Review: ABT iJet Wireless Remote with Bottom Dock
Model: iJet for iPod
Compatible: iPod 4G, 5G, mini
Pros: A white- or black-colored combination of wireless RF remote control and bottom-connecting receiver that enable you to control your Dock Connector-equipped 4G, 5G, or mini iPod from a 100-foot distance, and/or through walls, floors, and fabrics. Two included clips, straps, and stereo audio cable let you enjoy use on clothing, in a bag, car, or home.
Cons: Volume controls don’t attenuate bottom Dock Connector’s output, a feature pioneered in earlier remote solutions from Kensington and Apple. Fit is best for 60GB iPod rather than 30GB model; neither iPod can be stood up on its own with bottom attachment, and Dock Connector is not straight on our review unit. Fewer buttons/functions than certain alternative iPod remotes.
Roughly a year ago, we reviewed ABT’s original iJet Wireless RF Remote for iPods (iLounge rating: A-), an expensive but ultra-powerful remote control solution for 3G, 4G, and mini iPods. The difference between iJet and its competitors was the technology inside: most remotes used Infrared light to communicate with an iPod 30 or fewer feet away, but ABT went two steps further, not just using superior radio frequency (RF) technology, but also making their RF more powerful than any other offering on the market, achieving 100-plus-foot remote distances. Since then, however, a number of things have changed: you can’t plug the old, top-mounting iJet into today’s iPods, and standalone bottom-mounting remote control accessories have become both less useful and necessary than before. Recently, ABT responded in part to market changes with a new iJet, dubbed iJet Wireless Remote with Bottom Dock ($40).
There are several immediately obvious advantages to the new iJet design. First is coloration - you can now choose between white and black versions, each with a bottom connecting plug and separate wireless remote designed to match current iPod colors. Second is the remote’s shape and feel: ABT responded to complaints of too-small buttons by increasing the size of the unit to a still-reasonable 2.3” x 1.5” size, smaller than Apple’s official Apple Remote by around 50%, but just as easy to use. The buttons are made from black plastic with white icons, and are trouble-free. Third is the price: iJet is now $20 cheaper than before, which makes it just as affordable as Griffin’s previously-released AirClick Remote Control for iPod with Dock Connector (iLounge rating: B-), the only other major RF remote control on the market today. And fourth, unlike AirClick, iJet has a pass-through Dock Connector port on its bottom, enabling you to connect iJet to a charger or other Dock Connecting audio device while it’s in use.
One major advantage iJet had over the prior version of AirClick has also remained the same here. iJet’s transmission power is roughly twice that of AirClick, which achieves roughly 50-foot unobstructed distances to the new iJet’s 100 feet. This also means iJet has better wall-piercing strength - a major omission of Infrared-based remote controls, but one that cuts broadcasting distance down by 20-30 feet per wall you go through. With iJet, we walked up two flights of stairs, and successfully controlled our iPod through the two floor surfaces and a wall; this is just not possible with most other remote control solutions. (Only Belkin’s TuneCommand series, which still isn’t available for 5G iPods and nanos, comes close.) It’s also worth noting that, like AirClick, iJet includes a belt clip holder with two interchangeable clip types, and unlike AirClick, it also includes a stereo audio cable.
As between iJet and AirClick, there is no doubt which one we’d pick: iJet is the better offering. The only things iJet lacks by comparison are small: Griffin’s remote control looks a little nicer, and includes a hold switch to prevent accidental button presses. iJet recesses its buttons to prevent accidental presses, and includes holes on one of its corners so you can wear it - with a cord you supply yourself - as a necklace or wrist control. We don’t think many people will use it this way, but at least it’s an option.
With all of that said - several major improvements, a better overall package than its only serious competitor, and better pricing than before - why doesn’t iJet rate the same high recommendation as its predecessor? Like AirClick, iJet has a few issues that limit its appeal, particularly for in-home use. One is that it sits unevenly on a full-sized iPod’s bottom, with the same slight bend that we’ve seen in AirClick and other Dock Connector-equipped accessories, and doesn’t allow new iPods to stand up as they did before. On a related note, unlike the prior iJet, which fit then-current iPod minis only a little awkwardly, the new iJet is really only made to fit full-sized iPods, and then, fat models more than thin ones. iPod nanos don’t look or work right - their headphone ports are blocked by the iJet, and need the more expensive, but more versatile iJet for iPod nano (iLounge rating: A-) - but 30GB iPods also lean uncomfortably on the base when connected to reclining Dock Connector accessories. Additionally, the remote’s volume control buttons still only impact the audio coming off the iPod’s headphone port: Apple’s Universal Dock and Remote accessories, for example, enable you to reduce the Dock Connector’s volume as well. Consequently, if you’re hoping to plug iJet into a remote-less iPod speaker system to add distance control, you’ll only be able to affect play/pause and track changes from a distance, and not volume - unless the speakers have an auxiliary input, and that input is separately selectable. For numerous reasons, most people will be better off with a speaker system or iPod dock that includes its own RF remote - some now offer more buttons and features, as well - though both options are more expensive.
Overall, the newest iJet rates a strong but general recommendation: on distance performance, it is the very best RF remote control we’ve tested for the fifth-generation iPod, and its unique pass-through Dock Connector feature works well for charging and audio output - unless you’re looking for volume attenuation of the Dock Connector, a feature Apple and others have embraced in alternate accessories. Best suited to use in a car or in a bag with the iPod’s headphone port as its output device, home stereo audiophiles and remoteless iPod speaker users may find its appeal somewhat limited. In our view, and especially for the price, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a better standalone iPod remote control today - just bear in mind that its utility and fit will vary based on your specific needs and iPod model.