Review: Morphy Richards Internet Radio

Can Morphy Richards compete with Acoustic Energy? Short answer: no.

morph-rich-radio(UPDATED with pictures from inside radio below)

After Bush, Dixons, MagicBox, Acoustic Energy (AE), and most recently BT, Morphy Richards is the latest manufacturer to produce an Internet radio based on the successful Reciva platform. Unfortunately, unlike the solid device made by AE _ and to a lesser extent MagicBox _ Morphy have taken a good idea and more or less made a hash of the execution.

First of all I'd like to note that I bought the Morphy Richards Internet Radio (model # 27025) out of necessity. MagicBox and AE devices are incredibly hard to come by on the high street, and invariably £20-50 more expensive than by mail-order or over the Net. I needed to buy the device in the space of a morning, because I was leaving the country later that day, and I didn't fancy Dixons' cheap-looking model, which I'd read a few bad reviews of. So I popped into a large Argos store and got the Morphy Richards device.

What appealed to me was the fact that the Morphy Richards radio came with a number of additional features (external in/output; USB connection; SD card slot; various alarm options), as well as the usual features these devices come with (stand-alone access to thousands of web radio stations via Wifi; connection to music files on LAN; etc). The price (£150) seemed a bit much, but worth it for a good radio.

morhpy richards wifi radio backFirst the good: Morphy Richards haven't tampered too much with the Reciva platform that forms the basis for these radios. The device is easy to set up (it took me 5 minutes to configure everything including WPA encryption on the Wifi network) and after a week's use I can pretty much operate it blind. But that's almost out of necessity, because the genius design of the MagicBox and AE devices (slanted cube with buttons and LCD screen tilting forward) has been replaced with something that can only have been dreamed up by people who normally build toasters - like Morphy Richards.

Not only is the radio ugly, it's also too big, and most importantly awkward to use. Apart from the stand-by button, the knobs, dials and LCD screen are all on the front of the radio, meaning that unless you have it placed at eye-level you need to bend over double to see what's happening on the screen.

There are three buttons on the left of the LCD ('Reply,' which will be defined at a future date; 'Back', for navigating backward through the menu; 'Shift' to enable the second function of the buttons on the right) and three bookmark buttons on the right. Beneath the LCD are two dials, one for navigating through the menu and one for volume. And there is a headphone socket on the front as well. The SD/MMC card slot (which will be activated in future) is on the left side of the radio, and there are external input/output sockets, a dummy USB socket (which isn't mentioned in the manual and which has no connector behind the rubber socket plug), and a power socket on the back, along with another socket for connecting external speakers.

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The reason why there are so many options for using speakers/headphones other than the in-built speaker is simple: the Morphy Richards speaker is crap. The sound is muffled, and peak volume is too low for the radio to serve as a decent boom box. This is a shame if _ like me _ you planned to use the radio as your main source of music in the house.

Another design failure is the limited number of bookmark buttons on the radio. Users of the AE device frequently complain about the fact that it only has ten presets. Why Morphy Richards decided to reduce this to six is beyond me, especially as there is so much free space on the radio. With 4,000 radio stations to choose from, you're not going to want to limit yourself to six!

AE users have also, in the past, complained that the LCD on their device is too bright when in standby mode. While Morphy Richards allow you to adjust the brightness of the screen, they don't offer that option for the standby button, which is extremely bright (red) when the device is in standby mode. Somebody wasn't thinking when they designed this radio. It also hasn't been tested enough, or the engineers would have noticed that the buttons are too rigid: you frequently find yourself pushing the radio across the table before there is any response from the buttons. The whole device has a cheap feel to it, something you might expect from a £9.99 toaster, not a £150 Wifi radio.

Finally, Morphy Richards also missed a great opportunity to get more out of the Reciva platform: why isn't it possible to program little scripts (e.g. to fall back on a LAN playlist when the web connection is down or automatically tune into a particular radio program at a certain time of day)? And why is the amount of information on the LCD screen so limited? It doesn't even show the time when the radio is playing, or indicate the buffer-state when there's a hiccup in the web connection.

All in all, the Morphy Richards Internet radio just about manages 4/10 on my review scale, and that's largely because of its Reciva technology, not because of anything Morphy Richards have done. At £150, it's simply too expensive, and is likely to be quickly outclassed by future models as more of these devices come onto the market.

My advice would be to be patient and order an Acoustic Energy radio over the net. They're available for as little as £130 + P&P. The wait will be worth it in the long run.

Pictures from inside the Morphy Richards Internet radio:

inside morphy richards internet radio

Above: The radio opened up.

inside morphy richards internet radio

Above: Connectors to the sockets on the back of the radio. There is space for a USB socket, but it obviously hasn't been fitted in this model yet.

inside morphy richards internet radio

Above: The radio's mainboard. The wifi card seems to be the diagonal chip. The SD reader is slightly offset from the mainboard on the right.

inside morphy richards internet radio

Above: Two tiny speakers explain why the sound on the Morphy Richards Internet Radio is so weak.



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