The rumoured Sonos CR200 touchscreen controller goes on sale today. The CR200 is smaller, lighter, cheaper (or at least comes with a charging cradle for the same £279 price as the existing CR100 model without the cradle) and it includes extra features for making the most of online music services.
It's also available as part of the new £700 BU250 bundle with a zp90 and zp120 ZonePlayer.
The 3.5" capacitive touchscreen is very responsive and the full VGA resolution keeps cover art looking good and text crisp and readable, so that you don't miss the larger screen size of the CR100 controller.
There are still dedicated hardware buttons for mute, volume control and jumping to the home screen of the interface, so you can turn off the music quickly when you need to.
Sonos CR200 features
You have all the same features, like controlling multiple ZonePlayers, building playlists and setting alarms, but now you can tap on screen rather than using the mapped buttons at the bottom of the screen. Scrolling through your music library on screen is just as fast as it was with the scrollwheel on the CR100 and probably easier for new users.
Powerscroll is still there too; you tap on the alphabet running down the side of the screen and then drag to scroll through the letters at speed, so you can go from Abba to Warren Zevon as fast as you want
The cradle is just a stand now; the charging electronics are inside the controller and the battery is now replaceable. As well as the accelerometer that turns on the controller as you pick it up, there's now a light sensor; when it's dark the buttons are backlit.
Other new features are aimed at Sonos owners who subscribe to music services; although early customers bought Sonos kit to listen to their own digital music now more than 50% of Sonos users pay for at least one service, says Mieko Kusano, the senior director of product management (and nearly 70% listen to Internet radio or podcasts).
And that requires a different approach: "It used to be OK to scroll through your own library but when you have a million songs,you're screaming for keyword search."
Although the free iPhone controller software includes search, there's still a market for a dedicated controller Kusano claims, pointing out that your iPhone is too personal to hand over to a friend who wants to scroll through your music collection. "The CR200 is a very social device that you can use anywhere in the house – and it's dedicated to music so you get optimized performance."
With the CR200 you can search services like Last.fm, Deezer and Napster. There's also a new information button that brings up links to tell you about the artist, find similar artists, see popular tags in Last.fm or find where the band is performing next.
You don't need that kind of information for music you like enough to buy, but with the popularity of online music services it's nice to be able to find out a little more about tracks that show up - and Sonos has added the new tools without compromising the power and simplicity of the interface.
Check back at TechRadar for a full Sonos CR200 review very soon.