The Inno's 1GB of storage is partitioned to allocate 50 percent of its space to XM recordings and 50 percent to your own MP3 and WMA tracks, although you can change the partition to devote all the space to XM. (Be warned: repartitioning will erase all your data.) If you use all the space for XM, you'll get about 50 hours of recording, but if you divide it in half, you'll get 25 hours of XM and about 8 hours of your own tracks. XM songs are stored in a format called AACPlus; XM refuses to comment on the bit rate. We hope Pioneer increases the storage; imagine how attractive a 10GB or 20GB version of the Inno would be.
To use the Inno with your Windows 2000 or XP PC, you'll need to load the included XM+Napster software. This is basically the same as the underwhelming service webut with integration features for the new devices. You can organize your stored content into playlists on your computer, but you can't hear XM songs you've saved to your Inno. Drag and drop MP3 or WMA tracks to load them, but be aware that while the Inno can play DRM-protected WMA tracks purchased à la carte from online stores, it can't play subscription content--even from Napster, ironically. Songs transfer quickly with the included USB 2.0 cable.
We ran into our only glitch while scheduling recordings with the XM+Napster software. Our schedules transferred to the Inno, but the channel selections got messed up along the way. So when we tried to schedule a recording on channel 75 (Hear Music, "the sound of Starbucks"), we instead got channel 95 (Luna, which plays hot and cool Latin jazz). We hope a fix is forthcoming.
You can bookmark songs while listening to the Inno; your bookmarks will then appear in the XM+Napster software, with purchase links if the song is available from Napster's online catalog. It's a handy feature for when you don't want to forget a title.
The Inno comes with a home dock, which you use to connect the device to your home stereo; other accessories include an antenna, a simple belt clip, earphones, cables, and a replaceable battery. We also tried the Belkin Holster Case ($29 list), which has a useful swivel belt clip.
Besides the Inno and the Helix, two less expensive players are debuting: the Samsung Nexus 25 ($219 list) and the Nexus 50 ($269 list). They're a bit more compact than the Inno, but they lack a color screen and, like the Sirius S50, can't play anything but recorded content when away from their docks.While on the go, you'll need to use the Pioneer Inno's included earphones, because they contain the necessary satellite antenna. Since the player is so small, we were surprised to get consistently great outdoor reception with the Inno, although that may have been partly due to our location. Whenever we looked at the antenna setting, we saw that most of our signal was coming from XM's terrestrial repeaters--earthbound signal amplifiers--instead of the satellite. XM has more than 1,000 terrestrial repeaters, but the New York City area, where we did our testing, certainly has a higher concentration of them.
With the home dock and the included antenna, we got great reception indoors as well. The optional Belkin Antenna Headphones for XM ($39) produced a stronger signal and let us use the Inno indoors without connecting to the home dock. Their hard-plastic design is fairly uncomfortable, though.
Our only performance complaint is with the battery life. XM public relations told us to expect 5.5 to 6 hours of battery life when playing satellite content (a number oddly missing from the product's packaging and promotional material), but we got only 5 hours. That's way too low for a portable device. XM PR promised 15 hours of battery life when playing recorded content. We'll update this review with information on how the battery performs with the Inno playing only MP3s.
The user guide contains information about the Inno's one-year parts-and-labor warranty and the 90-day warranty for the battery. It also lists a toll-free number for customer support.