While we fell for Pioneer's AirWare XM2go gadget at last year's CES, the device definitely had some room for improvement. Now one year later, Pioneer has launched the $400 Inno (originally the AirWare2), which improves nearly every aspect of the original. In addition to playing live XM Satellite Radio content independent of a car or home receiver cradle (unlike Samsung's Nexus and Sirius's S50), the Inno can record up to 50 hours of XM progamming vs. 5 for the first version, and it finally adds what we were all waiting for in a portable XM receiver: MP3 playback.
Once you've recorded XM content onto the device, it can be organized in customizable playlists along with MP3 and WMA files transferred from a computer. Another nice touch is the vibrant 1.67-inch TFT screen, which displays the increasingly familiar XM stations in full color. Content can be managed and playlists created on the device or on a PC using XM+Napster, an online service for instant purchase of music heard on XM Satellite Radio. Disappointingly, the Inno has only 1GB of storage (and no expansion slot) and has only 10 hours of battery life in playback mode and only 5.5 hours in live XM radio mode.
Power and capacity issues aside, the Inno looks like the right answer for those addicted to XM radio and its 150 channels of music, news, talk shows, and entertainment, though you'll have to pay a high price when it's available in the first quarter of 2006 (the older AirWare is being sold at CES for only $99). You can also receive stock ticker info for 20 custom stock quotes, customizable sports scores, and schedules, while the TuneSelect feature locates favorite songs playing on other channels. For those wondering, Samsung's Helix is virtually the same device with Samsung branding and minor cosmetic differences.