Sonos may have taken its time to launch a touch-screen controller, but it was worth the wait. The CR200 looks superb, in a minimalist kind of way. The handset is dominated by the 3.5in capacitive touch-screen, but below the screen are some hardware buttons. The buttons in question are up/down volume, mute and a shortcut to the Zone menu. It’s a smart move putting these key controls onto hardware buttons, allowing you to, for example, mute the music without the need to navigate any menus – ideal if the phone rings.
The CR200 is around half the size of the outgoing CR100, while the screen is in a completely different league. Putting the touch functionality to one side for a moment, the screen on the CR200 is not only far larger than on the CR100, but is also of a far, far higher quality. You’re getting a full VGA 640 x 480 resolution for a start, so everything looks pin sharp. Add to that the fact that Sonos has implemented an LED backlight system for the CR200, so colours are rich and vibrant, making images on the CR100 look pale and washed out by comparison. The screen is also transflective, so if you’re using it out in the garden in bright sunlight, you’ll still be able to see it clearly. Oh, and there’s also an ambient light sensor, so the level of backlighting can be adjusted accordingly.
Using the CR200 is an absolute joy. The capacitive nature of the screen makes finger operation a breeze. Scrolling through lists has that lovely inertia effect that was pioneered on the iPhone and copied badly by so many other devices, CR200 excepted. And if you have a particularly long list of artists, songs or albums, you can scroll through the alphabet located on the right hand edge of the screen and just jump straight to the required letter. Again this is something first seen on the iPhone, but it works just as beautifully on the CR200.
Searching for artists or tracks is infinitely easier than it was on the CR100, since now you can simply type in what you’re looking for using the virtual keyboard. The virtual keyboard is a good one too, with keys large enough to facilitate accurate inputs even when typing quickly. You also get a very swift auto-complete feature, so if I search my music library for Pearl Jam, I only need to type “Pe” before the CR200 returns the result I’m looking for.
Since the CR200 is so much smaller than its predecessor, it’s easy to hold and use the device with one hand – something that simply wasn’t possible with the CR100. The rubberised back means that you’ve always got a good grip on the device, and also makes it quite secure when it’s placed on a table or worktop – if you have cats as naughty as mine, you’ll know how important it is for expensive gadgets to not slide off tables too easily.
As with the CR100, the CR200 has a motion sensor, so as soon as you pick it up, it will spring to life. However, unlike the CR100, you can also wake up the CR200 by tapping the screen, effectively allowing you to control the device while it’s sitting in its cradle. And since the cradle is quite solid, with a rubber base, it won’t slide across the table if you do choose to use the controller while it’s docked. It’s also worth noting that the CR200 has a user-replaceable battery pack, unlike the old controller, with new batteries costing around £30.