Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Sagemcom RM50 Internet Radio Review

I have been trialling the Sagemcom RM50 Internet Radio since Friday and had mixed success.

Functionality overview

The RM50 enables you to listen to more than 13,000 Internet radio stations around the world, conventional FM stations and audio within your home network via Wifi (in theory).  The “Smart Random” function gives the listener the possibility of random access to other radio stations of the same genre as those most frequently listened to.  There’s also an alarm clock.

RM50

Installation

Getting basic Internet connectivity

The theory is that you turn it on, enter your Wifi information and you’re away.  Well that may work for many people, however I found it not to be as simple, possibly due to:

  1. having a hidden SSID, and
  2. having mixed case in the name of my SSID.

I tried entering in the Wifi SSID and password manually twice with no success (although did note that I could not get lowercase when entering the SSID, it was however there for the password).  I even double checked my TKIP/AES and WPA Personal/WPA2 Personal Wifi setup and tried a few other configurations.

WPS (Wi-Fi Protected Setup) was also an option so I gave that a go, both with and without a PIN and also had no joy with either.

I then published my SSID and found I was able to connect and it all worked fine with lovely crisp sound.

Accessing music on the home network

In theory you should be able to easily access music on your home network.  Well, I haven’t found this to be the case at all.  As a UpnP player I expected that it would just pickup content from Windows Media Player or iTunes running on the network.  I did manage to get it to find an XP-based machine running TVersity media server however it didn’t find any of the other media servers we have running on Windows 7, XP or Vista-based machines.

Upgrading the firmware

Having had mixed results with accessing music on the home network I decided to upgrade the firmware on the device to the latest version.  This was available from the Sagemcom UK website (RM50 wasn’t there for all countries).

A USB to mini-USB cable is required to do a firmware upgrade (not included).  The upgrade would not run on Vista, but on XP was easy enough (although the user interface could be friendlier).

The upgrade enabled mixed case SSID names to be entered but I found Internet Stations were unavailable when I went to use them!  I was wondering if I had broken the device by doing the firmware upgrade, but when I tried the Internet radio several hours later (and having changed nothing else) it was working fine.  Phew!

Accessing music on the home network cont….

I’m still however having challenges trying to access music on the home network. It sometimes finds content on the Windows 7 pc (which has Windows Media Player and iTunes), but it is inconsistent and doesn’t always find the pc at all.  I have also had no joy connecting up with another pc running TVersity.

User Interface, General feel & Missing features

Putting the installation and accessing music woes on the home network aside, the device does look nice and has great sound quality, has RCA outputs for connecting to a stereo, the buttons are quite sturdy and it has a nice finish.

Almost all the buttons however require quite a bit of pressure and due to the shape and size of the device I often find myself holding the radio down as I push a button.

Cycling through the numerous Internet radio stations with the wheel is okay, however not ideal.

When I power on the radio (with the huge button on the back), it does take a while to connect to the network and the first screen that is then presented is the screen to choose a network.  I’m not sure if this happens due to our setup or is normal; regardless I would prefer to go to the “Mode” screen or to continue from where it was when it was powered off.

The device runs on 5V power.  As an alarm clock I would like to have battery backup.

Whilst there is a remote control, it would be nice to able to control the Internet radio from a pc or mobile device.

Conclusion

I’m in mixed minds at the moment whether I would buy this device.  It is nice to stream music from the Internet without requiring a pc to be turned on, but I would prefer a more mature user experience.