The Great Unboxing: Hands On With Slacker Portable

slacker unboxedUpdate: We now have a full review of the Slacker Portable.  It’s finally here. The much-hyped (and long-delayed) Slacker Portable arrived in our offices this morning, much to the delight of a staff that has been eagerly awaiting its appearance since last year. For those not up to speed on Slacker Portable, here’s a brief rundown. Slacker Portable works in conjunction with music site Slacker to let you take your customized Internet radio stations with you on the road–for free. Well, the music is free. The player starts at $199 for 15 stations, and the 25-station and 40-station models costs $249 and $299 respectively. The Basic Radio plan limits you to six song skips per hour and involves a limited number of ads, but if you sign up for Premium Radio ($7.50 per month if you sign up for one year) you get unlimited song skips, no ads, and the ability to save songs to the device while you’re listening. Sounds pretty swanky, eh? We were so happy to have proof that the Slacker Portable dodged the vaporware trap, we leapt upon the box like wild wolves, grabbed a camera, and dug in. Behold, the pics and early opinions after the jump.

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Let’s not mince words here: Our 4GB Slacker Portable (capable of storing 25 channels) is big. Not Archos 705 Wi-Fi big, but rotund enough to feel a bulky in hand. But with the size comes a nice-looking 4-inch display that fills the better part of the device’s face. It really makes checking out album art and bios easy on the eyes, which aids in music discovery. As you can see, a touch strip resides to the left of the display that lets you make selections without using the navigation wheel. It seems like it was tossed in as if to say “we have touch controls, too!” rather than to serve a real purpose. On a positive note, the Slacker Portable’s UI closely resembles that of its Web site, so we felt right at home.

Beck on Slacker

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The right side of the unit features a dedicated home button, navigation wheel, skip, home, play/pause and power buttons. On the left side is a USB 2.0 slot, an expansion port for connecting a docking station (coming soon), and two buttons that should ring familiar to Slacker users (Favorite and Ban) for customizing your experience. The top of Slacker Portable houses a headphone port and volumes keys. We have to question why the volume keys were placed in such an awkward location, as they’re difficult to reach on a player this big…unless you have paws the size of Shaq’s.To get started, you simply download the Slacker Desktop Radio software to a PC (On Macs, use the Web player), and log-in with your Slacker ID. Then you can connect your Slacker Portable to the service via Wi-Fi to refresh your favorite channels with fresh content. Even better, you don’t have to be connected to Wi-Fi to enjoy your tunes; Slacker Portable caches the audio so you can listen when you’re outside of hotspot range. Of course, you can also add your own MP3 and WMA files to the mix. Wirelessy refreshing music was as simple as clicking the on-screen Connect button and entering a WEP key (if applicable). In less than a minute we refreshed 10 of our favorite channels with content. Sweet! Slacker Portable certainly looks promising. The audio quality is pretty good, and the ability to update our libraries on the go is the perfect complement to our mobile lifestyles. Check back soon for a full review of this pioneering music player.

Slacker 2

Slacker Portable

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  1. Tzech Says:

    Wow… this is really cool…

  2. chad Says:

    Adds? What adds? I do not have a premium account and have yet to hear an add but presume that at some point they will be forthcoming. Maybe you get adds on the player but I’ve never gotten them online.

    Great if you have unlimited WEP access codes or unprotected wireless networks in your area… otherwise.. er.. you can only really use this in places where you all ready have your laptop. If you need more portability … maybe a great device.

    It doesn’t seem to be DRM compatible for non-slacker files (or so I was told) and not audible.com compatible. So.. yes.. you can add music that you OWN… but not apparantly music that you subscribe to from any other service.

    I give slacker great credit for moving us forward.. and I so wanted one of these… I may get one yet… but it can’t yet replace really a simple playlist and a sync to a more simple (and much cheaper) device and a subscription to a DRM library.

    I look forward to others posting their experience…

  3. Andrew Says:

    This would be very good for me, as I am a student at OSU. The entire campus is bathed in a WiFi glow, and would be great for this to constantly update and pull new songs.

  4. got a question Says:

    is their some way that i can get my station on somethng like my MP3 player? or do i have to have that slacker portable thing? email me at
    jono_jennings@yahoo.com

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