Delphi SkyFi3 (XM) review: Delphi SkyFi3 (XM)

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The Good The Delphi SkyFi3 is a competitively priced plug-and-play satellite radio receiver/recorder. It can pause and replay programming up to 30 minutes, is lightweight and easy to use, and includes a large and legible screen. It plays back digital audio files via the expansion slot and can be used while afoot with optional antenna headphones. It includes a car kit and a remote control.

The Bad The Delphi SkyFi3 has a budget build quality, with a monochrome screen with no channel graphics and no built-in antenna, so you must use optional headphones for true portability. It lacks a Micro SD card, has subpar rated battery life, and can't store your own digital audio files on internal memory. It has a substandard FM transmitter and charging the device over USB isn't guaranteed.

The Bottom Line The Delphi SkyFi3 XM receiver/recorder is a flexible solution for home, car, and on the go for those who don't want to spend big bucks.

7.3 Overall
  • Design 7
  • Features 9
  • Performance 6
Delphi is back with another portable plug-and-play XM receiver. The SkyFi3 is a lightweight unit (65 percent smaller than the SkyFi2, which is not truly portable) that can be used in concert with the Live Wearable antenna headphones (a $49 accessory) for true portability. However, the SkyFi3, armed with its big-buttoned interface; expansive and bright, nine-line, 2.8-inch display; and vertical and horizontal flexibility, is ideal for car use. Budget build quality aside, the SkyFi3 packs in many features and decent performance for a reasonable price.

The SkyFi3 doesn't really bring anything new to the market, except, of course, a Micro SD expansion slot. Its broad feature set mimics those of the Pioneer Inno/Samsung Helix (twins separated at birth), but both of those so-called deluxe portables cost a bit more than the SkyFi3's $200. However, the Inno/Helix are more compact, include vibrant color screens, and are really designed to be used on the go, as they have integrated receivers. The SkyFi3 has a monochrome screen that's much less flashy and a build that feels a little cheap, and its on-the-move Live XM capability relies on a pair of $49 headphones that have the receiver antenna built right into them. Still, the SkyFi3 makes a nice audio companion for those who spend lots of time in their autos, and it's flexible enough to be used almost anywhere. Plus, its 30-minute time-shift capability is three times that of the Inno/Helix.

Looks aren't everything
Measuring about 4.4x2.25x0.7 inches, the SkyFi3 looks and feels like a big-screen, high-capacity MP3 player (it has very little internal storage, though). It's extremely lightweight, too. By design, it's meant to be stashed in a pocket or bag; even without the optional receiver headphones, the SkyFi3 can be used in much the same way as the Samsung Nexus: to play back MP3 and protected WMA files or any recorded XM content. The respective caveats: your personal digital music collection needs to be stored on tiny Micro SD cards (up to 2GB these days) that fit in the slot on the top of the unit, and you get up to 10 hours of recorded XM content. While digital audio files can be stored internally on the Inno/Helix, you're limited to only 1GB.

The 2.8-inch screen features large text, and the backlight makes the display very easy to read, even from a few feet away. Viewing many channels listed on a single screen is a nice treat. The unit's buttons are substantial as well--a five-way navigation controller (the center being play/pause) and the Mode/Power (MyMusic, LiveXM, and Auxiliary input), Display (portrait or landscape), and Menu buttons.

The SkyFi3's right spine includes a lightweight plastic (read: cheap) volume rocker and a hold switch, and you'll find a headphone jack and a Micro SD slot on top. The bottom includes a power port, a standard USB port, and the dock connector. As shipped, the unit can be charged only within a car via the cigarette lighter adapter--there is no wall charger in the package.

If you want to extend the SkyFi3 into the home (without the antenna headphones), spring for the $60 Home Kit, which includes an AC adapter. Unfortunately, while we were able to get our unit to charge over USB, Delphi states that the SkyFi3 doesn't officially support it-- so it may not work for you depending on your system. Still, the way Delphi sees it, 80 percent of satellite usage use is in the car.

The bottom of the SkyFi3 includes the dock connector and USB and power ports.

Of course, the device's primary objective is to offer an intuitive and safe way to enjoy XM (more than 170 channels at $12.95/month) in a car. The SkyFi3 comes with a vehicle cradle, which includes five two-way buttons (each way represents a number, or one of 30 presets broken down into three banks); additionally, three of the buttons can be pressed in the center to record content, store a preset channel, or to either input channel numbers directly or choose from a list. The cradle's buttons are tactile and easy to press, though it takes a bit of practice to consistently press the center buttons. The cradle also features a line input (for your iPod, for example) and a line output (just in case your stereo has a line input).

The docked SkyFi3 in horizontal mode.

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