DLO's Transdock Direct ($59) is an in-car charging accessory for the Apple iPod or iPhone that includes a line-output jack and a secondary power output. Make no mistake, however, the DLO Transdock Direct is not an FM transmitter. To get audio from the Transdock Direct, you'll need a car stereo with a line-input jack or a cassette adapter.
The Transdock Direct is essentially a glorified in-car iPod charger, since your iPod already offers a 3.5mm audio output, and the additional 12-volt power socket only serves to replace the outlet taken by the product. If power is all you seek, products such as the Griffin PowerJolt SE will get the job done at a fraction of the price.
The real value of the DLO Transdock Direct is its structure. Dumping your iPhone or iPod in your car's ashtray or cup holder is no way to treat such a dignified device, and loose audio cables perpetually flopping out from your car stereo won't impress your date. Using the Transdock Direct, you can have your iPod set up in your car just the way you want it, keep your cables connected and tucked out of sight, and ensure that your iPod will be juiced up by the time you reach your destination.
The DLO TransDock Direct takes its design cues from the DLO TransDock III FM transmitter and includes three main features: a 12-volt power plug, a 6-inch adjustable gooseneck stand, and an iPod dock. On the front of the Transdock Direct's iPod dock you'll find three LEDs that indicate the charging status of your iPod or iPhone. A 3.5mm line-output jack is located on the bottom of the dock, a spring-loaded tension ring within the dock provides some extra security for your iPod, and a 3.5mm audio jack is tucked on the bottom.
To power extra devices from the Transdock Direct, you'll need to connect an included 12v extension cable to the base. The output of the extension cable mimics the 12v "cigarette lighter" connection of your car, however, so you'll need an additional accessory if you want to transform the output to charge your cell phone or other USB-powered devices. We would have preferred a tidier power solution, like the USB power output found on the DLO TransDock Deluxe.
The DLO Transdock Direct worked as advertised--but it wasn't advertising much. Considering that DLO doesn't state the Transdock Direct's iPhone 3G compatibility, the product actually surpassed our expectations. Granted, connecting an iPhone 3G to the Transdock Direct sends up a warning message on the phone stating "This accessory is not made to work with the iPhone." but the audio and charging features work nonetheless. Most dock-connecting iPods should work, as well, including the most recent generation.
The 4-foot audio cable included with the Transdock Direct had no problem reaching from the iPod dock to our car stereo system. For our little economy car, a shorter cable would have been a neater solution, but the extra length is great for traversing the longer distances between power outlets and audio inputs found in larger cars and trucks. Neat freaks who fear cable clutter will probably want to shop for a more ideal length of standard 3.5mm cable.