DLO HomeDock Music Remote review:

DLO HomeDock Music Remote

You navigate in and out of song lists by artist (the album and genre info is simply omitted). Alternately, you can choose pre-existing playlists, or create an on-the-fly one using the "jukebox" feature. Overall, the remote access works well enough, but it's not as good as could be. The navigation is somewhat sluggish--there's a perceptible pause when your moving up and down lists, and back and forth between menus. And the HomeDock remote controls aren't as intuitive as those on the iPod. There are only five buttons, in a standard D-pad configuration (up, down, left, right, and center), but their functions aren't clear. For instance, the center "MENU" button doubles as select and back; but the left button (previous track) can also take you to the previous menus, in some instances. Furthermore, anyone with a large music collection--say, more than a couple of gigabytes--will find paging through the long alphabetical artist lists (going from Rolling Stones to Beatles and then back down to Prince, for instance) to be tedious.

The OLED display is bright, but navigation and response time is on the slow side.

A bigger issue that gave us cause for concern was that the DLO unit seemed to lock up when we tried to use a 60GB iPod that was about two-thirds full of music. While an 8GB iPod Nano worked fine, the larger iPod kept giving the DLO problems. It may have been something unique to the iPod, but the repeated glitching made us think the HomeDock needs a bit more stability. (Unfortunately, there's no indication as to whether or not the unit is firmware upgradable.) And while we're nitpicking, the fact that the remote's rechargeable battery isn't removable is annoying. When it eventually dies (all rechargeable batteries do), the unit is effectively useless.

The HomeDock Music Remote's flaws are all the more glaring because there are a handful of competing products that are easier to recommend. The Belkin TuneStage 2 uses the iPod itself as the remote (a snap-on dongle relays the music to a wireless base station), so you retain the player's excellent scrollwheel navigation--though the Bluetooth transmitter saps the iPod's battery pretty quickly. The Keyspan TuneView for iPod costs more than the DLO Music Remote, but it offers a similar screen, better button layout, alphabetical shortcuts for long lists, and it also provides access to videos and photos (if you've got the dock connected to a TV screen). Another video-centric alternative is DLO's own HomeDock Deluxe, which displays the iPod's contents on an attached TV screen, so you can navigate to songs and videos from the comfort of the sofa. Later in 2007, meanwhile, Philips (the corporate parent of DLO) will offer the SJM3151, a universal remote that provides iPod navigation on its built-in LCD--in addition to controlling all of the other devices in your home theater system.

All in all, the DLO HomeDock Music Remote is a promising iPod accessory for the home--it just needs some improvements before it's truly ready for prime time. We'd like to see an improved button layout, faster response time, better stability with high-capacity iPods, and (of course) a lower price for the product's next-generation. Until then, it's OK as a convenience for small capacity iPods (Nanos or Minis).

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