- Clean, crisp sound
- Easy to use LCD touch screen
- Attractive design, solid build
- No USB port
- No Spotify
- Occasional brightness
- Review Price: £229.99
- 2 x 5W power output
- DLNA-certified music and photo streaming
- Napster access
- Built-in Wi-Fi
- Smartphone control
The NP3700 hails from the same Streamium family as Philips’ MCI8080 music system, which we reviewed recently. It’s designed as a partner for the MCI8080 in a multiroom system (they’re sold together as a bundle in some countries), so if you’re blasting a track stored on the MCI8080 downstairs, you can stream it to the NP3700 upstairs.
But the NP3700 is a decent little music centre in its own right. There’s no CD/DVD drive like the MCI8080, but thanks to its built-in Wi-Fi connection (802.11b/g/n) it can stream music from other uPnP devices on your network (PCs, MACs, NAS drives and the like) as well as providing access to internet radio and Napster’s music streaming service. Wireless music streaming is all the rage, so if you’re not already on the bandwagon this compact, convenient unit provides an excellent introduction.
It’s equipped with built-in stereo speakers with 2 x 5W amplification, which doesn’t sound like much but is absolutely fine for the bedroom or kitchen where it’s likely to live. Design-wise it’s cute but classy, sharing similar but inferior styling to the MCI8080’s control unit without the brushed metal finish.
Build quality is of the highest order – there’s an eye-catching gloss black panel on top, embedded into which is an LCD touch screen. This not only allows up-close control of all of the NP3700’s functions but also reduces clutter on the unit itself. The few functions that aren’t incorporated into the touch screen – standby, volume and mute – are given physical buttons on a lip just in front of the screen.
The rear panel is fairly sparse, but it has no real need for extensive connections. There’s an Ethernet port for those who don’t do wireless, a 3.5mm stereo line in (which Philips calls MP3 Link as it’s handy for MP3 players) and a port for the optional DCK3060 iPod/iPhone dock. It’s a shame Philips couldn’t stretch to a USB port though, which would have offered another convenient way of playing digital media.
The NP3700 can stream a healthy range of music formats over its Wi-Fi network connection, including MP3, WMA, AAC (non-DRM), eAAC, FLAC and Ogg Vorbis. You can even stream JPEG photos and view them on the LCD screen!
The NP3700 also boasts internet radio support, which is always a bonus as it caters for a broader range of tastes than DAB or FM. You can access thousands of stations through the Philips’ smart, logical user interface, which helps you find a specific station or lets you scroll through long, long lists (not recommended).
If for any reason you don’t get on with the NP3700’s supplied remote (which is unlikely as it’s a well laid out and intuitive zapper) you can use an iPod Touch, iPhone or Android to control the unit; just download Philips’ free MyRemote app and away you go. It lets you control several networked Philips devices, switching between them on your phone.
Those with a Napster account can access the service through the NP3700, and if not you can use the voucher code for a 30-day trial to see if you like it. After downloading the software needed to run it, which took a good ten minutes, we delved into Napster and found the interface a joy to use. It boasts a colossal music library of over 10 million tracks, and being able to access it so quickly and conveniently without a PC in sight is a huge boon. That said, it’s slightly disappointing that you don’t get Spotify into the bargain, which is found on the MCI8080.
Operating the NP3700 is a piece of cake, thanks largely to the brilliant LCD touch screen. Its user-friendly menu structure, instant responsiveness and gorgeous, full colour graphics make it easy to navigate from the very first time you use it.
Content lists are clear and straightforward, and when playing back music from any source the LCD displays album art and all available metadata. Setup is equally hassle-free, particularly the network connection which can be a real pain on some network streamers. The unit searches for all Wi-Fi routers automatically, displays the results in a list and allows you to enter your password using a surprisingly intuitive onscreen keyboard (or using the alphanumeric buttons on the remote).
Within the setup menu there’s a ‘Sound’ section, which allows you to activate Incredible Surround and FullSound, both of which are designed to add a bit of spice to your music, as well as adjust the bass and treble levels. You’ll also find a wealth of other small but significant features, like play modes (shuffle being a crucial one), a buzzer/music alarm and sleep timer, which effectively makes this a decent clock radio too.
We didn’t encounter any of the initial streaming hesitancy of the MCI8080 – the stable connection ensures a smooth, consistent streaming experience. And it’s testament to the NP3700’s Wi-Fi stability that we were able to stream from a garden office a fair distance from the router in the house, with fewer drop-outs than expected.
Playing a range of audio files over our Wi-Fi network from a Windows 7 PC, we were highly impressed by the NP3700’s sound quality. Granted, you don’t get a massive amount of power and punch with just 10W on board, but what you do get is a very crisp and detailed sound that will serve you well no matter what genre you’re into.
We started out with some uptempo house tracks where the hi-hats floated along nicely, vocals had admirably body to them, and the overall sound was more fulsome than we expected from such a small unit. There’s decent bass depth too thanks to the efforts of FullSound, which is more at home here than on the MCI8080, but not quite enough to balance out the treble bias. A tinge of brightness at loud volumes reminds you of the speakers’ limitations.
We also tried out a bit of Amy Winehouse and the chanteuse’s distinctive vocal tones came across loud and clear without testing your aural tolerance, while the jazzy music backdrop was warm and rhythmic. There was some lovely high frequency detail in the mix too.
Internet radio sound quality varies according to the station bitrate but none of the stations we tried gave any cause for concern. Likewise Napster content, which the NP3700 played back with admirable smoothness and clarity.
The NP3700’s range of networking talents, coupled with its crisp sound quality and ease of use, make it a solid proposition for those looking to enter the wonderful world of music streaming. We love the top-mounted colour LCD touch screen, which is intuitive, responsive and incredibly cool. The ability to access Napster and internet radio will be welcomed by music lovers with specialist tastes, and being able to stream them from the bedroom or kitchen is incredibly convenient. The only foibles are the lack of an USB port and slightly bright sound, but in the face of such brilliance elsewhere these are relatively minor quibbles.
Score in detail
Sound Quality 8