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A Slick Controller

Figure 6 shows the Sonos controller in its desktop cradle. You can see a number of fixed buttons as well as three "soft" buttons under the display. On the right is an iPod-reminiscent scroll wheel, but the most striking feature of the controller was the 3.5" color LCD display with a 240x320 resolution.

Figure 6: The Sonos Controller in Cradle

Figure 6: The Sonos Controller in Cradle

This little display was what set the Sonos apart from the other network audio devices I tested. Setting up the controller was for the most part just a matter of powering it up and matching it up with the ZP80s on my LAN. The controller can be used from an optional power cradle, or it can be used through its built-in rechargeable battery (factory-replaceable only). The battery life is said to last up to five days on a charge.

Once the controller was powered up and initialized, I was able to do everything that I could otherwise do with the desktop software. Scrolling around the menus was quick and easy, although navigating with the scroll wheel didn't seem as fluid as it was with my iPod. As I put the system to use for a couple of weeks, I noticed a lot of nice little features, such as Internet Radio support and full-screen album art (Figure 7).

Figure 7: The Sonos Controller with Full-Screen Album Art

Figure 7: The Sonos Controller with Full-Screen Album Art

Another nice feature was a light sensor. When the room is dark, the buttons light up. The controller also has a built-in motion sensor. This is used to wake the device up from sleep mode when it is lifted off the cradle or table.

In general, the device was very well engineered and easy to use. Friends, for example, would just pick the device up and start using it with no instructions or prompting. And, of course, my kids argued over who got to hold the controller. It was fun to use.

I also found it interesting that I could independently control the two ZP80s on the network. I could have, for example, different play lists for each device. Or if I chose, I could try the two together so that the same music was played on both. It was also interesting to use the audio input connectors on one ZP80 to send music across the network to the other. It worked well and seamlessly.

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