It goes without saying: Internet radio is cool, and so are Internet radios. Don’t comprehend the distinction? Head to your local CE retailer and lay your hands on sweet devices like the Sanyo R227. It looks like a tabletop radio because, well… it is. But the device is also Ethernet-enabled, so you can tune into thousands of Internet radio stations just as you would through your desktop browser. Or rather, it’s almost that easy — but we’ll get to that story in just a minute.
Features and Design
Thankfully, multiple options are provided for connecting to the Internet, allowing a maximum amount of flexibility in terms of convenience. As you’d anticipate, the Sanyo R227 is WiFi-enabled, so if you are using a wireless router, you can plug the radio into any convenient AC outlet within your router’s range. If you haven’t gone wireless yet though, the R227 additionally sports a standard RJ-45 Ethernet jack on the back.
The unit also incorporates an FM tuner with an auto-seek mode and two alarm clocks. The wake-up call function associated with the latter features can be set to buzzer, an FM station or an Internet radio station. Each alarm clock can further be programmed to sound daily, on weekdays or weekends only, or once a week on a specific day. The radio additionally has a sleep timer that can be set for lengths of time ranging between 15 and 90 minutes.
If you have a Windows PC on the same network, you can also use the R227 as a media player, provided you’ve set up sharing on the computer. Tunes may be selected by album, artist and individual tracks or playlists.
The radio’s design is simple, albeit quite pleasing overall — it’s essentially a black rectangular box with a brushed metal faceplate. The black surface has a sprayed lacquer finish that’s trendy and a touch more elegant than glossy plastic. A circular control cluster on the face is occupied by a big rotary dial surrounded by eight buttons designed into the circular bezel. (The bezel has 11 segments, but only eight are active buttons). Four of the buttons serve more than one function as well, including offering access to stored stations (you can store a total of eight stations, if desired).
Mind you, the blue blacklit LCD is quite small. Nonetheless, it shows only four lines, so the text is big enough to read from several feet away. Other control buttons are arranged below the LCD window. The R227 also comes with a wireless remote unit. The radio will play stereo and has a pair of speakers mounted on the left and right ends. It has line-in, line-out and headphone jacks to boot.
The front display of the r227
The back panel of the r227
What’s In the Box
Besides the radio itself, Sanyo provides a wireless remote control unit (complete with a battery), two-prong AC cord, instruction booklet and a one-sheet menu guide that explains how to enjoy various settings using the controls on the radio. In other words, don’t expect anything special here, but the selection proves adequate in terms of supplemental accessories and materials.
Performance and Use
Setting up Wi-Fi connectivity is straightforward and essentially automatic if you don’t have security enabled. If you do, there’s one more step involved in the process: Specifically, the radio detects WEP and WPA encryption and waits until you type in the password. Cheerfully, you need to do this just once (unless you reset, natch).
Bear in mind, though: Sanyo has an agreement with the Reciva Internet radio service (radio.reciva.com) so, in effect, you only have access to Internet radio as presented by one site. If you want to access a specific broadcast provider you always use on your PC and it doesn’t happen to be Reciva, sorry – you’re out of luck. Personal preferences aside, however, this isn’t a major limitation because Reciva’s reach is surprisingly broad. The company’s website claims the service features more than 14,000 Internet radio stations from 277 locations organized into 65 genres.
In terms of sorting stations, the R227’s tuner uses genre and location as its top-level categories. If you choose genre, you’re presented with more than 60 categories to choose from within the sub-menu, and from there individual stations. Select location instead, and you are presented with a list of 45 countries and from there, individual stations as well.
The main limitation with the product that we found here basically being the gizmo’s sequential menu setup and overall navigation system itself. To wit, on the device, you’re cumbersomely presented with a four-line display, menus nested within menus and only up, down and select keys with which to input commands. Making finding a good station even more tedious, you are additionally locked into alphanumerically sorted lists. If Sanyo had included a way to change the presentation order — to sort by popularity, for example, as you can on websites — the pain of a sequential navigation system would be eased somewhat.
To be fair, the user front-end is clear and easy to figure out… we just wish it were easier to manipulate. However, when you compare it to the see-everything and click-anywhere versatility of a computer-based experience, which is the way most of us are accustomed to enjoying Internet radio, it’s a big step down in terms of flexibility. To mitigate this somewhat, the R227 does allow you to save eight of your favorite stations as presets.
As for actual audio quality, the sound which emanates from the pair of side-mounted speakers is table radio quality, despite the advertised “port for extended bass.” This means that it’s OK for airing the occasional tune in the background while going about your daily activities, but a far cry from the kind of eardrum-massaging experience that would satisfy a true audiophile. The unit does have a headphone jack though, and sound quality through a decent set of headphones improves, indicating that the audio processor is capable of richer sound. Moreover, the radio further includes a line-out jack so you can plug the R227 into a more capable audio system, where the unit’s Internet radio and media player capabilities better shine.
In effect, the Sanyo R227 should make an enjoyable addition to most, but not all wired households. Why? It has enough functionality beyond Internet radio to render the device a versatile expansion to any home entertainment system. The four-line display and sequential navigation system limits quick access to the thousands of stations available, however. But provided you don’t mind a few design quirks and average-quality performance outside of a home theater setting, the R227 is definitely worth picking up.
• Internet radio anywhere in range of a Wi-Fi connection
• RJ-45 connector for locations without Wi-Fi
• Ability to store eight stations for one-button access
• Other functions (FM radio, media player, alarm clock) round out usefulness
• Line-out jack allows unit to be hooked into system with better audio quality
• limited display and sequential menu system tedious compared to a browser-based internet-radio experience
• so-so sound quality, no tone controls