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Hands-on with the Pioneer Inno XM2go portable

Hands-on with the Pioneer Inno XM2go portable

I just got back from an XM press event here in Manhattan at which the satellite company was showing off its next big product, the Pioneer Inno. The Inno debuted at January's Consumer Electronics Show, where it, along with its doppelgänger, the nearly identical Samsung Helix, garnered considerable acclaim--including the CNET Peoples' Voice award as the best of show--as the first truly portable satellite radio receiver that doubles as an MP3 player.

The $400 player sports a color screen, pulls in all of XM's more than 170 channels, and lets you record as much as 50 hours of live programming. And while we'll reserve judgment for the full review, the Inno made a great first impression--its slick compact design is much more reminiscent of the iPod than of the previous generation of XM2go devices, which were much bulkier and lacked the ability to play back MP3 and WMA files.

As far as what's lacking on the Inno/Helix, its biggest sticking points are the 1GB of unexpandable memory (an SD slot would've been great) and its somewhat anemic rated battery life of 15 hours. And while the bundled XM+Napster software lets you transfer your own digital music to the Inno and buy new tracks on Napster for 99 cents a pop, those with an all-you-can-eat Napster To Go subscription won't be able to transfer their rented music to the Inno.

Those initial issues notwithstanding, the Pioneer Inno and the Samsung Helix are two of the coolest satellite radio products we've seen yet. Sirius, on the other hand, continues to lag on the portable front, with merely the S50--which can receive live satellite programming only when it's docked in a car or home cradle.

The Inno and the Helix should begin shipping by May 1, according to XM. Look for CNET's full review of the Pioneer Inno within the next few days.