It's safe to say that satellite radio's making its way into the mainstream psyche. Last we heard, XM and Sirius had a combined subscriber base of more than 11 million. Plus, the last three cars I've rented all featured satellite radio. One of the cheapest ways into satellite radio is AGT's Sportscaster ($40 with $20 mail-in rebate). With a mild focus on sports programming, the compact and versatile XM radio receiver is basic and user-friendly but not without its faults.
The Sportscaster is so named because it ships with 3 of its 30 presets already filled with XM's sports offerings, which include 24-hour programming from a variety of sports such as Major League Baseball, NASCAR, NHL, PGA Tour, college sports, and of course ESPN, FOX, and other news outlets. The Sportscaster branding is a bit deceiving. Otherwise, the Sportscaster is your entry-level system into XM, and you'll get the more than 170 channels that come with being an XM subscriber ($12.95/month).
Measuring 4.5 by 1.75 by 0.75 inches and encased in black, glossy plastic, the Sportscaster is as compact as you can get for a satellite receiver. It has a two-line amber backlit display with an extra line for icons and graphics. The primary controls consist of four tactile directional buttons plus a center select button, which are easy to manipulate. To the right is the Fav preset button and at the top is the Menu button. Power is the only other button on the unit. The antenna, audio out, and power port are hidden on the left side. Overall, this is a no-frills design that's much simpler than that of another affordable XM receiver, the $50 Delphi Roady2. If you prefer the programming of competitor Sirius, you should check out the $50 Sirius One.
Targeted at car owners, the Sportscaster ships with a car mount, a standard magnetic antenna (for the roof of your car), a car lighter power adapter, and a remote control. Installation is fairly clean, though if you attach the mount to the windshield via its two suction cups, two wires (power and antenna) will dangle in view. I actually suctioned the mount onto the face of my stereo and it worked well, though with most modular car receivers, you'll get some wiry mess no matter how well you hide them. You can also bolt the mount onto your dash.