After a very long initial start up, we had the shiny Philips streamer hooked up to our wired network within minutes and it could access our computer's MP3 library within subsequent seconds. With the included Philips Media Manager software, it's very easy to use. We can't say the same for copying tracks to the internal disk from a PC, as the system failed to find our computer on the network. However, simple home networks are likely to be far more successful than our uber-complicated corporate network.
We did have great success ripping our favourite CDs to the internal hard disk. Ripping is extremely slow, typically taking several minutes per CD. You have no choice of ripping format but you can choose a range of bit rates between 128kbps and 320kbps, and we got decent results copying music this way. Our only gripe is that the internal hard disk is clearly audible as a low pitch buzzing. Listen to the sound a laptop makes when it's copying a large file -- it sounds like that.
Generally, though, we had a decent result using the WAC3500D; it's a pretty simple process. The menus are nothing special but they work well enough, and streaming functionality was excellent. The built-in Gracenote database automatically adds CD titles and track names to ripped songs, even when not connected to the Internet. This function garnered impressive results, as most CDs we ripped were correctly named. Only one very old CD from a less popular band wasn't recognised.
With our albums ripped we got down to some audio testing and we're pretty impressed. Sound quality is generally very good, with well-driven power and a big slam of bass for good measure. Timbaland's 'Give It To Me' had the floor shaking without being over-powering, but vocals remained clear and mids had decent kick. It was an impressive sound for such an affordable and feature-filled setup, and we doubt there'll be any major naysayers when it comes to audio performance.
We have to admit that this well-priced piece of kit performed. The streaming functions work well, and while we have issue with start up times and a lo-fi display, decent sound quality and ease of use makes up for it.
If you can double your money, consider Sony's excellent NAS-50HDE -- it costs an arm and a leg but it sounds amazing and boasts a terrific design and interface.
Edited by Jason Jenkins
Additional editing by Shannon Doubleday