Review: Slacker Portable

[Editor’s note: Update! After using the Slacker for the last few weeks, Eliot Van Buskirk now has a slightly different view of the device. While many of the Slacker’s charms are still appealing (Wi-Fi, pre-loaded stations) some cracks are beginning to show. After using a variety of different headphones, he noticed a faint background hiss with some of them – a glitch not found when the ‘phones are plugged into other media players. Because of this, we gotta drop the rating on the Slacker from an 8 to a 7. Don’t get us wrong, it’s still an impressive innovative device, but a flaw like this cannot go unreported.]

We love interactive streaming radio sites like Pandora that let us create artist-based stations and shape them to our oh-so-refined musical taste by rating songs while listening. These customized channels know us better than we know ourselves. The problem? There’s no way to carry them around on an iPod. Enter the Slacker Portable, an MP3 player with a 4-inch screen that dishes the customized internet radio experience even when there’s no WiFi around, by caching stations on flash memory alongside music from your own computer. Create and shape stations on slackerfrom a catalog of over 2 million songs; buy the portable, and Slacker ships it to you with up to 10 of your stations preloaded. Each station ranges from one hundred to hundreds of songs, depending on how deep the category is (Slacker has over 100 preprogrammed stations), or how often you listen to the station. Heart, Ban, and Skip buttons let you refine your musical preferences on the run.The best part? Channels refresh whenever you hop onto Wi-Fi. We’ve been waiting for this one for about a year; now that we have our hands on it, we can definitely say it was worth the wait. -Eliot Van Buskirk

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