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Michael Brown Sep 16, 2008

Slacker G2 Personal Radio

At A Glance

Gimme some slack!

Great audio quality, great music recommendations, free music.

Gimme some crack!

You can't choose which songs you'll hear you pay for the Premium service.

Slacker announced a new version of its portable radio today, and we’re happy to say the Slacker G2 kicks just as much ass as the original product we reviewed last April.

Here’s Slacker in a nutshell (for those who don’t want to re-read our previous review): The service component of Slacker is much like Pandora or Last.FM in that you can listen to music on the Internet for free (along with an occasional advertisement) while the Slacker A.I. analyzes your expressed tastes in music, and recommends new artists it thinks you’ll enjoy.

But there are trade-offs: You can't always choose which songs you want to hear, and you can skip only a limited number of tracks. Slacker also offers a subscription plan ($7.50 per month if you pay for a year at a time) that eliminates the ads, enables you to call up saved tracks at will (as long as you maintain your subscription), and allows you to skip an unlimited number of tracks.

As for the new Slacker hardware, it has all the same tools as the browser-based product, but gives you the freedom to listen to music anywhere. You can transfer music from your PC to the mobile device, or you can connect the G2 to your wireless network, and it will automatically download a batch of tunes from the Slacker website.

The G2 player also comes with the Devicescape application built in. This app enables the G2 to log on to commercial Wi-Fi hot spots -- provided you have an account with the service provider, of course.

The Slacker G2 is about half the size of its predecessor, but the base model comes with twice as much memory (4GB of flash, which is enough to store 25 of the custom radio stations you create with the service; an 8GB model capable of storing 40 stations will sell for $250). More importantly, the G2 doesn’t sacrifice any of the delicious features that made the original portable so cool.

The first-generation device was slightly larger than a cell phone, which meant it just barely fit in a shirt pocket. And while it had a gi-normous display (consuming nearly its entire face), accommodating that huge LCD forced the designers to move all the control buttons to the sides of the player, which rendered it awkward to use with one hand.

The G2’s screen is considerably smaller (2.4 inches compared to the original’s 4.0-inch screen), but it shares the player’s faceplate with all the most important buttons for controlling the device. The “favorite” and “ban” buttons—which allow you to indicate your preference or disdain, respectively, for a particular song—sit above the screen. The skip forward/skip back buttons that enable you to move up and down the tracks stored in your library are at the bottom, along with a play/pause button. The volume control is on top of the device, next to the headphone jack.

The new device retains the ability to display large album-art images and detailed artist bios. And Slacker continues to employ professional deejays to program its radio channels. As with the original device, you can use some of its storage capacity to save your own music in MP3 or WMA format.

In addition to a ubiquitous mini USB port, the G2 has a CEA 2017 docking port on its bottom, although Slacker doesn’t currently have any products capable of mating with it. The Consumer Electronics Association—the group that puts on the annual CES trade show—defined the CEA 2017 standard in the theory that it would foster a market for third-party peripherals (e.g., speaker docks), but the interface been around for more than a year, and this is the first media player we’ve seen that makes use of it. Here’s hoping we don’t have to wait for the year 2017 for it to gain traction.

As for the Slacker G2—we dig it!

THE VERDICT

Slacker G2 Personal Radio

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