Product Review (August 2009)
Sonos - Controller 200 (CR200)

By Kevin Nakano


sonos has been hugely successful with their digital music system. Why? Just ask my wife, who thinks the system is not only easy to use, but provides reliable music for the entire house. She represents the target audience the company has done so well with over the past several years. Late last year, Sonos released the new ZP90 and ZP120 Zone Players, but there was no update to the CR100 controller. Not that we have had any problems with the original CR100, but companies usually like to release products as a set and the only thing missing from the current Sonos line-up was a sleeker looking controller. This month Sonos introduced the all-new CR200 Controller. The CR200 replaces the already popular CR100, yet is significantly smaller, lighter and features a beautiful touch screen. Fewer physical buttons are required since the screen itself supports soft keys. The back of the unit has rubber pads that keep it from sliding around on a smooth surface. The base of the CR200 has a small speaker and two electrical contacts for the charging cradle. The user interface format is slightly different, so experienced CR100 users will need to get accustomed to the new design.

New Design
The CR200 is significantly smaller and lighter than the original CR100. The CR200 measures 2.9" x 4.5" x 0.7" and weighs only 6.7 ounces. The controller wakes up when the screen or buttons are touched or if the unit detects movement. The brilliant 640x480 VGA screen includes LED backlighting for a rich image in any lighting condition. The CR200 communicates over SonosNet, a secure AES encrypted peer-to-peer wireless mesh network. We currently have three zone players set up in the house and the CR200 had no problem jumping from one zone player to another as we walked around to different rooms. The test location is in a single story, ranch style home with over 2200 square feet. The distance between zone players is far enough such that the controller will need to make full use of the Sonosnet mesh network and it did so seamlessly. Sonos also supports several others ways to control their system including the original CR100, iPhone, and PCs running the Sonos Desktop Controller software.

Controls
The lower portion of the CR200 has four dedicated buttons that are used for Mute, Volume Down, Volume Up, and Home. Pressing any of the volume control buttons will display the volume level on top of the current screen and allow the user to either drag their finger on the touch screen or use the hard keys to adjust the volume level. The granularity of the volume setting is excellent and easy to control. The lower right Home button takes the user to the Zones screen.

Sonos CR200 Controller - Zones

Zones
The Zones screen displays all of the available zones on the Sonos Music System. The big advantage of the new CR200 controller is the touch screen and the ability to control so much in such a small area. The Zone Group button allows the user to easily group zones together so that music selection and volume levels affect all zones in that group. Adding and dropping zones are simple and intuitive using this interface. The All Zones - Party Mode soft button automatically ties all the zones together for single control of the music being played in the entire house. There is also a Pause All Zones at the bottom of the Zones screen that will silence all zones in the house. Each independent zone shown on the Zones screen displays the current music being played. The left arrow at the bottom of the screen takes the user back to the previous screen.

Sonos CR200 Controller - Now Playing

Now Playing
The selected zone will display the current music in the Now Playing screen. The Track, Artist, and Album along with cover art is displayed on the screen. Customized songs or albums that lack cover art can be created and saved into the music folder using the name folder.jpg. We did this for our U2 Vertigo songs and used the cover art from the DVD. Sonos offers this flexibility and works very well.

The upper right has icons for toggling Random play and Repeat. The top of the display always shows the signal level, current time, and the battery level. Soft keys are provided for previous and next tracks along with a pause/play button. The next song in the queue is also shown on the screen. A Music Menu and View Queue buttons are available.

Sonos CR200 Controller Music Menu

Music Menu
The Music Menu defines what music is being played for the selected zone. The Music Library button is used to search by artist, album, composer, or tracks. A QWERTY keyboard is displayed when searching, which is something the earlier CR100 could not do. Playlists created from the song database can be saved and later recalled using the Sonos Playlists button. The More Music button has additional content from Last.fm, Napster, Pandora Radio, Rhapsody, and SIRIUS. The Settings button is used to configure the System Settings, which include Music Library Management, Music Service Setup, Add a Zone, ZonePlayer Settings, ZoneBridge Settings, Controller Settings, Online Updates, Advanced Settings, and About You Sonos System. The Radio button has a list of various internet radio stations including local stations from your area. Line In selects the physical line inputs from the current zone player. Alarms is used to program alarm settings as well as configure the time and date format. This menu will also display other computers containing music content on the network.

Sonos CR200 Controller - Queue

Queue
The Queue displays all the songs that are in the list to be played. Each song has a small picture of the album along with the artist name. Scrolling through the items on the screen operates much like the iPhone interface, where swiping vertically scrolls through the list. Sonos makes it easy to delete items from the current playist and save the results to an existing or new name.

The CR200 has some interesting sounds when certain actions are performed on the controller. They give the unit a high-tech flare that did not exist with the earlier CR100 design. The CR200 has a QWERTY keyboard that allows the user to type in search strings. This is vastly superior to the old method that required the user to use the scroll wheel to select existing items.

Performance
The new CR200 controller is sleeker, lighter and offers a superior screen to the older CR100 controller. The new design does take some getting used to and my wife was the first to try it out and provide feedback. She has been a big Sonos advocate for the last several years and claims Sonos is by far the easiest consumer electronics product to use in the house, so it meant a lot to me to hear her opinion. After much time with the controller it became apparent that the new design offers a real performance advantage to the older design in many ways. The touch screen provides a much more powerful user interface over the dedicated buttons and scroll wheel on the CR100. In short time speed and efficiency exceeded what we could do on the original model. While we still like the original CR100 design, the new CR200 is clearly better.

Conclusion
Sonos has come out with a worthy replacement for their original CR100 and delivered a product that exceeded earlier performance. Both controllers seemed to work well together with one updating the screen content of the other. This is important for users who are adding the new controller to an existing system that may already have include CR100's. Those with really large fingers may have a more difficult time with some of the controls on the screen due to the screen size. However, the soft keys were rather large, making it more friendly for all. Even though the new CR200 offers more power and portability, I still have a soft spot for the older CR100. We were happy to see the new addition to the Sonos family and it worked perfectly with the existing components in the system.






OPPO BDP-103 Blu-ray Player




Review System

ZP100 ZonePlayer #1: Phase Technology - CI 20VII
ZP100 ZonePlayer #2: M&S Systems- WG150W
ZP80 ZonePlayer #3: Denon AVR-5308CI Receiver (Home Theater System)


Review - At a Glance


Sonos - Controller 200 (CR200)


Technical Specifications
Screen3.5 in. (diagonal) color LCD with LED backlighting. 640 x 480 pixels (full VGA resolution)
Touch screen Transflective LCD screen, suitable for both indoor and outdoor use. Adjustable LED backlighting.
Function buttons3 buttons with adjustable backlight: Mute, Volume (-/+) and Zones. Backlighting automatically activated via light sensor.
Indicators Wireless signal strength, clock, and battery charge indicators (on-screen); Orange LED indicator appears when Controller is starting-up or when the battery is too low to power-on the screen.
Light sensor Senses the ambient light in a room and adjusts the button backlights.
Motion sensor Detects when the Controller is picked-up and automatically wakes it from battery-saving sleep mode.
Battery High density rechargeable 1850mAh Li-ION Polymer battery; User-replaceable through battery door on back of Controller.
DC charger Input 100-240 VAC, 50-60 Hz; Output 5 VDC, 2A.
Battery charging time 2 hours to full charge.
Battery life 2-5 days (depending on usage pattern and sleep timer settings).
Wireless connectivity* SonosNet, a secure AES encrypted, peer-to-peer wireless mesh network.
Dimensions (H x W x D) Controller: 2.9 x 4.5 x 0.7 in. (72.9 x 115.5 x 17 mm)
Cradle: 3.2 x 3.0 x 2.4 in. (80.8 x 75.1 x 60.3 mm)
Weight Controller: 6.7 oz. (190 g)
Cradle: 6.0 oz. (170g)
Finish Rugged glass screen; Anodized precision machined extrusion aluminum case with soft durable rubber backing.
Package contents Sonos Controller 200, Sonos Charging Cradle 200, Sonos Controller Battery 200, AC Adapter and PowerCord, and Product Documentation.


Company Information
Sonos, Inc.(Headquarters)
223 E. De La Guerra
Santa Barbara, CA 93101
Phone: 805-965-3001
Fax: 805-965-3010

Source: Manufacture Supplied
MSRP: $349

URL: www.sonos.com


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