As home networks get ever more ubiquitous, so too have media streamers. We've seen some from Philips before, like the WACS7000, but we're looking at a very affordable standalone streaming hi-fi, the WAC3500D.
For around £230, the 80GB hard disk-toting Philips WAC3500D is aimed at those with a modest budget, but who still want a piece of the wireless streaming audio action. At around half the price of Sony's similarly-specced NAS-50HDE, the potential is significant.
Philips's WAC3500D is about as modern-looking as a micro hi-fi can be, with a front face of half-brushed aluminium, half-reflective plastic. A very small LCD screen sits in the centre of the reflective portion, serving its purpose well enough, but this is clearly an area where corners were cut to keep prices low.
The system's enclosure is uninspiring in build but certainly visually pleasing, with the glossy plastic top resonating a cry of affordability. In an unusual move, Philips has placed the headphone socket on top of the enclosure, right at the back. It would've been far more welcome on the front, built in to the lower part of the aluminium portion. However, each 40W speaker is more conventionally fashioned, and with decent build for the price and removable grilles.
An 80GB hard disk sits inside the WAC3500D, to which it's possible to rip an entire CD collection into MP3 format. There's no lossless format to rip to, however, such as WAV or FLAC. Since it can take an age to rip 1,500 CDs, you can drag and drop MP3s from your computer directly on to the system's hard disk, via the network connection, using a piece of software included in the box.
You can just as easily set up your PC as a central music server, letting the WAC3500D access MP3s over your home network. However, the aforementioned lacklustre codec support is the same for network streaming: only MP3s and unprotected WMAs.
An iPod dock comes as part of the package and it'll charge your 'Pod while letting you browse its contents with the remote control. Should you not have an iPod, you can load up a few hundred tracks on a USB memory stick and connect it to the USB socket port on the front of the system. The WAC3500D reads ID3 tag info so browsing a stick's contents is pretty painless.