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The Slacker Portable arrives

hpim0271.JPGThis weekend I had some time to check out the Slacker Portable, the device component of its free-tiered streaming music service. I’ve got more pictures after the break. Slacker describes the device simply as a “personal radio.” I was never fond of the “personal video recorder” term for describing devices like TiVo, but at least this has no “digital” or “Internet” techie nomenclature.

Some first impressions:

  • Immediate out of the box experience is very good. Since Slacker knows the details of your account, they can populate the device with your custom stations. Unpack and press play (well, sort of, since there is actually no “Play” button on the device, just a “Pause” button that does double-duty).
  • On the other hand, the first sync attempt failed without an error message. The new station that I added appeared on the opening menu, but there was no music available in it. A follow-up attempt closer to my access point worked just fine, except that the Portable isn’t remembering my network access key, which is quite annoying.

  • Easily the most controversial control element of the device will be its touch strip, which allows you to choose menu selections by touching a white strip to the left side of the screen. It definitely takes a bit of getting used to. Slacker ships the Portable with the control turned off by default. a good move but one that calls into question its inclusion.
  • Due to the.combination sliding lock/power switch, I’ve turned the unit once already while trying to unlock it. Apparently, this has happened to others, as it’s addressed in the Slacker Portable FAQ.
  • I’ve tried listening to it with some high-quality headphones and sound quality is fine., at least on par with most MP3 players I’ve tried.
  • Time for the device to “fill” a new station using 802.11g was about 10 minutes (for hours worth of music). The Slacker Portable also takes a while to start up as it manages your stations.
  • The smooth all-plastic device won’t induce any envy from iPod or even Zune owners. The back, which has an angular taper to it, has a line that looks like it should indicate a battery compartment, but there is no removable battery. There is also no removable memory slot.
  • The bundled case is pretty nice, It’s tan, with a soft lining and the Slacker logo emblazoned on the front, and provides easy access to the side-mounted controls.

I’ll have more to say on the Slacker Portable soon.