Olive 4 500GB Music Server Price: $1,499 Rating: Reccomend* Capable of storing 6,000 CDs, the Olive 4 is like having a computer with nothing else on it but iTunes. The unit is designed to fit into your media cabinet but fill your whole house with tunes. Upload music from CDs to it's hard drive, drag and drop mp3s from your computer or listen to internet radio and have the entire house filled with tunes as you can connect to music players in any room. The Olive 4 promises that their Hi-Fi music server has "eliminated the need for a PC." Unboxing: When you open up this bad boy for the first time, you'll see it's designed to be easy to set up. The unit is accompanied with a power cord, remote control and a Wi-Fi antenna. I was a little upset to see that I'd have to use my own RCA cable to connect this to my home speaker system, but many newer systems are connecting exclusively with Toslink cables. The Olive unit provides options for wiring up both ways. At first glance, the Olive unit is sleek but substantial. You've just bought a piece of major home tech and you know it. At 13 pounds, this is no iPod. It's design is superior, too. An aluminum body is etched on the top with lines of written music genres. A subtle element that typography freaks will dig. The buttons on the unit are rubberized and fun to touch. The clunky plastic remote control doesn't share any of the same design features as the unit it controls. A bummer, to say the least, since it's what I'll be looking at front-and-center on the coffee table.
Performance: The first thing you'll notice about the Olive 4 is it's bright and sharp screen. The unit is controlled with a high-resolution touchscreen that gives the whole user experience a bit of polish—it's what you'd expect from such a high-ticket device. But the touchscreen "buttons" are small, meaning sometimes you'll select the wrong artist, and main controls are located at the bottom of the screen directly above the aluminum bevel, meaning that you'll have a tough time tapping down on volume controls—problems I had even with my own tiny fingertips. The volume control itself is strange also, requiring that you 'save' the adjustment before you can hear your music get louder or softer. But once you get the touch thing down, navigating the menus is easy with an interface similar to iPod's. As soon as you insert a CD, the entire experience is fool-proof, with on-screen options to listen or upload. Once you're connected to the Web, CD and track info, including full-color album artwork, is automatically added and sorted (I wasn't yet connected when I took the pic below).
The unit really shines when it's connected to the Web. Before I wired up, I accidentally touched through to internet radio and had the screen freeze on me, requiring that I power off and on to get back to my music. But when connected, album information came up quickly and internet radio stations were steady and clear. What we liked: If you're somebody who listens to music over less-than-stellar computer speakers and reminisces about the days you used to pop a CD in the stereo and rock out in your living room, then there's no better machine than the Olive 4 music server for you. It allows you to combine your digital files with those CDs you still have lying around to keep up one main music server with all your favorite tunes ready to listen to at a remote's notice. Plus you can finally get rid of those CDs, because the Olive 4 has a USB connection allowing you to back up your files to an external hard drive. The unit is overall well-designed and the menus are flashy and easy to navigate. What needs improvement: Besides the sky-high price, our biggest bummer was the remote control. For such an inspiring design, the remote felt cheap and looked clunky. The touchscreen was tough to work with sometimes, but real-life buttons are available as a second option for screen navigation. It sounds silly, but we were confused when the led light for the power button remained turned on and green no matter if the unit was playing tunes or sitting on standby. With a few tweaks to make the user experience smoother, the Olive 4 would have been a strong recommend. Technical Specs: 4.3" high-resolution touchscreen Panasonic CD-R/RW USB 1.1/2.0 port Wired for Ethernet or 54 Mbit/s wireless connectivity Available in 500 GB, 1TB and 2TB drive models Width 17.13", Height 3.35", Depth 11.42" Weight 13.2 lb *Our Ratings: Strong Recommend Recommend Weak Recommend Don't Recommend