What do you do when you've finally transferred all your songs, photos, and videos onto your Apple iPod? Well, watch and listen to them, for a start. But before long, you'll be thinking about how to release all that content from its portable prison. The DLO HomeDock Deluxe ($150), which offers a convenient way to play that media on your home stereo or television, could be just the solution you're looking for. It includes a large, easy onscreen menu system for music and video navigation, but hassles with the iPod's firmware make the HomeDock Deluxe less than ideal for photos.
The first generation of the HomeDock Deluxe could navigate music menus onscreen, but an insurmountable problem with the iPod firmware kept it from navigating video or photo menus. Well, the insurmountable has been surmounted, and the HomeDock Deluxe can now display video menus, although you'll still need to switch to iPod mode and navigate photos on your iPod's tiny screen.
The DLO HomeDock Deluxe is a small (1.0 by 5.8 by 3.8 inches), attractive black and silver box with a docking port and a remote control with a built-in stand. The remote communicates by infrared, so it requires a line of sight to work; we'd have preferred a radio-frequency remote. To use the HomeDock Deluxe, simply connect it to your television or your stereo with the included RCA audio/video or S-video cables and plug in the power cord. The HomeDock Deluxe charges a docked iPod and can even work as a docking station when connected to a computer. The HomeDock doesn't offer an iPod universal dock (instead, it comes with an adjustable backrest)and doesn't include a USB A-to-B cable, which users need if they're going to connect it to their computers.
Having music and video navigation you can read from the couch is a great touch, but a few things about using the DLO HomeDock Deluxe irked us. For instance, when you're scrolling through your iPod's long list of artist names, scrolling speeds up automatically after a few screens to help you get to the x's, y's, and z's. That's great, but because there's a slight lag when using the remote, it's almost impossible to stop at the m's and n's. Take your finger off the scroll button, and the HomeDock won't stop scrolling for another half second, leaving you far past the place in the list you wanted. While we like that the HomeDock Deluxe lets you scrub through a song to get to the part you want, if you're scrubbing backwards the onscreen progress bar doesn't move until you're finished, so it can be hard to know where in the song you actually are until you stop. Also, even though you can navigate podcasts just like any other tracks, the on-screen menu doesn't show you which podcasts you've already listened to or viewed, as the iPod does.
When you're ready to look at some pictures, you press the Mode button on the remote's upper-left corner to toggle to iPod Mode. You can't simply view photos one by one; you'll need to launch a slide show from your library or a photo folder. To do so, call up a picture on the iPod, then press the remote's Enter button. Mac users: Note that slide shows created in iPhoto don't appear on the iPod, so you'll want to create folders instead.
In our testing, video and photos looked decent on a TV screen, but had a little bit of blurriness around the edges. They weren't nearly as crisp as a regular TV show. Videos were often noticeably darker than they should have been, and photos were just slightly too dark.
The HomeDock Deluxe works with 4G and 5G iPods, iPod Minis, and iPod Nanos. However, Nanos can't export photos and don't handle video, so Nano and Mini owners may want to consider a cheaper option, such as the Kensington Stereo Dock. If you're willing to spend a little more, the Keyspan TuneView for iPod offers similar functionality, but features an illuminated LCD screen in the remote.
The DLO HomeDock Deluxe comes with a 90-day limited warranty. The company Web site includes helpful FAQs on the product page and a downloadable version of the manual. The manual and the Web site include a support e-mail address for registered products. There's no support phone number.