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As well as needing a network connection to communicate with the controller, the Folio also reaches out to the Internet to pull down track details and cover art for each CD that you rip. The device will also check for updates regularly, and if there is a new firmware available, it will download and apply it overnight.
Unfortunately, the wireless controller is somewhat disappointing. To be fair, it does everything I'd want it to, but it just doesn't do it very well. Rather than design and manufacture its own controller, Pinnacle Audio has chosen to use a Nokia N810 Internet Tablet. The Folio app gives you most of the functionality you'd want, like being able to search/browse by artist, album, playlist etc. but the experience is hampered by inconsistent navigation methods and woefully sluggish response.
For instance, when I'm browsing by artist I can't swipe the screen up and down to scroll, instead I have to press up and down arrows at the side. However, once I select and artist and album, I then no longer have arrows to press and instead have to swipe the screen up and down to scroll. But unfortunately, since Nokia tablets employ resistive rather than capacitive screens, it's not that easy to swipe and scroll smoothly - I sometimes found myself having to take out the stylus and use the scroll bar instead. And when you do find the track or album that you wish to select, the controller can take an age to respond.
I can understand why Pinnacle Audio has chosen to use a third party device as its controller, after all the cost of designing and manufacturing its own wireless remote would be significant to say the least. However, when you compare the Folio's controller to the latest Sonos CR200 touch-screen controller, it looks and feels like an antique.
The guys at Pinnacle Audio did tell me that the decision to use the Nokia tablet wasn't purely to do with cost, since it also meant that if a better third party solution came along, they could switch to that, and I can see some merit in that argument. That said, even taking the Sonos CR200 out of the equation, the Sonos iPhone app is also infinitely slicker and more user friendly than the Folio's controller solution. Perhaps an iPhone app and a bundled iPod touch would be a better idea.
It's clear that Pinnacle Audio is aiming the Folio at the audiophile market when you look at the pricing. The entry level Folio with two 250GB hard disks installed has an RRP of £2,399, while 500GB and 750GB configurations will cost you £2,499 and £2,799 respectively.
I have to say that the £400 cost increase from 250GB drives to 750GB drives is somewhat shocking when you consider that 1TB drives can be had for less than £60 each. Unfortunately you can't buy a Folio without disks installed and fit your own, but I was told that the cost differential for higher capacity options would be looked at.
On the plus side, anyone who orders a Folio before the end of March 2010 will get a 15 per cent discount on their purchase. But even with the discount, this is still a very expensive digital music solution.
There's a lot to like about the Folio, but it ultimately lacks the polish that its high price demands. The biggest let down is the controller, which can be both unintuitive and unresponsive, ultimately making it frustrating to use. The need for the controller to link to your wireless router is also slightly disappointing, as is the Folio's lack of built-in wireless functionality.
The sound quality via the Folio's internal DAC is very impressive, but it's worth remembering that if you buy a good external DAC then any media streamer with a digital output can sound just as good. Plus every digital source you have could benefit.
The simplicity of getting your music onto the Folio is a big draw, and If that is paramount to you, and you have deep enough pockets, then it could be worth considering. For me though, as it stands, it doesn't feel like the finished article and better solutions can be had for far less cash.
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