Looking a bit more closely at the 250 x 225 x 150mm speakers, they're sturdily built from fibre board with a black textured veneer covering the top, bottom and sides. This could be mistaken for a faux wood effect but is in fact more of a brushed metal style that looks very attractive. Each contains a pair of drivers with a 12cm woofer and 2.5cm tweeter up front, a bass port on the back and of course the connectors as well. Standard cloth covers are included, which can be removed if you want a slightly edgier look. All told, they look classy and feel well made.
The mains cable for the amp is hard wired in so can't be replaced by a longer or shorter one as per your preference but at around one metre in length it seems ample for most people's needs. The same can be said of the included speaker cables, which are of a decent thickness and made of pure copper. They lack proper connectors (though this is typical for HiFi equipment) but are of a decent 1.5m length. You can of course easily and cost effectively replace these if you need extra length.
Turn the unit on and the two line display is revealed. It shows basic track, station, time, and song information and is clear with good viewing angles. Some of the finer text can be a little hard to read from across a modest living room but general navigation is easy.
Pop a CD in the drive and the unit works as intuitively as you would expect with the front controls letting you get to the right input, start playback, move through tracks and adjust volume. However, fire up the radio or dock an iPod and you'll be stuck without the remote.
Sadly, the remote isn't the most elegant or intuitive design we've ever encountered. Its square edges, stumpy form, plastic construction and rubber buttons all combine to make it feel somewhat cheap while the layout is at best perfunctory and at worst, somewhat unwieldy. For instance, you're basically unable to control ipod playback properly beyond skipping tracks and play/pausing - navigating albums is a nightmare - while there are seemingly unnecessary dedicated play/pause buttons for USB, iPod and CD. Meanwhile you have to resort to the fast forward buttons to skip through radio stations (again, this is something you can't do without the remote).
With time you learn its idiosyncrasies but quite how a company that makes such quality products in terms of performance can still come up with such a rudimentary remote, we don't know. It would be nice to have backlit buttons as well, though that omission is more understandable given this unit's price.
Thankfully, what the Onkyo CS-545UK lacks in usability (and inputs) it more than makes up for with performance. From classical music through the latest grimy beats to the most bombastic of movie sound tracks, this unit's all-round sound allows it to shine.