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Audiovox Universal Tablet Mounting Kit with Built-In FM Transmitter review: Transform any tablet into a rear-seat entertainment system


The Audiovox Universal Tablet Mounting Kit with Built-In FM Transmitter, model IPD-UNVBT, is on one hand, tragically and uncreatively named. On the other hand, it's a product that is exactly what it says on the tin and doesn't waste much time with gimmickry. You've gotta respect that.


Audiovox Universal Tablet Mounting Kit with Built-In FM Transmitter


The Good

The Audiovox IPD-UNVBT holds most tablets firmly in place within the passenger's eyeline while the car is in motion. Dual USB ports allow the tablet and an accessory to be charged quickly. Included Bluetooth headphones and an integrated FM transmitter give the passenger a variety of choices for listening to audio from the cradled tablet.

The Bad

There's no automatic tuning on the FM transmitter. Accessing the adjustment switch on the back of the cradle can be a tricky reach.

The Bottom Line

The Audiovox IPD-UNVBT is physically firm, functionally flexible, and relatively inexpensive mounting option for entertaining rear seat passengers with the tablet that you already own.

The bracket

The basic kit is composed of two parts: a mounting bracket that attaches to the headrest uprights with a twist on clasp and an adjustable cradle.

The bracket fits a variety of widths for headrest uprights and should fit most, if not all, seatbacks that feature adjustable headrests with thin metal posts. However, the fixed headrests on sport buckets won't make the cut. (To be fair, there often aren't seats in a second row behind sport buckets.) The bracket includes, in its underside, a connection point for the included 12V power adapter, which plugs into your car.

The mounting bracket attaches to the back of the seat in just a few minutes. Antuan Goodwin/CNET

The cradle

The cradle attaches to the bracket via a tongue that slides into a hidden slot, making both the physical and electric connections. This allows a bit of telescoping and tilt adjustment to accommodate viewing by adult and child passengers of a variety of heights, but holds the tablet firmly in place while the vehicle is in motion.

On either side of the cradle's body, you'll find one of two powered USB ports for high-speed tablet charging. Total the output is 3.4 amps, which is shared between the 5V ports, which should be enough to charge a mounted cradle and one other accessory.

On either edge of the cradle, you'll find a powered USB port and a 3.5mm input. Antuan Goodwin/CNET

The cradle's primary function is to hold a tablet while the car rolls and bounces down the road. It does this with an adjustable grip that features a trio of stubby arms. The lower two arms are fixed in place, while the central upper arm slides up and down to release and hold a variety of tablet sizes. The release/lock for this adjustment is located on the back of the cradle. Pull up to unlock the arm, place the tablet within the cradle's adjustable grip, and then push down to lock everything into place. It's simple enough, but the release/lock's location on the back of the cradle could make it difficult to reach behind a larger tablet.

The arms feature a generous, thick foam-rubber lining to protect your device's finish.

Built-in FM transmitter

Just above the each USB port is a small, unlabeled 3.5mm analog auxiliary input that feeds audio to the cradle's integrated FM transmitter. The transmitter automatically powers on when a patch cable is plugged in and automatically powers down when disconnected.

The FM transmitter features the very basic adjustment and powers on and off automatically. Antuan Goodwin/CNET

The only interface and control that the driver has over the FM transmitter is a small segmented LCD that shows the current broadcasting frequency and two small buttons, plus and minus, that allow the frequency to be adjusted up or down. Tuning the car's FM radio to the frequency indicated on the LCD allows the audio playing on the connected tablet to be played through the car's speakers. Like all FM transmitters, the IPD-UNVBT requires empty frequency to broadcast on for the optimal audio quality, but it doesn't feature an automatic tuning function. You'll have to manually seek the cleanest signal; even then, the sound you'll get is a lower quality due to the limitations of FM fidelity.

BT-HP2 Bluetooth headphones

The IPD-UNVBT includes a Bluetooth wireless headset, but the cradle doesn't support Bluetooth. Instead, the user pairs the BT-HP2 headset directly with the tablet, which makes the most sense really. This way the headset is able to adjust the volume, play/pause, and skip controls for the tablet, though the rubber buttons on the headset's right arm were a bit hard to press while on my head. Additionally, the headset can answer and end Bluetooth phone calls, if the tablet is able to do so.

Audio quality isn't bad for a pair of pack in headphones, but isn't great either. The BT-HP2s get the job done, but they won't exceed your expectations. For those who want to bring their own, higher quality headphones, the Audiovox kit is available in a configuration that doesn't include the headphones at a reduced price.

The included BT-HP2 headphones get the job done, but there are better headsets for the money. Antuan Goodwin/CNET

The headset features an internal battery and recharges via USB, so you can just plug it right into the cradle when not in use to keep it juiced.

Included with the IPD-UNVBT is a short 3.5mm audio patch cable for connecting to the FM transmitter and a Micro-USB cable for charging the headset or the cradled tablet while in use.

In sum

As an interesting bonus, the cradle -- when removed -- can be used as a kickstand to hold the tablet upright for extended viewing of movies and the like. However, because the power adapter plugs into the bracket that stays in the car, none of the powered functions (charging, FM transmission) work outside of the car. The included Bluetooth headphones will, on the other hand, work anywhere you take them.

In a pinch, the IPD-UNVBT's cradle serves as a kickstand for movie watching. Antuan Goodwin/CNET

For $150, the Audiovox IPD-UNVBT is a well-made, one-stop package for transforming any tablet into a rear seat entertainment system for almost any car on the road. It's pricey, but the total cost of the tablet and the kit is still fractional when compared to a dedicated rear-seat entertainment system and the result is much more functional.

Buyers looking to save a few bucks and can do without the Bluetooth headphones (or who plan on bringing their own headphones) can opt for the virtually identical IPD-UNV for $100.


Audiovox Universal Tablet Mounting Kit with Built-In FM Transmitter


Score Breakdown

Design 8Features 8Performance 8