Sirius S50 review: Sirius S50

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CNET Editors' Rating

3 stars Good
  • Overall: 6.7
  • Design: 8.0
  • Features: 7.0
  • Performance: 5.0
Review Date:
Updated on:

The Good The Sirius S50 sports a small, sleek design, and it automatically stores music content for later listening. You can also schedule recordings from both music and talk stations (with a firmware upgrade), save favorite songs, and link up to a PC to transfer MP3 and WMA tracks.

The Bad The Sirius S50 has some limitations, including the fact that you can't see the song list for recorded music or set favorite channels for recording. Also, scheduled recordings can't be longer than two hours, and the S50 is available only with a car kit. In addition, the Sirius S50's controls are difficult to master, the docks lack preset channel buttons, and the unit has poor battery life.

The Bottom Line The Sirius S50 is a compact and attractive satellite radio player, but users must learn to live within its limitations. It's best for car commuters who occasionally want a portable unit. If you want live satellite streaming on the go, you'll need the Delphi MyFi XM2Go or Pioneer's Airware XM2Go, which work with XM satellite radio.

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Sirius S50

Enter a new style of satellite radio device: a portable that doesn't actually get live content. You see, the Sirius S50 receives a live satellite stream only when it's plugged into a car or home dock and connected to a satellite antenna. When you're carrying the S50, it plays recorded content, as well as MP3 and WMA files. Leave it turned on and tuned while docked and it'll happily fill all its 1GB of space with recorded content, with nothing more to set, so that you can listen to it later.

The idea left us cold at first, but after testing it, we've warmed to the concept. If you're listening to a music channel, it doesn't matter whether it's live. Plus, listening to recorded content gives you the option of fast-forwarding though songs you don't like. Tne S50 isn't for everyone; its several limitations (more on those later) and its steep price will keep many away. Still, we think the Sirius S50 should find an enthusiastic audience, especially among car commuters. Samsung's Nexus is a similar MP3/satellite radio device for the XM service.

The first reason to love the Sirius S50 is its elegant black design. The portable unit is attractively small, measuring 3.9 by 1.9 by 0.7 inches and weighing just 6.5 ounces, with a brilliantly vivid TFT display showing 262,000 colors. There are no controls on the front to mar its sleek surface. The hold button and the volume controls are on the left side, while power, menu, and playback controls (most of which pull double duty if held for a few seconds) are on the right.

The Sirius S50 is available only with a car dock, and the combo lists for a steep $329.99. A Sirius representative told us that the vast majority of satellite radio listeners listen in the car. A home dock costs $99.99. This inflexible bundling is a major hurdle for anyone who wants the S50 purely for home or portable use.


The S50 attaches to the included car dock; the remote is handy for backseat DJs.

The car kit, which we didn't use for testing, holds the Sirius S50 upright along the dashboard and includes an FM transmitter for listening to songs through your car's stereo. The large and spongy five-way navigation control is easy enough to use while driving. It also offers audio navigation, which speaks the names of the channels and setting screens as you turn to them so that you don't have to take your eyes off the road for long while using it. The car combo also includes headphones and a belt clip for portable use, as well as a USB cable for connecting to a Windows 2000 or XP PC.

The home kit, which we did use, has a matching black dock that features a large tilt button for selecting options. Either kit can connect to your PC via a USB 2.0 connection (cable included) so that you can load your own MP3 or WMA tracks, manage the S50's content, or download firmware updates. Sirius has already released a crucial update that broadens the S50's recording options so that you can schedule recordings of music channels, not just talk channels. We're disappointed that neither dock has numbered buttons for quickly tuning in a station; you'll need to scroll to them.

Both the car and home kit include a slim remote--apparently for backseat passengers, in the case of the car kit.

The satellite-radio-based Sirius S50's features seem odd at first since they're mostly built around saving content for later use instead of live streaming. However, we found that they work well as long as you remember to record the content you want.

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Where to Buy

Sirius S50

Part Number: S50-TK1
Pricing is currently unavailable.

Quick Specifications See All

  • Color Black
  • Type Sirius satellite radio tuner / digital player