Long term review: Q2 wifi internet radio

An internet radio with a novel tilt user interface

By James Cridland
Posted 25 July 2014, 5.02pm bst

Regular readers will know that I regularly rant about the user interface on radio receivers. Recently, I started using one FM/DAB/Internet set for the first time in a few years, and once more find myself pushing random buttons, hoping against hope that at some point I might get to the feature I wanted from its unintuitive user interface. Drives me a little mad.

Radio receiver user interfaces are odd. Once we find the radio station we want, most of us rarely - if ever - switch channels. 86% of radios in the kitchen never switch channels. Ever. Even if you look at our total radio listening - in the car, at work, at home - we don't switch much. RAJAR says that a typical AM/FM listener enjoys 2.9 stations a week: the figure rises to 3.7 stations a week for those who use internet radio.

You could argue that we don't need anything more complicated than a way of turning the radio on and off. And, perhaps, change the volume.

Enter the Q2 Wi-Fi Internet Radio. For around £39 you can have a radio with no controls at all. Brilliant.

I've had one of these for a while (the bright new future of DAB Digital Radio unable to reach my bathroom). The Q2 is not a new device - it looks as if it has been out since 2008 - but I like it, and I wish there were more like it. You connect it to your computer (PC or Mac), give it your wifi details, and choose four preset stations. From then on, you turn the radio over to change channel; tilt the radio up and down to adjust the volume; and turn it off by putting it face-down. And that's it.

The radio is almost entirely a speaker, and is about the same size as your hand. It sounds rich and bassy. There are two LEDs visible through the speaker grille. One conveys battery charging information, while the other lets you know what the radio's doing - flashing red for connecting, green for buffering. The sides and top of the radio have symbols on them from I to IIII, denoting the presets that you can listen to. To the back, and you'll find a mini USB for charging the internal battery, which is also used for initial setup. There is a power switch which you don't need, and a headphone port for some obscure reason.

The device works well: pick it up and set it down, and it connects to your chosen station within fifteen seconds or so. (It doesn't need your PC to be on: it's all self-contained). Sound quality is good, and I've yet to hear it skip or buffer (though I've a good internet connection). My presets are LBC and ABC Local Radio Brisbane; I think my partner requested Xfm and TeamRock. You can also set podcasts as a preset (which I've not yet tried). Flicking between channels (by rocking the radio) appears to works quickly. There's only a few seconds of silence while it grabs onto the new stream. After six months or so, I've not needed nor wanted to change the presets.

This is an perfect set for the bathroom, where wet hands don't work too well with electronics. There are no buttons, and a sensible inbuilt battery which lasts for a week or so between charges.

It isn't quite perfect. The volume control is a little unpredictable. I'd rather have a micro USB (the ones mobile phones use) rather than a mini USB these days. The companion software is rather old-fashioned, clunky and unintuitive: but then, you only have to use it once. These days you might expect a mobile phone app to reconfigure the presets: in any case, it would be nice to be able to do that without plugging it into a computer again.

In conclusion - if you're looking for a radio for the bathroom, a very safe radio for a young kid to use (content-safe and electrically-safe), a great radio for blind or partially-sighted people to use, or simply a little portable radio for the garden, this might be the one for you. It shows that simplicity in user-interface is sometimes best.

The Q2 Internet Radio is available via in four different colours from £34 at the time of writing.

(If you're a radio manufacturer, of course, I'd like to play with your products too. Get in touch.)

James Cridland — James runs, and is a radio futurologist: a consultant, writer and public speaker who concentrates on the effect that new platforms and technology are having on the radio business. He also publishes a free daily newsletter about podcasting, Podnews, and a weekly radio trends newsletter.