MagicBox Beam review
The Magicbox Beam might not include AirPlay, but it’s still an iPod dock that supports audio streaming from a PC or NAS. It uses UPnP, which means you should be able to use almost any device and its touchscreen makes it incredibly easy to use.
It’s constructed from a rather plain-looking grey plastic, although the glossy black accents around the touchscreen add a little bit of design flair to the otherwise simple unit. Like the dock itself, the remote control’s made from grey plastic that isn’t particularly attractive, but it has all the buttons you need to control it from afar.
As well as playing audio over the network and working as an iPod dock, the beam can also play DAB, FM and internet radio. The telescopic FM aerial on the back of the unit is something of an 80s throwback, but you can keep it out of sight, unless you live in an area with particularly poor reception. There’s also a 3.5mm auxiliary input and RCA video output, but because it can only play content from an iPod its picture quality will be no match for a dedicated player. The single USB service port is also fairly useless because it can only be used to update the device to newer firmware versions.
Considering it costs £180, we were left a little disappointed by the Beam’s sound quality. The two 10W speakers only managed to produce fairly weak audio and lacked audible bass. This is much more noticeable at higher volumes, so the Beam won’t fill a room with sound. Even so, it’s fine for casual listening in the kitchen or bedroom, particularly if you enjoy spoken word programs and internet radio. The removable wall mount included in the box shows that it’s aimed at these markets, and you should have no trouble installing it under a kitchen cabinet or desk.
The Beam’s saving grace is its 3.5in colour touchscreen, which is remarkably responsive for a resistive display. The user interface has a straightforward layout that makes it incredibly easy to switch between different audio sources. Even navigating a long list of internet radio stations was fairly painless, which made a welcome change from other audio streamers we’ve seen. However, it still took a little while to connect it to our large media share, so it might struggle with expansive music libraries.
Most Magicbox iPod docks follow a similar pattern. They might not be the best designed or best sounding products, but they do provide good features for a fair price. With the Beam, the cost of adding a touchscreen might have come at the expense of sound quality, but it’s still a compact and easy-to-use audio streamer that’ll play your music without complaint.
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