Roberts Stream 202 (WM-202) review

For 1 1/2 years I've used my Roberts 202 now, it's working well as a Wifi-Radio bringing thousands of radio stations into the kitchen, a great experience. Don't wanna miss it but a few things could be better.

Formats

It only plays MP3, WMA and Realaudio codecs. Most stations make use of these - guess about 8000. The more efficient formats OGG and AAC are not supported. It's impossible to play these 500 stations. My dealer asked Roberts: updates are not planned with future firmware versions.

Audio

The sound is amazingly good for a portable radio. Even low bitrate streams sound acceptable, better than on a PC. The speakers and demodulation seem to be well adjusted to the internet situation. Still it would be nice to adjust bass and treble or at least to have a choice of pre-defined equalizer settings.

Menu

Self explaining and clearly structured. But it takes about 6 clicks to get to a specific stations.
Example: push menu - station list - station - location - North America - USA - California - Blues - KRSH. Each click costs a few seconds because each menu is loaded from the internet. This wouldn't really be neccessary for the first steps which are always the same. If the company decided to change them, a software update would do. It would be helpful to have more options already in the first menu. If the continents were there, 3 clicks could be saved.
There is a "last listened" list, with about 10 entries. You have a favourites list and you can add your own stations which are not part of the wifiradio-frontier portal (if the format is compatible). Customizing is only possible via PC and internet. Scrolling through large station requires a few more "please wait loading".

Very questionable: the radio is fully dependent on the Wifiradio-Frontier internet server.
If the site disappears, all radios based on that platform would probably stop working. I don't know if the software includes any workaround for such an emergency case, I doubt it.
Another point is data protection: Frontier silicon seems to have complete control about who listens to which station. Each radio has its own code and your e-mail must be registered with it.
So after all it would be a good idea to launch an open source alternative platform if it was possible to manipulate the firmware.

Podcasts

Yes. But again, you are dependent on the portal. Many podcasts are listed but they're not up to date. Looking at popular podcasts of big German stations here, the most recent show available on wifiradio-frontier is usually more than 1 week old. If they have the portal- why can't they update it daily? Of course you could add specific mp3 files to your "add station" list. But you would have to do it again and again for each issue. Unfortunately it's not possible to add the URL of xml files, which would automatize the process.
In addition to that, Podcasts cannot be paused or resumed and there is no fast forward/rewind.

Presets

5 each for FM/DAB/Internet. Would be nice to have more, especially for internet.

FM

Reception sensitivity is a bit below average for portable radios. Probably no priority when you can listen to most stations via internet. But FM sound still is better in most cases, a few stations are not on the internet and after all you shouldn't waste bandwidth (having started with the internet in the mid 90ies this is still my way of thinking, sorry). If you catch a weak station you can switch to mono in order to reduce the noise.
Selectivity seems to be good. Channels 0.2 MHz apart from strong local stations appear clear. RDS will decode the 8 letter station ID (PS) and RDS radiotext which is a nice additional feature.

DAB

no reception! Three possibilities: 1. my device needs a repair, 2. sensivity is very poor, 3. the signals are too weak. In my part of Germany there is no DAB, but I'm close to Denmark. I've tried it outdoor with eye-contact to the Sonderborg transmitter, 10 km south of it. No DAB. But I can do without it.

Music streaming from PC

haven't tried it yet

Setup

Easy. Just had to change my WLAN password because the WM202 does not support country specific characters like . WLAN reception seems acceptable though a bit less sensitive than my laptop. You can also use the wired LAN plug.

Software updates

Easy. There has been a new release in December 2009. The display now covers much more information for internet radios at one glance. It uses smaller, more elegant fonts now. And the display background remains dark when power is off. Before the update it lit the whole kitchen in the night.

Display

Fine, especially after the software update. In internet mode you have station, WLAN signal strength, volume, station description (scrolling) all in one field. It also shows genre, location, format, bitrate (kbps), sample rate, reliability if you press the info button. Unfortunately missing: MP3 tags with artist and title where the PC would show them.

Batteries

6 x D size (Mono). Accus last for a few hours. Unfortunately there is no option to charge the accus within the radio. When you plug off the connector while listening, the radio will continue. But it does not work the other way round: if you plug in the power supply, the radio will reboot. That takes about 20 seconds.

Peer-Axel Kroeske, January 2010


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