"Good Value, Loaded With Features"3.5 starson by docspal
Pros: Set up favorites online, Alarm functionality, Media streaming from home PC, Wired and wireless connectivity, fully functional remote control, Play music on USB drive.
Cons: Back light too bright, Firmware update required, Intermittent slow response time, Noisy buttons,
Summary: When the CD player on my old clock radio stopped working I started looking for a replacement. I thought it would be nice to be able to play MP3 files stored on my computer instead of just CDs. I also like to listen to a distant AM radio station from my home town that only comes in at night where I live. When I found the Aluratek Internet Clock radio I thought I found the perfect solution.I found out that you can change the display brightness by clicking the light button multiple times. There are three brightness levels. Unfortunately the lowest level is still too bright. I ended up covering the display with a dark piece of static cling window shade.
Internet radio is great! You can listen to stations from all over the world so now I can listen to my home town station anytime, not just at night. It's also nice to have access to thousands of other stations which is great because there are only about one station of each genera where I live -- thanks to corporations buying up all of the independent stations.
Initial set up was fairly straight forward. I had read about it needing a firmware update to fix problems so that was the first thing I did. Then I set up connectivity to my network. Since my home WiFi network includes WEP security and MAC filtering I had to use the advanced setup mode to configure it. But after adding the radio's MAC address to my router and entering the WEP shared key, the radio was able to connect without problems.
Setting up Windows Media Player sharing took a little longer. For some reason it couldn't find my radio on the network for quite a while. After fiddling with WMP settings for a while it finally found my radio. Now I have access to my entire music collection on my PC from the bedroom.
You can select stations through the radio but I found it easier to do through the web site http://aluratek.vtuner.com. After registering your radio's MAC address and creating an account, you can browse stations and add them to one or more favorites lists. The stations you add will automatgically appear in your favorites on the radio. You can also add stations not listed.
The alarm clock is configurable to wake to any audio source on specific day(s) of the week and at a specific volume level -- no more missing an alarm because the volume you fell asleep to was too low.
It can also play MP3 files stored on a USB drive. You'll also need a USB drive to update the firmware. The headphone jack is essential to me because I like to fall asleep to the radio through pillow headphones.
The main problem with this radio is the back light which is way too bright to be used at bedside. This is a major design flaw since the nightstand is a common place for clock radios. There is no way to dim the back light but It can be configured to turn off after a period of time, but this means the clock display is turned off too. A comment on the Aluratek knowledge base says they are "working on revisions to add the dimmer feature" but I don't know if this means through a firmware update or if it will be only available on newer models. I also read where someone put some removable window tint over the display to dim the light. I might have to try this until they provide a dimming feature.
Another annoying problem is it sometimes has a slow response to the remote control. I click the down arrow to scroll down just one menu item and nothing happens so I click it again. Eventually it scrolls down two items so I try to go up one item and nothing happens, so I click the up arrow again and it goes up two items. This can be very frustrating. It has an hourglass that shows when it's busy but it doesn't always display . . . probably because it's too busy.
Another minor annoyance is the loud clicking sound of the buttons on top of the unit. I listen via headphones in bed and the button clicks wake up my wife. The work around is to use the remote control which is silent. Luckily you can do everything and more with the remote. In fact you must use the remote to configure your network settings. It would be nice if the remote lit up to make it easier to use in the dark.
Overall I'm pleased with the radio for the price. It was the least expensive Internet radio I found with comparable features. Most other Internet radios I looked at lacked features and cost significantly more.
Updated on Jun 5, 2009
Aother design flaw is if you have headphones connected to the unit when the alarm goes of the alarm plays through the headphone instead of the main speaker. This is a problem since I fall asleep listening to the radio through a pillow headphone. Since the alarm doesn't play through the main speaker when headphones are connected you can easily sleep through the alarm unless you set it to a high volume.
Also, I didn't know that the alarm starts at the volume setting last used and gradually increases to the volume level you set for the alarm. I had to play around with it a bit to figure this out because it's not mentioned in the manual. This and the display level might have been added in a firmware update.