For its debut DAB radio, Philips has taken a laid-back approach - literally. The sleek black body with chrome surround handle reclines to present its wares, but as we'll find out, there's not too much to get excited about.
The byword of all Philips products is simplicity, and that Nirvana of consumer electronics is achieved here, with the AJ5100 turning out to be very easy to use. One way this is achieved is by displaying all command buttons together, each one with a single function. The main reason that the AJ5100 is a cinch to operate is because it doesn't even try to do anything remotely exciting.
This is demonstrated by its limited connectivity. Hidden away on its shoulder is a telescopic aerial to boost DAB and FM reception, with just a headphone socket and the power jack for company. So there's no way of getting digital or analogue sound from the AJ5100 into an amplifier and, worse still, no inputs of any kind. That rules out using the AJ5100 as an iPod or portable CD player speaker, or even as a simple PC speaker if used on a desktop.
At least there's a battery compartment for easy portability. If its meagre connectivity is as rare as it is irritating, at least Philips has met its limited brief by designing the AJ5100 in such a way that any fear of the new digital age of radio is immediately overcome. Auto tuning without any delay, the unit offers a very simple toggle between DAB and FM alongside an info button to choose between signal strength, the time and date, and displaying scrolling text.
A menu command gives access to manual tuning, DRC (which alters sound levels according to what's being broadcast) and the name of the software being used. Choosing between options is simple: left and right scroll buttons are used to run through DAB stations available, while up and down arrows control the volume.
Preset in its ways
Oddly, although ten presets are provided for DAB or FM stations, these controls are hidden away on the unit's neck. At least that helps the front fascia look clean. The AJ5100's may be fruit of some top-notch product designers, but the speakers dominating the front are a letdown in more ways than one. The silver cloth covering borders on looking tacky - but the sound emanating from beneath is better than we typically expect at this price.
Speech radio is rendered with precision, and surprisingly for such a small unit there's just enough bass to give some depth even to music broadcasts. A play of Sinatra's Luck Be A Lady on Radio 2 proves that while the AJ5100 can't reach the impressive sound of other, more expensive DAB radios, it does provide very accurate stereo and will fill a kitchen without much trouble.
A one-trick pony with unique styling, the AJ5100 joins the hordes of products that are aimed at those looking for a simple, affordable DAB solution for listening to voice radio in a kitchen. The bass-heavy sound is excellent, but anyone looking for extra features such as pausing/ rewinding or general all-round versatility should look elsewhere.