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DLO HomeDock HD review: DLO HomeDock HD

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OVR
6.0

DLO HomeDock HD

The Good

The DLO HomeDock HD lets you play your iPod's music, movies, and photos through your television or home theater system. Both standard-definition and high-definition televisions are supported and conveniently connected over HDMI, S-Video, or composite connections. Most iPod models will work, as will DRM-protected music and videos purchased or rented from iTunes.

The Bad

The DLO HomeDock HD is overpriced, won't work with the iPhone, can't connect to the Internet, and can't play non-iPod content. The system was often unresponsive to the remote control.

The Bottom Line

The DLO HomeDock HD offers a sleek and capable way to get your iPod contents on your TV. Unfortunately, Apple's own Apple TV offers a more affordable solution with considerably more features.

The DLO HomeDock HD ($250) connects your iPod to your television, allowing you to experience music, movies, and photos from the comfort of your couch. DLO has been releasing and refining its line of iPod HomeDocks for over four years, and now stands as one of the few manufacturers of video-capable iPod docks.

Design
The wide, low-profile design of the DLO HomeDock HD looks right at home next to the matte black components in most home entertainment centers. The front of the unit is bare, save for a logo and a small plastic window covering the RF remote control sensor. The top of the DLO HomeDock HD includes a universal iPod dock, compatible with nearly every bottom-docking model of iPod (excluding the iPhone).

The back of the DLO HomeDock HD conceals all of the HomeDock's connections, including S-Video and composite video output, HDMI output, stereo RCA audio output, digital audio output (optical), aux audio input, a power adapter jack, and a USB port used for firmware updates.

The design details on the HomeDock HD are more than skin deep. One of the hallmarks of the DLO HomeDock series has been the custom-made onscreen interface that users see while navigating and selecting media. DLO's graphic-design team clearly spent some time polishing the HomeDock's menu system--from the elegant, icon-based main menu screen, to the cover flow-inspired music jukebox--the whole interface is a pleasure to see on your TV screen. The graphics don't quite have that special Apple polish, however, which becomes evident when you examine the menu screen side by side with the similarly priced Apple TV.

Also included with the DLO HomeDock HD are a power adapter, composite AV cable, and a remote control. Measuring 4 inches long and 1.75 inch wide, the relatively large RF remote control included with the HomeDock HD is one of the system's few advantages over the Apple TV, which comes bundled with an anemic, little, gum-stick IR remote. The HomeDock's use of RF technology gives the remote control a luxurious range of around 75 feet, compared to Apple TV's 30 foot range.


The back of the DLO HomeDock HD includes connections for (L to R): digital audio; USB; HDMI; S-Video; composite video; RCA audio; auxiliary input; and power.

Features
The DLO HomeDock HD lets you play your iPod's music, videos, and photos on your television or home theater system. The HomeDock HD is not supported by the iPhone, but it is compatible with the majority of iPods, including the iPod Touch, iPod Classic, and iPod Nano. Video docks for the iPod have become increasingly rare over the years, due to Apple's tightened restrictions on the iPod's video output capabilities and the appearance of Apple TV in 2007.

Many features are shared between the HomeDock and Apple TV, including the kinds of media that can be played (music, videos, photos), the type of hardware connectivity offered, and television resolution support, but the Apple TV has the advantages of built-in hard drive storage, and both wired and wireless Internet-streaming capabilities.

The HomeDock HD offers some advantages over Apple TV, such as its ability to charge your iPod, an increased remote control range, and support for the S-Video and composite video connections used on standard-definition televisions. Unfortunately, these features aren't enough for us to recommend HomeDock HD over the Apple TV in most circumstances.

Performance
To do the HomeDock HD experience justice, we connected the dock to a 1080i 40-inch LCD TV and used a new Apple iPod Touch (second generation, v.2.2 firmware) and Apple iPod Classic (first generation) for our tests.

Our first hurdle was determining how best to connect the DLO HomeDock HD to our TV. DLO only includes a composite AV cable, so we had to repurpose the HDMI cable from our DVD to test the HomeDock HD at its highest output resolution. Despite what the name would imply, the default resolution of the DLO HomeDock HD is actually standard definition. To scale up the HomeDock's resolution, you'll need to dive into the settings menu and choose between the 720p or 1080i options. Doing so not only upscales video and photo playback, it also improves the look of the system's onscreen graphics.

After plugging in the HomeDock HD's power supply and placing our iPod in the dock, it takes about 30 seconds before the HomeDock's main menu screen appears, which feels like an uncomfortably long amount of time to wait. Load times within each submenu can be alleviated by enabling a cataloging option found in the HomeDock's settings menu, which stores information about your iPod's contents in the HomeDock's internal memory.


The DLO HomeDock HD's onscreen interface offers attractive menus with cover art, interesting graphics, and intuitive navigation.

Despite the technical superiority of the HomeDock HD's remote control over the Apple TV's remote, we experienced intermittent problems with delayed reactions using the DLO's remote control. At one point we were so convinced the remote was dead that we replaced the battery, only to be confronted with the same problem. We noticed that the responsiveness of the remote control improved slightly over time, but it's hard to say if it was the system cache, battery replacement, or all the vigorous remote shaking that finally made things better. Firmware updates may eventually address the issues we encountered with the remote control responsiveness, but considering the HomeDock HD's lack of Internet connectivity, performing firmware updates via USB may prove inconvenient.

We couldn't find any fault with the HomeDock HD's audio quality, especially with the inclusion of optical output. The HomeDock HD's attractive menus and intuitive navigation make browsing and selecting audio, videos, or photos a snap (provided the remote works). We're also happy to see that DRM-protected iTunes music, videos, and movie rentals are all supported by the HomeDock HD.

The DLO HomeDock HD's video quality varied considerably, depending on the quality of video being fed through it. Just like the upscaling-video engine built-into your high-def TV, the upscaler in the HomeDock HD can't work miracles by turning your 320x240 iPod videos into anything you'd want to see on a 1080i television. The maximum video quality we could get our iPod Touch to tolerate was 640x368, which looked good enough on the HomeDock HD to watch a full-length movie without noticing too many video compression artifacts.

Unfortunately, even during the HomeDock HD's most impressive moments, we found ourselves preferring the user experience and superior features the Apple TV--especially considering the HomeDock HD's inflated price. DLO's support for standard-definition televisions is a notable distinction from Apple TV's high-def only compatibility, but the prospect of buying a product called HomeDock HD for its standard-definition support requires consumers to suspend their sense of irony.

OVR
6.0

DLO HomeDock HD

Score Breakdown

Design 6Features 6Performance 6