The SLIMP3 is a networked music player that hooks up to a server computer and allows you to play digital music stored on a remote computer through your stereo. The unit features a 2×40 vacuum florescent display (VFD), a remote control and hooks up to your network with a regular 10-baseT connection.
The device is simple yet powerful. The server software is open-source, runs on Windows, Mac OSX, Linux, BSD and Solaris and requires very little resources. It can play mp3 music at fixed or variable bit rates up to 320Kbps and also can convert various other music formats to .mp3 “on the fly” with the LAME encoder. The SLIMP3 can also play streaming Internet radio such as Shoutcast or RealAudio.
What’s most striking about the SLIMP3 when you open up the box is its simplicity. It is a small 8.5″ W x 2.5″ H x 2″ D black box with a smoked plexi-glass front. There are only three connections to be made on the back of the unit; the power supply, RCA jacks for your stereo and the included Cat5 network cable. The package also includes an infrared remote control that can handle all of the player functions from the comfort of your couch or favorite chair.
Configuration and Setup
Setting up the player and server is extremely easy. The supplied gold-plated RCA patch cable connects from the right and left outputs on the back of the SLIMP3 to inputs on a tuner or amplifier. The supplied CAT5 cable connects from the Ethernet port on the back of the device to an Ethernet port on your network.
An existing network with Ethernet ports is not required. If you don’t have a home network, the SLIMP3 can be directly connected to the host computer using a crossover cable.
Once the server software is installed on the host computer, the SLIMP3 server needs to be configured. The software is installed on the server computer, but it features a web interface so you can access the server from any computer on your network. Configuration is quick – once you tell the server software where your music and playlists (if any) are located and have it scan your music folder, you’re in business.
The SLIMP3 player features a 2×40 Vacuum Florescent Display
From the web interface, you can manipulate many settings on the server and player. You can edit the way the display shows song, artist and album information, change the skin for the server Web interface, add or delete remote control menu options, set security options and much more. The display can also be presented in 11 different languages.
There is no on/off switch – once you plug in the power supply, the unit is powered on. When you first power the unit on, it will ask if you want to search for a server or use the existing settings. Searching for a server is quick and easy and once it finds the server on your network, the configuration is complete. The entire setup process literally takes only minutes, as long as you already have your mp3 collection on the server machine.
Using The SLIMP3
We were very impressed by the ease of use and setup of the player and software. The manual is short and to the point, and the installation was a breeze. Navigating with the remote control and bright display was simple.
Playing music is as simple as browsing through your music folders, finding an album or song and hitting play. You can shuffle or repeat just like a regular CD player. You can search for music by artist, title, album or genre and the player displays ID3 tags in the format you choose. You can play whole albums, music by only a specific artist, queue up songs on-the-fly and create, edit and save playlists with the remote control. The device supports .pls, CUE, and .m3u playlist files.
Because the SLIMP3 player is connected to a server, there is no limit to the amount of music that you can have access to. More hard drive space can be added to the server computer if and when you run out of room.
The response time on the server was almost instantaneous. We tried to slow it down by picking random songs spread out on the hard disk but each song played instantly when we selected it. We tried the server on both Linux and Windows XP and tested the server software on two different PCs. There was no noticeable difference in performance between a 500mhz Pentium III with 384mb of RAM and an Athlon XP1600+ with 512mb of RAM. The server requires very little resources. The company lists the minimum requirements for the server as a 300mhz Pentium II with 128mb of memory. Remember though, the server does not need to be dedicated – it can be run on your regular workstation.
One great thing about the web interface is the ability to control your player from any computer in the house. We did this while hosting a party and guests had a lot of fun browsing through the music on a laptop and putting their favorite songs in the queue. The player can be controlled by the remote control or through the Web interface.
The Web-based server software. Click for a larger image.
The SLIMP3 server supports multiple players. A player can be either a SLIMP3 device or music player software on a home computer. The company actually suggests that potential customers download the free server software to try on their PC before they purchase. Since it’s Web-based, it runs on all platforms.The server software can synch the playback on two or more SLIMP3 players so that the same music can be played at several locations throughout the house. It can also play different music at the same time on different players. We were able to do this with no noticeable lag in server response.
The SLIMP3 is not just a music player. When the player is off, the display shows the current date and time by default. It can be used as an alarm clock and will play your selected music when it turns on. There is also a sleep timer to shut it off automatically. Several developers have contributed modules to the player that greatly extend its features. Some of the many user-submitted modules include: TV listings, email, caller ID, phone book, stock ticker, weather and even a BBC news ticker.
Likes and Dislikes
We liked most everything about this device. It is easy to setup and control, sounds and looks great, and is actively supported by its developers and fans. There is an extensive FAQ and a popular support mailing list.
There are, however, a few things we would like to see. First, the device is wired only. You can hook it up to a wireless bridge to make it “virtually wireless” but that’s not an out-of-the-box solution. With many competitors releasing wireless solutions, we imagine SlimDevices is developing their own. The device also does not have an optical audio output. An optical connection would make the sound quality even better, however, most users would not notice a difference.
The last issue we had was with the display. While it is bright and easy to read, it is still rather small. The two-line display is hard to read from across a room. However, most competing products display via a TV, meaning you’d have to be near a TV to select the music you want. The SLIMP3 doesn’t require a TV and looks at home in your home theater system.
The functionality and expandablity of the SLIMP3 makes it worth the $239 price in our opinion. If you have a wired network and a lot of mp3s, this just may be the device for you.
About the Company
The SLIMP3 has been around for over two years now and was one of the first devices on the block. It originally started out as an open-source project by founder Sean Adams who assembled the units by hand.
The server software is still open source and benefits from an active group of users and developers. Server software upgrades occur at the rate of almost one per month. They back the player with a one-year hardware warranty and a 30-day return policy.
SlimDevices is the company that grew from this original idea. Their only product to date is the SLIMP3 and they won’t comment on future plans, but a recent email from SlimDevices, said “we take seriously the fact that our corporate name is plural.” We’re looking forward to future releases from SlimDevices.