Review: TransPod FM
Developer: Digital Lifestyle Outfitters
Price: $99 (list)
Requirements: 3G iPod or newer, or iPod mini
Someone must have been telling me something. On the same day as the blurb on MacMinute noting new black and silver versions of DLO’s TransPod, the latest edition of Macworld magazine arrived in my mail box. Within was a full-page ad for the TransPod.
With a long-weekend road trip coming up, I thought it would provide the perfect opportunity for a good review. E-mail communications with DLO’s Vice-President Andrew Green had a silver review unit at my residence the day before we were scheduled to depart. I had requested silver, because I thought it would complement the interior of my Honda Pilot . Unfortunately, the road trip was taking place in my wife’s Odyssey. In reality, it wasn’t unfortunate, as it gave me a chance to look over the mounting options of the TransPod between two distinct vehicles. More on that shortly.
There’s a lot in the TransPod packaging. There is the TransPod module, called the Base Dock by DLO: this is what your iPod or iPod mini will slide in to. The digital FM transmitter is also inside the module. DLO provides an insert for use with the iPod mini, as well as two soft pads that stick to the interior of the TransPod module so your iPod doesn’t rub against hard plastic. One of the two pads is slightly thicker than the other; which one you use depends upon which model iPod you own. After selecting the proper one for my third-generation, 40 GB iPod, I tried the fit. The iPod doesn’t just slide down into the TransPod; you have to give it a little push until it clicks in to the dock connector. It’s a snug fit, which is good, as it means there is no chance of your iPod falling out.
Once the fit of the iPod in the module was confirmed, it was time to look at mounting options, and the TransPod kit provides a couple. There is a two-piece plastic arm set; one piece of the arm has a power adapter plug on the end, so you can plug it directly in to your vehicle’s power socket. Usage of the second arm piece, which is more adjustable than the charging arm, is dependent upon how you want to place the iPod so it’s easy to use. In the Pilot, I elected to use the both pieces of the arm. You can see in the photos below how I arranged the TransPod module.
I really like the setup in the Pilot. The iPod is easily viewable when the vehicle is not in motion, and I can still hit the buttons by touch while driving, should the need arise.
Mounting the TransPod in the Odyssey, however, proved a bit more of a challenge, due to the placement of the power socket at the very base of the center part of the dash, where the dash meets the floorboard. I tried using the arm set-up as in the Pilot, but no matter how I adjusted the joints, I was unable to get the unit high enough that it would be comfortable, and safe, to use. So it was time for option two: the dashboard mount.
Here is where I took points off of the TransPod. The plate provided for mounting to the dash has a place for two screws, also provided in the kit. I was not keen on screwing a mounting plate in to the dash. Those readers who may be leasing a vehicle would certainly not want to do so, as the repair would mean more money out of their pocket when the lease is up. We plan on keeping our Odyssey for many years, but the thought of drilling in to the dash did not appeal to me. Unfortunately, DLO does not provide any other dash-mounting options in the TransPod kit, and I was left to fend for myself.
Fortunately, I had some velcro stripping from a long-ago project left over, and this proved to be the solution I was looking for. The mounting plate was secured to the dash with these velcro strips, then the dash mount arm was attached. I plugged the power adapter in to the Odyssey’s main power socket, then in to the dash mount arm. Finally, the TransPod Base Dock was attached, the iPod slid in to place, and we were ready for our road trip.
One word on attaching the TransPod Base Dock to the dash mount arm or the adjustable power socket arm(s): the dock is designed to attach sideways, then rotated ninety degrees to a vertical position to lock it to the arm. I had no issues with leaving my iPod inside the Base Dock while attaching and detaching the TransPod from either mount, but some iPod owners might be more discriminating than I.
Usage of the TransPod in the automobile is fairly straightforward. At the bottom of the Base Dock is a single-line LCD display. This denotes which FM frequency the unit is set to. Users can adjust the frequency with the up and down buttons on the Base Dock’s right side. If you live in a FM-heavy metropolitan area, DLO has thought ahead and provided a stereo jack on the left side, as an alternative means of output.
I live in the Dallas/Fort Worth metroplex, and there are a lot of FM stations. I chose the lowest number on the “dial,” 87.9. This proved to be a good choice, as we had no areas of interference during the nine-hour drive from our home in the northern portion of the metroplex to the New Orleans area. Use in the Pilot since our return has also shown no interference with using that frequency. Your mileage may vary, of course, depending upon the strength of the stations in your area who may be operating at any given frequency.
I have been looking for an iPod vehicle mount for some time. My past experiences with FM transmitters had me using a cassette adapter with my iPod. I am pleased to say that the TransPod FM has answered my desires, for now at any rate. I wish DLO offered a non-invasive dash mount, but this doesn’t take away from the TransPod’s operating ability.