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Sirius Stiletto 100 review: Sirius Stiletto 100

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The Good The Sirius Stiletto 100 can stream online content via built-in Wi-Fi, record live satellite songs, and be used as an MP3/WMA player with subscription compatibility. You can pause and replay live streams, the GUI is intuitive and fun to use, the main controller is well designed, and it comes with two batteries.

The Bad The Sirius Stiletto 100 design is a bit chunky; you're limited to less than 1GB of MP3 or WMA music; the antenna headphones are uncomfortable; its USB port is proprietary; Wi-Fi does not support 802.11a/g; audio quality when using Wi-Fi isn't top rate; rated battery life for live radio isn't stellar; pricey.

The Bottom Line The intriguing Sirius Stiletto 100 is packed with useful radio and digital audio features, and it's easy and fun to use. However, some consumers may find the Stiletto too bulky, and battery life isn't stellar.

8.0 Overall
  • Design 8
  • Features 9
  • Performance 7

Sirius Stiletto 100

CNET finally received the much-ballyhooed Stiletto 100, the portable Sirius satellite receiver that can nearly do it all. It was purchased by an editorial staffer with the intention of returning it after the review, but after some serious pIaytime with the unit, I might just buy it from her. After all, the Stiletto 100--Sirius' answer to XM's Inno/Helix devices--has a huge feature list, including pause/replay and recording of live streams, and still it is a very intuitive and fun player to use. The $350 (kind of pricey) device can play MP3 and WMA files and includes a built-in wireless feature that streams Sirius content from the nearest Wi-Fi hot spot. Though the device is a bit bulky, and battery life isn't stellar, the overall package will satisfy many users, particularly fans of Sirius and its 130-plus channels.

I haven't had this much fun with a gadget in a while (and that includes the Zune). Much of my fun can be linked to the Stiletto 100's thoughtfully designed interface. Despite carrying myriad features--many of which intersect and could thus cause confusion--the device is incredibly simple to use. And, like most satellite radio devices, there is the constant discovery of new music and content.

Good design makes a difference
The device itself is unusual. Measuring 4.5x2x0.7 inches (and weighing 4.6 ounces), it appears very unstiletto-like. In fact, it's more like a clog. The device's thickness is accented by the standard battery pack that juts out the backside. Impressively, the Stiletto actually ships with two batteries, the second being thinner and sitting flush with the rest of the backside (more on the batteries later).

The Stiletto conveniently ships with two batteries-- one is larger than the other.

The Stiletto's chunkiness doesn't bother me. It's durable and certainly pocketable, and the overall industrial design matches well with the device's musical heart. You can't fully understand the Stiletto, however, until you've seen its 2.25-inch screen, which is larger than the Inno/Helix. The screen is bright and rich with colors, although it does attract fingerprints. The icon-based main menu is simple: Satellite radio, Internet radio, Library, Radio replays, Recording, and Settings. Each menu option lights up as you pass over it, and the combination of the sharp fonts, oversized graphics and audio feedback gives the Stiletto 100 an aura similar to the Sony PSP. As one observer noted, it's like a video game.

The dynamic aesthetics (including nice background graphics and colorful station icons in the corner such as a record playing on a turntable to denote the Electronic/Dance channels), and the audio feedback (including chimes and a unique voice announcing the current channel) are excellent. But even more than that, the GUI is very intelligently laid out. For example, text cues indicate exactly where you are--whether it's a recorded song from the library or live reception via satellite. The interface indicates the current songs playing of any channel, from which channel a given song was recorded, and more. This is critical to the Stiletto's appeal since the library is such a mishmash of both recorded content and your own.

Controlling the Stiletto is like driving a Cadillac--nice and smooth, thanks to the one-inch diameter Media Dial. This mechanical "click wheel" is made of tactile rubber with raised edges; the dial offers notched feedback so you get pinpoint control (though sometimes it's so hypersensitive that you pass your intended option). A small select-button sits in the center, and the dial itself can be depressed in four directions: up, left, and right for the playback controls, and down to activate your favorites. The latter, represented by a heart icon, will activate recording of a song or station.

Beyond the wheel are four "corner" buttons: Back, Home, Options and Display. The Back and Home buttons will be used most often, and there's no mystery where these buttons will take you because, in general, there aren't too many options or suboptions--a good 10-minute session should be enough for most users to acclimate to the Stiletto.

The Stiletto's left spine features dedicated volume buttons and the power/hold switch, while the bottom includes the proprietary dock (used with the antenna headphones, optional home or auto kits, and the USB connection) and a standard headphone jack. You can use regular headphones with the device (earbuds are included), but you'll get the best reception using the antenna headphones, which, by the way, are stiff and incredibly uncomfortable. We also find it inconvenient that you can't charge the device while the antenna headphones are attached. As I write, I'm sitting near a window and prefer the stronger signal of the headphones, yet I can't charge the Stiletto. (Note: You can charge via USB.)

The bundled antenna headphones aren't a necessity, but they do improve signal strength especially when using indoors. Incidentally, they wrecked my ears.

The Stiletto was definitely designed for portable use. The Stiletto package costs well over $400 (plus the $12.95/month Sirius subscription), which is pricey considering it does not ship with car docking hardware--available for $69.99. You do, however, get a decent bundle: two pairs of headphones, a USB cable, an AC power adaptor, and the two batteries. There's no case or belt clip, however.

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