If you love podcasts, but hate the hassle of booting up your computer and managing subscriptions through iTunes, the CastGrabber ($119) is designed with you in mind. The concept is straightforward: attach the Cast Grabber to your home network, connect your MP3 player, and wait as your podcast subscriptions download directly to your device. Unfortunately, life with the Cast Grabber isn't that simple, and at $119, it offers few advantages against the many free software options available.
The Cast Grabber has the sex appeal of a doorstop. We could forgive its bulky plastic wedge design if it concealed an internal Wi-Fi antenna, but alas, the Cast Grabber requires a wired connection to your home network to pull down podcasts. Other wires sticking out of the Cast Grabber include a detachable DC power adapter and a USB cable that runs to your MP3 player. A retractable shelf extends from the front of the Cast Grabber, offering a seat for MP3 players as small as the iPod Nano, or as large as the Archos 705 WiFi.
The Cast Grabber promises just two things: that it will charge any USB-powered device; and that it will download podcasts to your MP3 player without the aid of a computer. In our testing, the Cast Grabber delivered on its promises with one exception--video podcasts. Unlike audio podcasts, which conform to the MP3 file standard, video podcasts come in so many varieties that very few will agree with your particular MP3 player without first being converted using computer software. Even our fifth-generation video iPod and third-generation iPod Nano, devices for which the majority of podcasts are tailored, could not playback video podcasts downloaded using the Cast Grabber. Despite our disappointment with video podcast support, the Cast Grabber proved itself consistently capable of downloading audio podcasts directly to several of our iPod and non-iPod MP3 players.
When compared with the sophisticated audio and video podcast management of Apple's iTunes software, the Cast Grabber just doesn't measure up. As the most popular application for discovering, downloading, managing, and transferring podcasts, iTunes is a tough act to follow for any podcast-related product (it's also free). For users who dislike the iTunes interface or own a non-iPod MP3 player, alternative podcast software such as MediaFly, MyPodder, and Juice, offer free alternatives to the Cast Grabber system. If you despise your computer, however, making the case for software-based podcast solutions is a moot point.