With so many models -- many of them disappointing -- on the market today, choosing the right FM transmitter for your car can be a harrowing process. But car-driving iPod owners with no other connectivity options, such as a tape deck or a line-in jack, should look no further than Digital Lifestyle Outfitters' TransPod, a second-generation product specifically designed for iPods with a dock connector.
The DLO TransPod is basically a docking cradle held up by an adjustable multijoint arm. Simply plug the unit into a car lighter adapter, stick a dock-connector iPod (including the video iPod and the Nano) in the cradle, and adjust the arms for optimal comfort. We prefer these mount-style FM transmitters as they give users easy access -- important when you're hurtling down the highway at top speed.Design
The DLO TransPod cradle is well designed, with no rough edges and a flush backing support, and the layout of the buttons is intuitive. The bottom of the device has a small blue-backlit one-line LCD screen that displays the current radio frequency and charging status. On either side of the display are two arrows for scrolling through radio stations. Navigate through up to four user-preset radio stations and turn on/off the display's blue blacklight using buttons on either side of the cradle. Conveniently, the cradle charges the iPod.Installation
The initial installation of the DLO TransPod might be a little daunting at first since the box contains 10 pieces that fit together to form the adjustable arm that braces the cradle. With the help of the detailed instruction sheet, it took us a bit of experimenting to find the right position for our particular vehicle, but once the cradle was set up and plugged in, everything worked together well. The only downside is that the supporting arm is made of a cheap plastic that tends to flex when accessing the iPod controls; there's nothing major to worry about, but it's something to keep in mind while you're furiously smashing the Next button on the drive home. We fretted at times that a big bump would send everything flying, but bouncy rides were incident-free.Performance
Most city dwellers will have no problem finding a crystal-clear station within the advertised 87.9-to-107.9 range, thanks to the TransPod's virtually unlimited choice of stations and robust transmission signal. The TransPod, available in white, silver, or black, features a handy auxiliary output plug in case you decide to use a cassette adapter or a 1/8-inch miniplug as well as an audio input for other external devices such as PVP and handheld gaming systems. The TransPod is fully compatible with any iPod and includes plastic inserts for both the Nano and Mini series to ensure a tight fit in the dock.
Our road tests yielded surprisingly positive results with very little to no static depending on the radio station. Of course, each consumer's experience will vary based on location signal strength and the stereo quality, but our rigorous tests in foggy San Francisco yielded an uninterrupted in-car dance party all the way across the city (approximately 16 km). Compared to many other FM transmitters, the TransPod worked well and sounded good enough to impress the entire CNET digital audio staff.
Overall, we were thoroughly impressed by the player's accessibility and ease of use after the initial setup. With useful details such as an auxiliary output jack, an in-line battery charge indicator, and a virtually limitless amount of station options, the TransPod finally delivers a static-free FM transmitter that integrates seamlessly into your drive home. iPod Shuffle owners should check out the DLO TransPod Shuffle, which also delivers, though not as well as the TransPod.