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The physical design of the iPod Radio Remote is typical Apple: simple. However, we hesitate to call it clean due to the excessive cord length it creates. Even with the purposefully short included earbuds, which you may want to switch in for your favorite (undoubtedly lengthier) pair, the cord is 65 inches long. That's our only design gripe, though, aside from the fact that because the remote plugs into the bottom of the iPod, it won't work with many cases. The clip-on remote measures a mere 1.3 by 1 inches and includes volume, track-shuttle, and play/pause buttons as well as its own hold switch. The track-shuttle keys also serve to scrub through radio presets, which are automatically scanned the first time you use the radio. The best part of the design is that the remote uses the iPod's screen for radio function navigation as opposed to having its own LCD.
When you attach the Radio Remote to your iPod's dock--and unfortunately, this must be either a 5G iPod or an iPod Nano--you get a Radio option in both the iPod and Music menus. (Note that you will need to have the most up-to-date firmware for this to work.) Select this option and you're taken to a screen displaying the current radio frequency and, for the 5G iPod, the time. Underneath the frequency is another display box, which serves two purposes. By default, it shows any info offered by stations that support the Radio Data System standard. This means you may see the station name and tag line (for example, "Energy 92.7 FM, pure dance") and, in some instances, even the artist and track info. We think this is just spiffy. If you push the iPod's center button, this display box brings up a FM tuner strip. Little triangles mark your preset spots.
In testing, the Apple iPod Radio Remote was no slouch in the performance department. It was able to pick up all local San Francisco stations clearly inside CNET's concrete-heavy building. Other strong stations from around the Bay Area also came through. We noticed some static and interference as we walked around the building, but that's standard for an FM tuner. Outside, even weaker stations were present with little interference. The remote doesn't have a battery of its own, so keep in mind that using it will affect your iPod's battery life.