Hello Everyone and Welcome to Geek Tech Live 51 Some gadgety goodness, news and a review of the Vtech IS9181 Wifi Internet Radio.
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So, with that out of the way lets move on to the meat of this Episode of Geek Tech Live. the review of the IS9181 from Vtech.
Want access to global radio stations but hate the price of Satellite radio costs? Well, look no further! Move over Bose Wave Radio! Vtech the maker of fine cordless telephones for the home has created an Internet Radio streaming device called the IS9181. Vtech packs a lot of punch into a very small package. With the IS9181 you can stream music across your 802.11 b/g WiFi network with “Best-in-Class” range. You will need broadband Internet service and a home WiFi network router but who doesn’t have one of those these days? Once you have it set up the IS9181 allows you to listen to Internet radio from the available 11,000 stations with no monthly fee! Beat that Satellite providers! the ease of use is very apparent, you can access Internet radio stations from Vtech’s user-friendly online site or on the device itself.
Now just being able to stream Internet Radio wasn’t enough for Vtech. You can also play music from any audio device (i.e. CD player, MP3 player, etc) and connect to any stereo system or powered speakers to access streaming Internet radio or music files stored on a PC or Mac. It even has a Built-in FM radio tuner for local FM broadcast service.
You will also be getting big sound out of that small package since the IS9181 has Hi-Fidelity built-in 3W tuned stereo speakers and a 10W subwoofer with class D amplifier for each speaker that can fill any room. It even has a built in Alarm Clock so you can wake up to radio Brazil or BBC Radio 1 every morning! And speaking of settings… Setting the time on the IS9181 is a snap as you can use Internet Time servers to get atomic clock precision without mucking about manually setting the time. It can run on batteries or included AC adapter power too. This thing seems to do everything and it does it quite well! to top it all off, punch in your zip code and receive 5 day weather forecasts right on the large full color screen. It only weighs in at 4 lbs and is 6.3″ x 12.4″ x 3.5″. Wow! You gotta hear it to believe it. And I did so lets get into the meat of the review!
I received the unit from Vtech and proceeded to unbox it. I would like to say right here that I was not compensated in any way by Vtech for this review. I received a loaner unit and as always it was I that asked them if I could try it out and kick the tires on it since I was interested in how it stacked up to other Wifi radio units on the market. I was actually amazed at how small this device really is. I was expecting something a bit larger and began to get worried that it wasn’t going to live up to an level of audio quality i was looking and hoping for. To help reference the size I placed a 25 cent piece in frame in a few shots. as you can see below its small and would fit into any AV shelf system living room or bedroom for that matter.
Small top shot of unit
Controls are well spaced out and looked to be very well designed for the function they were to perform.
top shot of controls
Shot of the Power Cord and Aux Cables
In the box you get the receiver, a mini remote, a power cord and an aux audio cord as well as some assorted manuals, quick start guides etc… So I plugged the unit in and started the boot up sequence.
The actual sequence can take a minute or so and I did like the progress bar on the bottom of the screen so I knew how much longer i needed to wait.
Once the system booted up I needed to connect it to the wireless broadband connection in my house. The IS9181 found my SSID fine and I then proceeded to put in my Wireless key which if you are like me and have a very long one was a bit of a pain in the butt on the scroll wheel. I had to scroll to the letter or number and then press a button next to the scroll wheel to select it. It reminded me of trying to leave a message on my Xbox using the controller. you can do it and it works…. its just time consuming and a pain.
Almost any time I had to input more than a few letters I found myself slowing down a lot to make sure i did not mess an input up and have to redo it. Even the Zip code entry was a bit frustrating.
This by the way could be chalked up to the fact this was my first time using this input system and I was trying to document my progress so your frustration may vary. 🙂 I will say that it did get a bit easier to use the more i fiddled with the controls.
Once I got the system on my wireless network and punched in the Zip code and set the Clock via the Internet time servers. I was presented with a nice Menu Screen asking my what function I wanted to use.
The IS9181 will not only stream Internet radio but can also function as an alarm clock or FM radio ( AM is dead right?) . Oh yeah it also has outputs so you can hook it up to a bigger stereo or speaker system if the speakers themselves don’t do it for you. I was actually pleasantly surprised on the sound output from small speakers like they are. There was no real good way to get a picture of the speakers but it does have front firing stereo speakers and a down firing subwoofer of bass reproduction.
So from here I chose Internet radio and had the choice of Genres, Locations languages most popular stations or My stations ( If I created Favorites) so I chose locations, then Europe AND then UK
and then finally BBC Radio 1. did I mention there are 11 thousand stations you can tune in to? I chose Radio 1 as I have Sirius in my car and i figured it would be a good comparison. I was wrong. Sirius Does a 6 hour time delay on their broadcasts so I could only listen to live radio on the IS9181 and not a direct comparison to my Sirius unit. Either way the station came in fine and was very clear. There is a short buffering segment when you choose a channel but over all it wasn’t too bad of a wait.. just a few seconds while it told you it was “connecting to [Station Name]”
I switched gears a bit now and decided to seek out some lesser known stations. I was able to find radio stations in Grand Cayman and Jamaica. I ran a speed test on my system and so I can confirm my download speed was never below 5MB/Sec some stations just don’t make the trip over the interwaves so well. I would gather this is because of the recording and broadcasting setup they have in their locations. Grand Cayman was a bit on the fuzzy side. Kind of less than 128k stream ish sounding overall.
One other cool feature of this device is the Weather brought to you by AccuWeather.com . You remember I stated I had to input my zip code? Well , the reason is that the IS9181 will go out and grab a 5 day forecast for you and let you view it while still listening to your streaming audio. neat!
I was also a snap to point the IS9181 to a windows and mac share and stream my own Mp3’s over the wireless network to the device. IT does this quite well and the documentation is a breeze to read and understand.
Over all I give this a 4 out of 5 for Functions and a a 4 out of 5 for not needlessly packing it full of touch-screens or widgets that would break.. I liked the Analog nature of the device all buttons and switches…. and I give it 2.5 out of 5 for usability with the scroll wheel and lack of an Ethernet port.
Ok, so here is where the rubber hits the road… I give it then a combined score of a 3 out of 5 which is pretty good . It’s a buy, not a pass or a wait. The price is competitive with other devices and it comes with a full feature set.. Sure, you could stream ANY of these stations if you just had a laptop but for a bedroom or a den with a big set of speakers it fits in nicely and can act as not only an internet radio player but a music streamer as well. for more information on the Vtech IS9181 check out their website at http://www.vtechphones.com/vtechui/store/music/index.cfm There you can see some cool videos of Quantic using the IS9181 to created mixes as well as more Gallery images and Full specifications list of the machine. Vtech has even set up the site to allow you to find stations and get them in your IS9181. Check them out.
Ok, so that was the review… Lets see what else I scrapped off the walls of the intertubes this week that is interesting.
PDFMyURL I saw fly by on twitter recently! http://pdfmyurl.com/ . This site allows you to essentially take a snapshot of your site or any site for that matter and make it a PDF. IT definitely makes it easier to get pictures into powerpoint slides or presentations by doing this. And almost as easy as a screen grab. All for free!
I also saw that @GeekTyrant who I follow on Twitter was mentioned at the Cliqe list : 132 People you should be Following http://criqe.tumblr.com/post/338059349/before-we-begin-i-have-a-few-things-i-would-like Lots of people you really should be following and a few that I didn’t realize were on twitter.
And finally, Remember that I am now coming to you weekly unless there is breaking news or a really cool interview happens. I would also like to say that I do say “we” a lot when talking about Geek Tech Live. but this podcast is all me myself and I. Its only one person and I welcome any and all comments or suggestions so go to geekteclive.com and email me or comment on a post and help me make GTL better for everyone!