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Review: 12 Essential iPod Gadgets

Want even more out of your Apple iPod? We examine 12 add-ons that can transform your iPod into an entertainment center, a DVR, or a car video player.
Video On The Go

If you're looking for something that's artistically pleasing as well as useful, there's always Sonic Impact's Video-55 portable video player. The $150 black Video-55 and a black Video iPod are a perfect match for each other.


12 iPod Gadgets


•  Introduction

•  Viewing Videos

•  Stereo Sound

•  More Stereo Sound

•  On The Record

•  Video On The Go

•  Interesting Add-Ons


•  Image Gallery

The display is a 7-inch LCD panel with a 480 x 234 resolution that looks absolutely perfect -- or at least close enough to make little difference. As with any small screen, images aren't great at a distance but overall, it's a major improvement compared to the iPod's 2.5-inch display. The viewing parameters (such as contrast and brightness) are adjustable from within the Video-55's menu, as is the screen's aspect ratio (16:9 or 4:3 to match the iPod's widescreen on/off option).

Sound is equally impeccable, thanks to a passive radiator built into the Video-55's hinge assembly, which also houses the unit's stereo speakers. Headphones are optional, but although Sonic Impact's Web site indicates that there are dual outputs, I could only find one. (If it's important to you, splitters are commonly available.) Hidden under the same rubber side-panel are AV inputs and outputs for external connections as well as a USB port so you can update your iPod while it's docked in the Video-55.

You can control the Video-55 via its touch-sensitive controls, via your iPod's scroll wheel, or by way of a remote that's not much bigger than a matchbook. (Just so you won't lose it, there's a spring-loaded dock on the front of the Video-55 that lets the remote retract into the case.)

You'll get an honest four hours and a wee bit more of battery life; it takes just about as long to recharge. You can extend that by using headphones and turning down the screen brightness.

And don't let the fact that Sonic Impact included a power cable for your car escape you. If you've got a couple of kids in the back, then a couple of movies downloaded from iTunes will make for a far more enjoyable drive.

Sonic Impact Video-55

DLO TransDock
Sonic Impact Video-55: The Sonic Impact Video-55's display is a seven-inch LCD panel with a really sharp 480 x 234 resolution. DLO TransDock: DLO's TransDock let you transmit audio and video from your iPod to your car's radio or display system.

(click image for larger view)

The Sonic Impact Video-55's display is a seven-inch LCD panel with a really sharp 480 x 234 resolution.

view the image gallery

(click image for larger view)

DLO's TransDock let you transmit audio and video from your iPod to your car's radio or display system.

view the image gallery

When you open the box holding DLO's TransDock, you might think you've just spent your $100 on a kit to build a Transformer. However, once you thumb through the user manual, you'll discover that every gizmo and widget in the package is there to let you send audio and video out of your iPod and into your car.

The TransDock is compatible with first- and second-generation Nanos, the iPod Mini, the Video iPod, the iPod with color screen, and the plain vanilla iPod, so there's quite a bit included (side and back pads, and dock adapters) to make sure everything fits the way it should. In fact, there's even a replacement faceplate for the unit should you prefer the flat titanium look to that of black plastic.

There's also a caveat: According to DLO, "No installation required; simple to move from car to car." That's only true if you're going audio only. In that case, the TransDock will happily send your tunes to your car stereo over an unused FM radio channel, using an audio input port at the bottom of the unit. The TransDock comes with six preset channels in the 88.1 to 107.9 range and you can change them to whatever happens to work for you locally.

On the other hand, video or still images require that you have a monitor of some type in your vehicle. You're also going to need something akin to the Apple iPod AV Cable, a $20 adapter, to connect the TransDock to the display. You must then hardwire the adapter to your onboard audio and video -- which puts a damper on the transportability issue unless you're fine with cables slung through your car.

The TransDock also works as a device charger: While your iPod is charged through its docking port when connected to the TransDock, the unit has a USB port you can use to charge any other device you'd normally plug into your computer for a fill-up.

I did have initial problem with the device. Rather than a flexible gooseneck stand to attach your iPod to your car's cigarette plug (er, auxiliary power connector), the TransDock comes with what looks like a plumber's pipe contraption, with an extension that you can use if your power connector is too low on the dashboard. There are four lockable ball joints so you have a considerable degree of flexibility. However, once everything was locked in place, I found that the stand lacks the elegance of gooseneck, it also has none of the wobble inherent in that design either.

Editor's Choice
Mary E. Shacklett, President of Transworld Data
James M. Connolly, Contributing Editor and Writer