First Looks Special: Griffin iTripLCD | iLounge Article

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First Looks Special: Griffin iTripLCD

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By Jeremy Horwitz

Editor-in-Chief, iLounge
Published: Thursday, July 21, 2005
Articles Categories: First Looks

For years, Griffin’s original iTrip portable FM transmitter designs for iPods and iPod minis reigned supreme, with smart aesthetic design touches that appealed strongly to early iPod adopters. Users chose an FM station through the iPod’s screen, using a special playlist full of different channels. Once the station was selected, the iPod’s music played through nearby car and home stereos without any need for wires.

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In January, accessory maker XtremeMac threw down a gauntlet, and marketed its newer AirPlay as an iTrip killer. AirPlay featured a smaller-than-iTrip (if not as attractive) profile that fit neatly on top of any iPod or iPod mini, and an integrated, backlit LCD screen of its own that made it even easier to tune channels.

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Now Griffin is coming out swinging with a replacement for the iTrip that’s designed to leapfrog the AirPlay. With the same attractive, compact profile of the company’s prior all-white tube design, there’s now a large backlit LCD screen on the front left, and a ratcheting chrome dial on the right. Our pre-production preview unit is missing only one visual element - the iTripLCD name will appear on its front between the screen and dial.

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iTripLCD’s dial feels good in your hand, turning decisively from channel to channel because of its ratcheting design. It can also be pressed inwards to serve as a button. One press selects a channel you’ve found, and holding the button down activates two hidden features. When held down for two seconds, the button toggles between LX and DX broadcasting modes, one monaural with a promised noise level even lower than cassette tape adapters, and one stereo with a promised noise level comparable to cassette tape adapters.

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Held down for five seconds, the button toggles between US and INTL (international) tuning modes, offering an expanded range of FM frequencies to tune with. Between the two modes, iTripLCD is capable of tuning all the way down to 76.0FM in .1 increments.

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Our prototype unit’s LCD screen is clear, well backlit, and very impressive overall. We’re going to hold off on judging its FM performance until we receive a final, reviewable unit, but will say that under the right circumstances, the prototype does in fact compare favorably to a cassette adapter in overall sound quality. However, we’re going to have to wait to see whether those circumstances will be practically achievable under typical use and testing conditions.

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There’s one other interesting feature built-in, too. Turn the volume all the way up and the iTripLCD will automatically lower it to an optimal level for low-distortion FM broadcasting - a nice touch. Griffin says that the new iTrip is due out in August, 2005 at a price around $40. We’re looking forward to testing a final, reviewable unit.

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Comments

1

Is this really going to make it that much easier to switch channels? and anyway, most people (i for one) only use 1 channel for a great amount of time. i dont see this as replacing the iTrip, from what i can see.

Posted by wildfyre093 on July 21, 2005 at 4:57 PM (PDT)

2

SO COOL!

Posted by Joshdude in Long Beach, CA on July 22, 2005 at 2:53 AM (PDT)

3

Very nice!  I only wish the price were a bit lower.

Posted by TennBikeBerk on July 22, 2005 at 3:02 AM (PDT)

4

I think this is a great enhancement. I love my current iTrip and use it all the time. I also generlaly use just one station unless I go on a road trip. Then, it is sometimes a pain to drive and try to retune to a different frequency at the same time. This will make that   much easier. Also, if I’m on shuffle play, I don’t really like the fact that the iTrip frequency files get played once in a while. I know I could setup a playlsit to exclude them, but having no frequency songs on the iPod will just make it that much easier. And, my wife has a hard time figuring out how to properly set the frequency. Having to pause in the middle of playback isn’t really all that intuitive.

Posted by Shadow on July 22, 2005 at 6:18 AM (PDT)

5

This is a great enhancement to the iTrip line. Awesome design, keeps the ipod-consistent look with the previous model with better functionality.

BUT, I have had one design criticism the whole time. Why is it still a long bulbous tube? It juts out past the rest of the iPod lines, and my iTrip has been damaged (but still works) as a result. Lack of care on my part is a factor, but the risk would be reduced if the design were trimmed a bit. Considering Airplay instead as a result.

Posted by Dijon on July 22, 2005 at 6:31 AM (PDT)

6

@wildfyre093 -

Shadow beat me to responding about your post, but he is right.  This is going to make it A LOT easier to switch frequency.

iTrip - Pause playback.  Press Menu a few times to get to the Music menu.  Select Playlists.  Select iTrip playlist.  Scroll to desired frequency.  Select frequency.  Press Menu twice to get back to Music menu.  Select and scroll your way back to the song or album that was playing before.

iTripLCD - Scroll knob.  Push knob.

This also does not take into account that you must connect your iPod to a computer, select the correct frequencies, and sync them to your iPod.  I know that my iTrip frequncies are not on the top of my list of things to do before a road trip, but if you are on the road with no working stations, that sucks.

I’ll be purchasing one of these for my girlfriend.  The only reason she has not bought an original iTrip is that she has to use her computer to set up the frequencies.  She has been waiting for something like this, and the iTripLCD fits the bill accordingly.

Posted by Third on July 22, 2005 at 6:39 AM (PDT)

7

The best part? When I listen to all my music in shuffle mode, I wont be greeted with beeping noises when I inevitably fall upon the iTrip stations.

Posted by LinkDJ on July 22, 2005 at 1:39 PM (PDT)

8

I wonder if this DX mode is comparable to that of the new Kensington Digital FM transmitter.

Posted by mindflayer on July 22, 2005 at 1:55 PM (PDT)

9

The auto-setting of the volume solves a big problem I didn’t even think about until I read it. That IS an annoying step, and nice to have it automatic!

“compare favorably to a cassette adapter”

I’ll be impressed if so!

This actually sounds good enough to consider upgrading from my old one.

I like how the AirPlay is so tiny, but this isn’t much bigger—and it’s smaller vertically (and rounded), so it feels less likely to snap off or put too much force on the plug.

I also like how iTrip works perfectly with my PodSleevz case from RadTech.

Posted by Nagromme on July 22, 2005 at 3:44 PM (PDT)

10

i’ll be pleased if the sound quality does measure up to a cassette adapter, since I sold my iTrip because the sound quality wasn’t that impressive.

Looking forward to the production model review

Posted by yinyang on July 22, 2005 at 6:42 PM (PDT)

11

I hope they make a mini version. that would look huge on the mini.

Posted by ipodlova on July 22, 2005 at 7:04 PM (PDT)

12

I wonder if this itrip will be less battery consuming than the previous ones… And also if they’d make a black one for the U2 iPods. *crossing fingers*

Posted by _gn6 on July 23, 2005 at 12:51 PM (PDT)

13

HA! This is nothing.  I have the BTI TunestIR and it blows this thing out of the water.  The BTI can transmit and recieve FM in stereo and also has an LCD.  It can also be used as a remote for the iPod.  It looks just like a regular iPod remote and gets pretty good reception.

Posted by WickedKlown89 in DE on July 23, 2005 at 5:54 PM (PDT)

14

An email I received today from Jay at Griffin Technical Support indicates the release for this product has been pushed from August to mid- to late- September.

Posted by kgagne on July 25, 2005 at 5:52 PM (PDT)

15

There is no way a digital FM transmitter is ever going to sound great.  If you want a really good FM transmitter, someone needs to build an analog transmitter.  Now that increases the price, but it should work much better.  People complain about price, but want really great quality.  It does not work that way.  People want cheap, so companies build cheap.

Posted by tazdevreeb on July 26, 2005 at 4:53 AM (PDT)

16

Griffin, what’s up with SmartDeck?  Is that vaporware?

I mean, I like Griffin and all, but still no word on this product.  I ordered this thing 5 months ago.

Posted by Gordy. in Atlanta, GA on July 26, 2005 at 6:40 AM (PDT)

17

smile im posting this from my PSP

Posted by John Tylko, III in Lincoln, MA on July 27, 2005 at 5:11 PM (PDT)

18

My iTrip currently fits perfectly with my iSkin on, whereas my AirPlay doesn’t.

Looking at the pics above, it looks like this may suffer the same problem.  Any idea whether this will connect properly to a pod with an iSkin on?

Posted by cherno on August 3, 2005 at 6:47 AM (PDT)

19

I’m not sure what tazdevreeb means by “a digital FM transmitter is [never] going to sound great.”  None of these transmitters is actually transmitting digitally.  A real digital transmitter would use the upcoming digital FM protocol and would have CD-quality sound, and thus would definitely sound great. 

All the current iPod transmitters are analog in audio processing and RF modulation (transmitting).  In fact, almost all of them use the same chip to do this.  It’s the subtleties of design and construction that make some better than others.

Kensington calls one of theirs “digital” because it has a digital display and tuning control.  The transmission is still analog.  IMO, Kensington’s are the best, and I’ve listened to a lot of them.  But don’t take my word for it.  Try them and hear for yourself.  The differences are definitely audible.

Posted by InspectorGadget on August 3, 2005 at 8:26 PM (PDT)

20

This will be a crucial update for we iTrip users who live in big cities, where over the course of a typical commute you might have to change iTrip stations a few times as you enter and leave various radio jurisdictions. It is highly hazardous to try to play with the iPod menu and your stereo all while driving — especially if, after changing stations, you enter the range of another broadcast area and loose your song, meaning you have to do it all over again. An iTrip LCD will make that… ah… slightly less hazardous. And not tuning the volume on the iPod will take the guesswork out of iTrip use, too, which’ll be nice. I intend to replace my iTrip with one of these LCD models as soon as I can.

Posted by mysteriousphantom in Flyover Country on August 8, 2005 at 4:26 PM (PDT)

21

BlueTooth alternatives are now emerging to take the transmission from analog over RF to digital over RF. Not a bad idea, for those with Bluetooth-enabled head units (!) or, more likely, with head units sporting RCA inputs. But for the rest of us, it’s just another solution just out of reach.

I’m inclined to go for the Kensington Digital, although my ideal would be a Kensington-quality device with a simple click-knob to change frequencies. It’s all about three things: 1) signal clarity,  2) safety when the signal inevitably goes south, and 3) an integrated power connection. I can’t wait for reviews of the new iTrip LCD. If its quality is near the Kensington’s, it’ll have two out of three and possibly be a contender.

Posted by mfeb on August 18, 2005 at 4:20 AM (PDT)

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