Slacker G2 Internet Radio Portable: The Technologizer Review

Highly customizable Internet radio in a new, pocket-friendly--but not perfect--form.

By  |  Monday, September 15, 2008 at 9:04 pm

Speaking of music collections, the Slacker G2 can play back your own songs in MP3, WMA, and AAC format. But this is definitely an Internet radio portable that does MP3s on the side, not an MP3 player that does Internet radio: Space for your own songs is limited (1GB for the $200 model, 3GGB for the $250 one). And downloading is done via a standalone version of the Slacker player that works only in Windows, and which has only rudimentary music-management features, let along support for podcasts or audiobooks. Despite the fairly sizable color screen, the G2 also doesn’t do video.

Oh yeah, how about the quality of the music? It sounded pleasing enough with Slacker’s supplied earbuds, which the company describes as “premium” models, and a bit better with my own $35 headphones. (Disclaimer: I am not an audiophile and your ears may vary.)

Slacker G2

The extremely cool Slacker Internet radio service in a newly compact, pocketable portable form; MP3 features are limited; I had trouble with public Wi-Fi connections; more of a satellite radio rival than an iPod killer.

Price: $200 (4GB) and $250 (8GB)

In the box: Slacker handheld, earbuds, USB cable and wall adapter, carrying case with removable clip, quickstart guide.

Buy from Slacker

At the same time I was trying the new Slacker, I was using the fourth-generation iPod Nano, so I couldn’t help but compare ‘em. While the Nano doesn’t do Internet radio, it’s far smaller and more stylish than the plasticky G2; it offers twice the memory in both of its versions for $50 less each; it does more things and does all of them well. If you were to try and choose between them, you’d have to be a big fan of the serendipitous nature of Internet radio to opt for the Slacker. (Or, I suppose, someone who didn’t want to spend much on music after buying a player: If you stick with the free Slacker service, you can listen to endless music without ever paying so much as ninety-nine cents for a song download.)

The more I think about it, though, the more I think that the Slacker’s real competition is not the iPods and Zunes of the world–it’s satellite radios such as Pioneer’s $200 Inno. And here the G2 is a compelling alternative. For music, it offers almost everything I like about XM satellite and a lot more: You can tweak multiple stations to your exact preferences, and never have to worry about reception, and even the version with a monthly fee costs less than satellite. (I like news, sports, and talk, too, so I’m not trashing my XM receiver.)

And because the Slacker service is just plain wonderful, what I’d really like to do is get it on a device I already own and carry. The good news is that that’s no pipe dream: Last week, the company announced a partnership with RIM that will put Slacker music on BlackBerry handhelds starting in October. That could leave us iPhone owners feeling jealous of our BlackBerry-toting friends, and I hope it’s only the first wave of news involving Slacker being available on third-party devices.

Meanwhile, it’s really not all that hard to tell if the Slacker G2 might be for you. Try the Web-based service. (Actually, try it if you have no intention whatsoever of buying the handheld.) If you love Slacker in your browser enough to pay $200 or $250 for a device that makes it portable and doesn’t do much else, you may love the G2, if the issues I had with public Wi-Fi don’t get in your way. But I bet a whole lot more people will love it when and if it becomes available on a handheld device they already own.

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7 Comments For This Post

  1. John Hancock Says:

    I am working on a music research project to eventually build a music library to compliment my existing 200 CD collection.

    Using a public library book, I entered the names of over 800 rock musicians for the period covering 1958 -2002 on an Excel spreadsheet. I then listened to thousands of songs on the free version of Napster creating a “buy list.”

    Once completed, I anticipate the buy list will in the neighborhood of 4,000 songs. My original plan to become a Napster subscriber, download the songs onto my computer and purchase an MP3 player so that the songs could be heard at home or in the car.

    Then I learned that if you don’t purchase each song for $0.99, what I wanted to do was not achievable. I can’t justify a $4,000 expenditure given the extreme chaos occurring in the investment world.

    Recently, I tuned in to Slacker. One aspect of it that I have not seen discussed is how to get them to play the longer playing instrumental versions of rock music?

    I consistently hear the top 40 version of many songs not the longer combined vocal/instrumental versions that I favor.

    Based on my research the number of songs dictates needing a playback unit 80GB, or better, as my musical interests tend toward the longer playing tracks. I have the additional 2,000 songs on the 200 CD collection presently owned to contend with making the total collection some 6,000 songs.

    Your review indicates the largest unit available Slacker unit is 8GB. In view of my requirements for a sizeable library how do you utilize Slacker or an alternative service to achieve the objective of a 6,000 song, 80GB unit and not have to pay $4,000 for the songs themselves?

    I am also wondering once the “buy list” is more complete whether sending it to Slacker in an attempt to see how many of these songs are in their library would convince me this is the route to go?

  2. Morgan Says:

    I don’t think you’re being totally serious John Hancock, but as for the 80GB idea, the Salcker doesn’t store all your music at all times, it stores something like a few hundred songs per channel at a time.

    If you really have 4000 songs in mind that you want to listen to, it’s probably not for you, and I would submit your particular market segment is unique enough to be unservable– ‘I want 4000 songs but I don’t want to pay for them.’

    I personally love Slacker, it doesn’t have the broadest selection in the world or the uncanny ability of Pandora. But it’s portable, and easy to use. I am loving it.

  3. Jimmy Says:

    I just love Slacker G2 portable radio. I think Slacker is one of the best web radio and music provider. I thinking about to write a review on Slacker.

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