GoGroove FlexSmart X3 review: FM transmitter improves, but not by much

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CNET Editors' Rating

2.5 stars OK
  • Overall: 5.7
  • Design: 5.0
  • Features: 7.0
  • Performance: 5.0
Review Date:
Updated on:

The Good The GoGroove FlexSmart X3 features improved automatic channel scanning when compared to the old X2 model. Fit and finish have been improved. 3.5mm input and output connections give users more options.

The Bad High-pitched alternator whine beneath the audio was a minor annoyance. FM automatic scanning was less accurate than other GoGroove models we've tested.

The Bottom Line The GoGroove FlexSmart X3 makes a strong showing, but is overshadowed by its sibling the GoGrove SmartMini.

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FM transmission is pretty old tech. Feed the transmitter an audio source and set it to broadcast on an open FM frequency. Then tune into that frequency on a nearby radio and enjoy your wireless music.

It's simple, old radio tech, but the FCC imposes limits on how strong these transmitters can broadcast their wireless signals. That doesn't leave much room for improvement. Perhaps that's why, despite a fresh coat of paint and tweaks in tuning sensitivity, the new GoGroove FlexSmart X3 doesn't feel head-and-shoulders better than the FlexSmart X2 that I reviewed over two years ago.

But just a few months ago, I was praising another GoGroove FM transmitter for exceeding my expectations for the category, so perhaps the X3 will wow me yet.

Design
The new Flexsmart X3 model has a new, white design that looks sleeker and more compact than the previous X2 model. Break out your tape measure, though, and you'll see that the overall dimensions haven't really changed much. The glossy white-and-gray plastic reminds me of a classic iDevice and should stick out quite a bit in pretty much any vehicle interior. A darker option would be nice.

It doesn't just look slicker; the X3 also streamlines its interface by integrating the call answer and end buttons into the black plastic that shields the red LCD tuning display. Gone also is the control knob that the old model used to manually tune radio stations. In its place, you'll find a circle of buttons and a larger emphasis on the automatic scanning.

Largely, however, this is the same Flexsmart form factor as before. The body still sits atop a long, flexible stalk that joins it with a 12V power plug that integrates a small power button. Sure, the stalk now has a metallic finish and everything is all shiny and new, but the more things change, the more they stay the same.

Even the physical connections on the device are the same. At the base of the main unit, you'll find a powered USB port for charging a paired phone (now outputting 1A at 5V like the recently tested GoGroove SmartMini BT ) using the included USB-to-Micro-USB cable. There, you'll also find a pair of 3.5mm analog auxiliary connections for input and output.

Features
What the GoGroove FlexSmart X3 does is simple: it gets audio from your phone to play through your car's stereo system. The device gives you multiple means to this end.

It can receive audio data from your phone's Bluetooth connection and rebroadcast it wirelessly to your car's stereo via FM transmission. Alternatively, you can go from a wired connection to FM transmission by plugging into your phone's headphone jack or go from Bluetooth to a car stereo that features an analog input using the included patch cable.

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