi-room, wireless music streaming systems, have a quick look at the Sonos BU150 bundle that I reviewed last year. And although that bundle represented a great package at an attractive price, the CR100 controller was really starting to look dated.
Although the iPod-like wheel on the CR100 was ideal for navigating large music libraries a few years back, the development of Sonos' system meant that searching for specific tracks or artists in huge online libraries was far from intuitive. Plus, the launch of the iPhone/iPod touch Sonos app last year showed just how limiting the CR100 was.
But today, the CR200 is officially launching in the UK, so for all those Sonos users who have been praying for a touch-screen controller, the wait is now over. I'll admit that it has taken longer than I would have liked for the CR200 to arrive, but having got my paws on an early sample I can promise you that it was worth the wait. It's clear that Sonos didn't want to replace the CR100 until it had a product that was worthy of taking up the mantle.
First up, the CR200 fits perfectly in the hand, allowing for single handed operation - something that definitely wasn't an option with the CR100, unless you had hands like a bear! The back of the device has a rubberised finish, so it shouldn't slip out of your hand, and if you put it down on a table, the small rubber feet will ensure that it won't be easily knocked off. Another nice touch is that the CR200 has a user replaceable battery, with a new battery pack costing around £30.
The 3.5in screen is a fine example, with a resolution of 640 x 480 and LED backlighting, it really does offer a better experience than the old CR100 and even the iPhone. Sonos has also opted for capacitive touch-screen technology, so that it's very finger friendly, although the company has stopped short of implementing multi-touch functionality.
Like the CR100, the CR200 has a motion sensor so that it automatically switches on when it's picked up. However, the CR200 will also wake up when you tap the screen, allowing you to use it while it's still in the cradle, and since it reverts to a clock when not in use, you can give it a quick tap to check what the time is.
The CR200 will come with a docking cradle, unlike the CR100 and as such, the charger can't be plugged directly into the unit. As of today the CR200 will replace the CR100 in all Sonos bundles, with only a slight price increase to cover the cost of the bundled cradle, which wasn't part of the old bundles. For existing Sonos owners, the CR200 alone will set you back £279.
There's no doubt that the CR200 is a huge improvement over the old controller, with some great new features, but I'll save some surprises for the full review, so check back soon.