Sometimes an excellent operating system can be made even better
Philips Clock Radio (AJL308)
- Handy connectivity options, solid audio, doubles as an MP3 player.
- LCD screen ill equipped to display photos, annoying buttons, price
When it comes to playing music and telling the time, the Philips Clock Radio is a pretty solid performer. Unfortunately, it falls down as a digital photo frame due to its lacklustre display.
Price$ 259.95 (AUD)
Over the past year we've reviewed a swag of digital photo frames; ranging from tiny key chain varieties to extravagant 15 inch monsters. In an attempt to try something fresh and different, Philips has taken the basic 'virtual photo' concept and applied it to a bedside clock radio. With a built-in USB port and an MMC/SD card slot, plus the ability to play MP3 and WMA files, the results are a lot less gimmicky than you might expect. However, with a so-so LCD display and exuberant price tag, its overall worth remains rather questionable.
In terms of design, the Philips Clock Radio certainly looks the business. Its large 7in LCD screen seems tailor-made for displaying photographs, while the sleek minimalist design should fit in snugly with any bedroom decor. To access multimedia files, all you need to do is plug your USB flash drive or memory card into the device — the inbuilt software will automatically place your files into the relevant menu category (photos, videos and music all receive their own folders). We couldn't imagine how the process could be any simpler, though we suppose some onboard memory would have been nice. As it stands, you're forced to keep your thumb drive/SD card attached to the radio at all times.
Like any digital photo frame, the Philips Clock Radio offers a slideshow mode which automatically cycles through your digital images; one image at a time. You can vary the length that a photo stays on screen, as well as the transition effects and image sequence. One gripe we had with the slideshow mode is that it neglects to display the time, forcing you to cut the slideshow short whenever you want to view the clock. Plus, images that aren't scaled in the correct ratio are randomly cropped, which makes for some bizarre looking photographs (while you can change this in the menu settings, it results in ugly white borders on every photo).
The overall quality of the display is disappointing. Even at the brightest setting, images appear dark and grainy, with the screen's poor viewing angle only exacerbating the problem. (For optimum results, you need to look directly at the screen from slightly beneath.)
We found the menu interface to be slightly annoying too, with the unwieldy arrow-button interface occasionally proving unresponsive. For a sub-$250 gadget, we expected a little more finesse. On the plus side, the included 'snooze' button is ridiculously huge, ensuring you'll never need to grope around in the dark before getting that last five minutes of shut-eye.
On the plus side, the alarm is loud enough to wake up Rip Van Winkle, and will belt out your MP3s with considerable gusto. While the bottom mounted speaker fails to match the quality of most portable stereos it nevertheless does a rather good job for its size. In addition to playing the radio and MP3 files, a range of ambient 'sleep music' is also included, ranging from chattering birds to the soothing crash of waves. All up, the Philips Clock Radio is a bit of a mixed bag — considering its flaws we feel the device is a little overpriced. Hopefully Philips will iron out the kinks (and rethink the $260 price tag) for the second edition.
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