Sunday, March 04, 2007

Product Review: Belkin TuneFM

I've wanted my iPod to for my car for a while, initially I was going to shell out £100 for the VW fitted car kit, but since they've upped the price to £155 to fit and install a unit worth £75 - I've decided to look at the alternatives.

After some reading up found a few worrying limitation with the interface, namely you are limited to play lists and cannot choose songs from the iPod directly while it's connected to the car. Song selection was also by number, not artist or song title... very disappointing.

So I did a bit a searching around the good ol' net and eventually ended up going to my local Apple store and had a chat to one the staff there. The fellow was particularly helpful and we ran through the pro's and cons of each system.

The Kensington was not ideal as I have a GPS that also requires the cigarette lighter (but did supply RDS info about the song to the radio)

The iTrip did not provide sufficient power output on battery alone.

So I settled for the TuneFm which seemed a good compromise between the 2. But a bit pricier than I wanted to pay at £54.

Now I have an iPod mini (6GB) so the TuneFM is a bit wider than the unit.

The second problem was that they only had black ones in stock and my mini is silver, so white would have been nicer.

The unit is neat and simple to use. There are 4 preset station ID's each with it's own button. 2 up and Down arrows provide the functionality to change the frequency.

The unit attached to the unit via the universal connector at the bottom of the unit. This has 2 advantages.

1. It's compatible with ALL iPods and
2. The units volume control does not come into play. So no accidentally loud starts!

My only gripe is that there are no fastening clips, it's just slides in and out. A bit too easily for my liking. It's fallen out twice so far while handling the unit.

There is also a neat little expansion click on the unit to enable easy fit when using cases with the iPod.

The in car charger is a USB connection to the FMTune but while attached to a PC will not provide any functionality other than charging.

Now for the biggest problem and it's not a problem with the unit itself. The problem is I live in Surrey, South London (UK) and the FM Band is chock full of stations. There is some sort of a signal on EVERY part of the band. So the problem is not finding a free part of the spectrum, it's finding the part of the spectrum that has the LEAST interference.

As a result there is noise and clicking on each of the my chosen frequencies during my trip from work to home.

Finding the one that works for me has been a bit of a problem and will come with some trail and error.

This is especially frustrating since when choosing say 106.00 at work, by the time I'm 1/2 way home the signal from a rogue station has strengthened and I start to get interference about 20 minutes into my journey.

I've found 2 suggested solutions.

1. Adjust the FM gain on the car Radio - not an option for my car Radio.
2. Remove the car Arial, not tried this yet. I need to check that there's enough gain so I can still listen to a few of my favourite radio shows. I don't want to listen to the iPod ALL the time. I do need to get traffic updates while out and about.

Overall I give the unit 4/5, but living in London drops it to a 3/5.

No comments: