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Review - HomeDock Deluxe
Friday, April 28th, 2006 at 1:30 PM - by
DLO's new HomeDock Deluxe represents the latest in iPod docking technology, not only allowing you to connect your iPod to your TV and home stereo, but also offering on-screen navigation. This enables you to truly control your iPod from a distance as you browse its music library on you television.
The HomeDock Deluxe is styled after the original HomeDock (3 stars), but with design touches that say "premium". The original's dinky white remote with a red top is replaced by a considerably larger, heaving, and sleeker black remote control that sports additional buttons for on-screen navigation. The base is black with gunmetal trim and sports an Apple-like pinpoint sized white power LED (that's almost too bright at eye level) as opposed to the larger green/blue DLO logo on the HomeDock. The A/V cables have also been upgraded for the HomeDock Deluxe, from the standard el-cheapo cable that comes bundled with $25 DVD players to a thicker shielded, better looking set. Alas, DLO still skimps on the S-Video cableyou'll have to bring your ownwhich is the ideal method for connecting the HomeDock Deluxe to your television since it produces a brighter, clear image, ideal for reading the on-screen navigation text.
HomeDock Deluxe (L) and HomeDock (R)
Setting up the HomeDock Deluxe is a simple process that shouldn't even require looking at the manual: just plug everything in, drop your iPod in, and power up your television. You can control your iPod either through your TV with the remote control or from the iPod directly (also with the remote control if you like), but not both at the same time. The natural question then beckons as to why would you want to control your iPod directly, as you would with a standard iPod dock, when you have the on-screen goodness at your fingertips. The answer: at present, due to iPod firmware limitations, you can only navigate an iPod's music collection on screen. That means photos and videos, arguably two better reasons to have on-screen iPod navigation, are currently left out of the Deluxe experience.
HomeDock (L) and HomeDock Deluxe (R)
There is another small point to consider with the HomeDock Deluxe as well: some televisions will not play audio from a source when the television is waiting for a video signal as well, which is to say that playing music via the on-screen navigation with your television turned on is the only way you will be able to listen to music in these cases. This can be remedied by connecting the audio from the HomeDock Deluxe directly to your home stereo, but others may want to consider whether having your television on whenever you listen to music, and paying appropriately for the electricity, is worth it. For subtlety's sake, the HomeDock Deluxe does feature a screen saver that turns your television black and displays only basic track information, akin to any one of the music channels digital cable or satellite subscribers are familiar with.
DLO did an effective job with the on-screen navigation interface, although navigating your music library for any extended period of time with the four directional arrows will make you appreciate the iPod's clickwheel even more. Support for album artwork is really the only notable omission; the HomeDock Deluxe otherwise performs admirably well. We were happy to see that in upgrading the remote control, DLO also fixed most of the range issues related to the original HomeDock. The HomeDock Deluxe's remote control still doesn't have the wide angle or range of a quality television or stereo remote, but it worked well for us at distances up to 20 feet away without needing to be perfectly aligned with the base unit like the HomeDock did.
The Bottom Line
The HomeDock Deluxe represents an exciting and new direction for iPod docks and home integration. Unfortunately, without support for video or photos yet the appeal is stunted, although early adopters can be confident that when Apple adds such support, the HomeDock Deluxe will take advantage of it. There's one other thing buyers should consider: much like the original HomeDock, DLO is one of the first to market with a product like this, which accordingly carries with it a premium price tag that's not to be scoffed at: $149.95. Given that the original HomeDock continues to sell for $99.95 when equally effective alternatives can be had for half that price from competitors, price conscious consumers may wish to wait to see what other companies bring to market.
Note: Our 4 out of 5 rating is based on the premise that in the near future videos and photos will be supported on the HomeDock Deluxe. As an audio-only device, the HomeDock Deluxe would garner only a 3 out of 5 rating.
Just The Facts
Pros: attractive design accomodates most iPods and cases; simple, effective on-screen navigation; good remote
Cons: on-screen navigation supports only music at present; S-video cable not included; premium pricing
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