As a friend-impressing gadget, the SLIMP3 – especially when combined with AirPort – is a guaranteed wow, and wi-fi hi-fi dream. As a means to moving away from the clumsy sticky-fingered era of CDs and jewel cases, it’s a neat step in the digital home-entertainment revolution.
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Bored with CDs that get scratched or take up all your living space? Or are you just sick of waiting for an even-better iPod, and want to impress your mates with some slick audio technology? Either way, you’ll be tempted by SLIMP3 – a static MP3 player that streams music from computer to hi-fi over Ethernet or wireless connection. It’s exactly what Apple means when it refers to the Mac being the hub of a digital lifestyle: you don’t want to have SoundSticks instead of candlesticks at your next dinner party. Just as Apple’s iPod does for portability, SLIMP3 liberates an iTunes library – probably on the Mac in your study or bedroom – by networking a stereo anywhere in the house. SLIMP3 is good-looking enough to sit astride a Bang & Olufsen hi-fi, with an easy-to-read dark-plastic fluorescent display with controllable brightness. If you’d rather hide it away, it’s small enough to tuck away discreetly in a hi-fi cabinet. It comes with a Sony RM-V201 universal remote-control, to join the sofa-slipping ranks of TV, video, Sky, and hi-fi remotes. SLIMP3 plugs directly to any stereo receiver or amplified speakers via the supplied six-foot RCA patch cord. You can then attach it to your iTunes-loaded Mac with Ethernet cable (ten-foot included), or link it wirelessly via AirPort and a wireless bridge, such as SMC’s 2670W (£116, 01932 866 553; www.smc-europe.com). Setup is simple. Once you’ve plugged in the Ethernet (or wireless bridge, if you’re going down the AirPort route), you simply give SLIMP3 an IP address. If you’re running DCHP you don’t even need to do that, as SLIMP3 will get its network address automatically. On the host computer (the one with the iTunes library) there’s a tiny piece of software that needs to be run, just to allow it to act as a server. The controls are simple on-off buttons, plus an option to allow Web access. The Web access is fantastic, giving access to the player from anywhere on the network, or depending how your network is set-up, anywhere on the Internet. This adds an extra dimension of convenience, letting you wander freely with your laptop controlling your stereo and making playlists. SLIMP3’s user-friendly interface is similar to the iPod’s, and so is easy to learn. Within minutes, you can browse through an iTunes music collection via the remote control. Your Mac can be in a different room at the other end of the house. It’s simple – and cheaper, if you have one – to connect an iPod to a stereo, but you’re limited to the iPod’s capacity; and you still have to fiddle, close-up with the scroll-wheel. SLIMP3 is limited only by the Mac’s much larger hard drive; and the remote control makes it a proper part of the home-entertainment system. You may never need to get a CD out of its jewel-case again after importing its tracks to iTunes.