Attention to detail is the key to good product design, but someone ought to tell Roberts. Moulded to look like a jukebox, the MP-30 boasts a truly stunning array of features but looks so cluttered we wouldn't blame you for looking away now. The cheap plastic shell and protruding knobs and buttons take the shine off what is a rather advanced DAB radio.
For starters, it's not just DAB fans that are catered for. Alongside the fast auto-tuning DAB tuner is a FM radio - complete with radio data system (RDS) for station names and other info - and the ability to play digital music. On the side of the unit is an SD card slot that's able to take almost any size card, although Roberts kindly supply a 256MB version.
Aside from playing back MP3 and WMA files - which can be transferred to the card using the MP-30's USB port on the opposite side, or using a universal card reader on a PC - the card is also useful if you want to use any of the recording functions. Chief among them is PausePlus, Roberts' name for an orange button on the MP-30's side that is able to pause live radio for up to 30mins.
Below it is a record button, which allows any radio show to be recorded onto the SD card as a MP2 file. Better still, the EPG button opens up a seven-day electronic programme guide that lets you browse the schedules and set recordings at the press of a button. In practice, this only works with some BBC stations and the feature is frequently unavailable, but we can't blame Roberts for that.
Connectivity is actually very good and includes an optical digital output for connecting the MP-30 to an amplifier. Analogue phono outputs do a similar job. But for such a large radio, it's also a shame that only a mono speaker is provided, but at least it's good enough to offer a clear reproduction of voice radio. An unusual and welcome touch is the provision of bass and treble controls on the radio's side, which do prove handy, as well as a button that locks the unit to avoid accidental de-tuning.
More or less
But our 'more is less' feeling about the MP-30 continues with its huge orange screen. Easy to read, yes, but as well as being faulty on our review sample, it's crammed full of logos and instructions to tell you exactly what's going on. Do we really need the MP-30 to tell us that we're listening on our headphones, or that the unit is operating in secondary mode and is about to wake us up with a buzzer alarm?
No, we don't, and the oversized screen exposes the fact that although the features have been piled onto the MP-30, insufficient thought has gone into how easy, or enjoyable, it is to use. Five stars for features, but this frantic little fellow lacks the build quality and the streamlined elegance we'd expect in a £200 DAB radio.