Pioneer Inno review: Pioneer Inno

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CNET Editors' Rating

3.5 stars Very good
  • Overall: 7.7
  • Design: 9.0
  • Features: 7.0
  • Performance: 7.0
Review Date:
Updated on:

The Good The most portable satellite radio receiver yet, the Pioneer Inno (and its twin, the Samsung Helix) lets you listen to live radio and stored content on a device about the size of an iPod. It has an attractive, easy-to-learn interface, and it can schedule recordings or record any XM song live.

The Bad We got only 5 hours of satellite playback from the battery, and the Inno's 1GB storage capacity is too small for power MP3 and WMA users. You can't skip backward in the song list or pause a live stream, and there's no way to add more storage space.

The Bottom Line The Pioneer Inno is compact, gets great reception, and lets you enjoy live satellite audio and your own tracks on the go. Better battery life and more storage would make this XM portable even better.

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Pioneer's XM-ready Inno

Editors' Note: As of November 2008, this product has been replaced by the Pioneer XMP3.

Oh, the humanity. Satellite broadcaster XM has always been one step ahead of rival Sirius, but with the Pioneer Inno and its twin, the Samsung Helix, XM is officially two steps ahead. While XM is already on its second generation, Sirius hasn't released even one portable receiver yet; the best it has, the Sirius S50 , can't play live content unless it's plugged into a dock. First came the Delphi XM MyFi and a few similar devices, which were great but a bit too bulky. Now come these slimmed-down models, which put a satellite receiver in an unbelievably small package and throw in MP3 and WMA playback, song recording, and FM transmitting. XM's required subscription service ($12.95 per month) matches Sirius's in offering a wide variety of music and talk with an arguably better roster of big-name hosts, such as Oprah, Ellen, and Snoop Dogg, as well as MBA and NHL sports coverage. XM also currently has 2.5 million more subscribers. While the Inno will make many users happy, we hope the next generation has better battery life (Inno has 5 hours of live satellite playback time) and more than 1GB of storage or an SD slot. The Pioneer Inno measures 2.2 inches wide, 3.7 inches tall, and a slender 0.6 inch deep; it weighs 4.5 ounces. You could park it in your jeans pocket and not even know it's there, which makes it far slimmer than the Delphi XM MyFi , XM's first portable receiver.


The Pioneer Inno next to an Apple iPod.

The brushed-metal front features a 1.67-inch-diagonal color screen, which displays bright and clear graphics when the Inno is playing an XM channel. Below that is a simple button layout with Mode, play/pause, and Disp buttons along the top and a directional pad below. When the player is on, the buttons glow with a cool, blue light that makes the device a snap to use in dark settings. The right side contains hold/power and volume switches. A short, fat antenna protrudes from the Inno's upper-left corner.

At the time of this writing, we hadn't tested the Helix, but if you're wondering about variations, we think there are only two: the Helix has a somewhat different look with slightly alternatively shaped buttons (although in the same layout), and it comes with different earphones. The Inno comes with soft rubber in-ear 'phones, while the Helix has earbuds like the iPod's. We normally find in-ear 'phones uncomfortable, but these felt good.

While the Inno offers a host of features, the successful interface manages to keep everything simple and orderly--something we couldn't say about the Sirius S50's controls. We were able to use the Inno just fine right away, without consulting the manual. Use the up and down arrows to scroll through the channels and the center button to select. You can also scroll through channel categories with the right arrow. Pressing the Mode button lets you switch over to your stored content. While playing a song, pressing the center button calls up a menu of advanced features and controls so that you can record a song or a channel, bookmark a song for later reference, browse through your stored songs, create a playlist on the fly, or adjust any of the settings.


The Pioneer Inno's bundled accessories.
If the Pioneer Inno received only XM content, it would still be a great player. With a few clicks, you can save any song you hear to the Inno's 1GB of storage, even if that song has already started. You'll still get the full song because the Inno holds the beginning in its buffer. You can then browse your saved songs by artist or title or build a playlist.

Considering that the Inno already uses buffer storage, we were surprised that we couldn't skip backward in a song stream to hear songs that had just played. It's an odd omission, since many receivers, such as the Delphi SkyFi2 , already offer that feature.

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Where to Buy

Pioneer Inno (XM, pink)

Part Number: GEXINNO1P Released: Jan 4, 2006
Pricing is currently unavailable.

Quick Specifications See All

  • Release date Jan 4, 2006
  • Color pink
  • Type XM radio tuner