Internet radio gives you access to thousands of stations, much more than a DAB or FM set could dream of. There’s a slightly more involved setup process to wade through upon initial start-up. Where traditional radios simply have to be tuned in, the Roberts Stream 105 had to be hooked into your home wireless network. There’s no Ethernet port on-board to let you connect directly to a router here. Not that you’d want to do so in most eventualities.
The Stream 105 guides you through the setup process using a simple wizard. Essentially, all you have to do is select the right wireless network and enter in the router’s security key – using the big ‘ole nav dial to select characters in a virtual Qwerty keyboard.
Typing-in terms with a rotary dial like this is far from ideal, but this radio rarely leaves you in this situation, instead letting you easily flick through lists instead. The Roberts Stream 105 can access oodles of radio stations, and their associated podcasts – plus the music library of your home computer thanks to its UPnP feature. Its rubberised knob positively excels at cycling through content libraries, and the software keeps up with quick scrolling very well.
The dedicated Mode button, which cycles through the “AUX In”, “Internet radio” and “Music player” (streaming from computer) functions, also helps to boost the accessibility of this already-simply device. Podcasts are helpfully stored in a sub menu within each radio station’s menu entry, making accessing them similarly easy.
That’s not to say it’s entirely a good thing that more invasive “virtual keyboard moments” don’t crop up in the Stream 105 though. The Squeezebox Radio also offers streaming from a handful of music services including Spotify and Napster, for example. If you’re already a Spotify Premium subscriber this should be enough to make you consider spending the extra £20 on Logitech’s rival.
Roberts is dipping its toe in the world of connected streaming, in a way that doesn’t deviate from the brand’s trad image, and isn’t likely to freak out its long-term fans too much. This is also reflected in the monochrome screen. It’s six lines high, reassuringly blocky and fairly small – but sometimes it’s better when these big-name radio players don’t try to innovate too hard though, as we saw in the Pure Sensia. Clarity of the display is a way off the OLED screen of the Kogan Deluxe, but thanks to the angled screen panel, it’s readable from a couple of metres away.
A completely optional techie’s extra is the ConnectR iOS app. This free app lets you control the radio, including adding some equalisation, when connected to the same Wi-Fi network, using an iPhone, iPod Touch or iPad. The app hasn’t yet been optimised for the iPad’s larger screen, but will work using Apple’s standard pixel doubling. ConnectR is no substitute for Apple Airplay (Apple’s own music-streaming standard) but it’s a neat way to control the radio from the palm of your hand.