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Summary and Conclusions

With the advent of small form factor PC's and Microsoft's Windows Media Center you might be tempted to ask what all the fuss is over these devices for streaming music, especially when they cost around $150 (for the SBWM) up to almost $300 for the wireless version of the Squeezebox. The answer may be partly that these devices are still less expensive than investing a cool grand for a Windows Media Center box. Another answer may be that these products are fanless and totally quiet, which means that all you hear is music. Yet another could be that they draw minimal power during normal operation and even less in standby mode.

No matter what your justification, things to keep in mind while shopping for just the right media streaming device are:

  • good connectivity options with both digital and analog support
  • broad support for the file types you use
  • ease-of-setup
  • support for wireless security
  • ease-of-use in daily use

Both devices score well on all counts, but Slim Devices' Squeezebox has the edge in connectivity options, broad platform support, and a wide array of file formats it can play.

Squeezebox will most likely appeal to the uber-geeks who rule the techno priesthood and want every conceivable option that can be scripted. (It is only a matter of time till someone ports live Winamp visualizations to its cool blue interface.) But the ability to do complicated things doesn't mean that the Squeezebox is complicated - it's not. And when you consider it comes with out-of-the-box support for using the iTune playlists - arguably the best interface available - you've got a strong combination of smart and beautiful (and isn't that what we are all seeking?).

On the other hand, the Sound Blaster Wireless Music will probably appeal to the Windows masses who feel that using some slick looking Windows apps is the fastest route to no-fuss no-muss streaming music nirvana. Its cool silver exterior makes it look beautiful even when it's off. And the Wireless Music remote gets points for being a very serious piece of hardware in its own right.

The field of streaming audio is really heading fast up the power curve. If you've got a half-a-teraByte of hard-disk space filled with every conceivable MP3, you want to be able to enjoy them even if you are not sitting in front of your computer (I know this is a rare moment). And while your iPod may be dearer to you than your significant other, there are moments when the soundtrack of your life requires you aren't jacked into a headset.

For that, we've got to give props to the developers of these nifty devices that allow us to listen to our digital music through the same thousand-dollar stereo speakers we had previously reserved only used for our home theater setup. Best of all, using a streaming audio receiver means that your digital audio will never again have to compete with the sound of your PC's cooling fan.

Squeezebox Pros SBWM Pros
• Excellent, easy-to-read display
• Lots of connectivity options
• Fantastic cross-platform support
• Outstanding support for a broad array of digital audio formats
• Includes support for streaming MP3
• Excellent illuminated LCD right on the remote
• Polished Windows-based applications
• Ability to have different users control their own custom library
• Ability to assign favorite playlists to a remote button
• RF remote doesn't require line-of-sight
Squeezebox Cons SBWM Cons

• Changes to music directory requires manual rescan
• Adding music to the master playlist could be more intuitive
• Automatic browser refreshes can interrupt title browsing

• Remote is very big, even for big hands
• Does not support a wired network connection
• Only supports MP3 and WMA digital audio formats
• Does not support streaming (Internet) audio
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