Just about everybody knows about
Apple's ultra popular iPod device and how it takes thousands of songs,
hundreds of photos, or all of a week's favorite TV shows and delivers them in
a small hand held device.
For many people, the iPod has become part of a
cool lifestyle because it's so convenient and easy to use. For those who
already have caught the iPod buzz and want to expand the functionality of
their iPod to make it sort of a mini home media center, Sonance has come up
with just the very solution called the iPort.
The iPort is essentially an enhanced docking
station. As well as charging your iPod and being able to transfer data back
and forth from the computer, it adds the ability to display video on a
television screen and present audio on a stereo system.
There are five variations of the iPort free
standing dock system that are named FS-1 through FS-5. The basic FS-1 model
delivers local-zone unbalanced audio and video up to 25 feet, connects to a
computer, and charges the iPod while it is docked. The FS-2 model includes
those features and also allows control of track playback or volume from the
iPort dock itself, as well as allowing a third party or optional iPort remote to be
connected and used via IR connections.
As you move up to the FS-3, FS-4, and
FS-5 models, basically one gets the ability to deliver the audio and video
and use the remotes at a much farther distance (up to 500 ft). There are
also in-wall versions of the iPort available, and more information
can be found on the company's website.
iPort Music sent the FS-2
system to me for review. The box contained the iPort Dock, a 6.5' double
cable, a power adapter, and a signal breakout box that is used to connect
the device to your audio/video equipment.
Supported iPod models are the iPod
mini, iPod with dock connector, and the iPod photo, and there is an
adjustable spacer wheel that positions the specific iPod in the dock.
All data transfers can be done through Apple's Itunes software. Bonus points for the super easy learning curve!
Continuing with my setup, the included double
cable uses an iPod interface adapter to connect the iDock to the A/V
breakout box, and a USB adapter connects the dock to the computer
for the data transfer mode. The FS-2 system supports composite and S-Video
connections for video output, and analog RCA connections for the audio
output. Also, it's important that the iPod have the TV Out setting
enabled in the iPod video settings menu for the video to work correctly. The
FS-2–FS-5 models are all IR remote-capable and allow selections from the
comfort of the couch, but unfortunately, my biggest gripe with the remote
control features of the unit is that while I could get the iPod's video and
photos to output to my television, I couldn't figure out how to make the iPod's menu system to output to the screen. This would make it a feel-through-the-dark navigation system while using a typical remote
control, so I would recommend looking into the iPort EX-1 Remote Control
which is available separately.
The EX-1 functions include:
(FS-2 or higher)
mode selection - enabling next/previous song, album,
navigate the iPod menu system and make selections
After the iPort is connected and the iPod sits
in the dock, the interface is really simple to use. There are two modes of
the device which can be selected by pressing the round button on the face of
the unit. These are a streaming data mode, which allows playback of audio
video material on your chosen playback devices, and a data transfer mode,
which allows new material to be transferred back and forth between the iPod
and a computer system.
While the light on the front of the device is red,
the device is in data transfer mode, and the computer will recognize that a
USB device has been connected, and one must also take note that the device
has to be ejected through the computer's stop device command before removing
the iPod from the iPort while in this mode.
I found this mode absolutely
simple to operate, as all the functions were performed in the already
familiar iTunes software. I could drag and drop songs, photos, and videos,
and there were no problems using it.
When the front light is white,
the iPort is in the data streaming mode, and the controls on the front of the iPod can be used to make selections. For those who like bigger buttons, the
large forward and reverse buttons on the iPort can be used to skip tracks on
What I liked most about the iPort FS-2 was the ease of getting my
media on to my home theater system. Rather than connecting cables to my
television or audio system every time that I wanted to play iPod material, I
could simply plug the iPod into the iPort, and be ready to watch or listen
to whatever I have recently downloaded, and all of this while charging the iPod at the same time.
Overall, I was satisfied with the device's
audio and video quality. The sound was clear, and nothing stuck out
as being detrimental to the MP3 format. All in all, the iPort
device was transparent to my listening enjoyment.
Photos came in sharp, with
vivid color, and I liked that I could make a television slideshow very easily
by using the iPod's built in slideshow feature. The video quality was great
for enjoying any programs that had been downloaded, and I could easily
compare the picture to that of a quality video feed. Using the S-Video
connection would be the superior choice in getting the best video quality
from this device by the way.
I think Sonance's iPort hits a home run in
being the all-in-one docking/charging cradle that adds functionality to the iPod. People who find the iPod to be a fun and important part of their
lifestyle will appreciate the incredibly easy way this device allows all the
week's favorite media and downloads to be presented on their home audio and
video system in a simple plug and play fashion.
With the iPort delivering
functionality similar to what a media center computer can provide, and at
only a fraction of the cost, it's an awesome iPod accessory to own, and is
sure to be a hot gift that any iPod user with an A/V system would be
delighted to receive.
- Adrian Wittenberg -