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Product Review
 

Sonance iPort Docking Station for the iPod

April, 2007

Adrian Wittenberg

 

Specifications

 

● Interface: USB

Features: Audio/Video Playback, Data
  Transfer, Charging

IR Remote-Capable

Dimensions: 4.8" H x 6.3" W x 3.5" D

● Weight: 2 Pounds

● MSRP: $150 USA
 

iPort Music

Introduction

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 Design

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.

Setup

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:

  • Play/Pause

  • Next/Previous Track

  • Volume Up/Down (FS-2 or higher)

  • Shuffle mode selection

  • Repeat mode selection

  • Song/Album/Playlist/Chapter mode selection - enabling next/previous song, album,

  • playlist and chapter selections.

  • Ability to navigate the iPod menu system and make selections

  • iPort LED brightness control

In Use

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 the fly.

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.

Audio/Video Impressions

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.

Conclusions

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 -

© Copyright 2007 Secrets of Home Theater & High Fidelity

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