Review: ABT iJet Wireless RF Remote
Pros: The iPod’s wireless remote control broadcasting champion, with over 100-foot unobstructed broadcasting range and the ability to work through walls. Includes detachable belt clip and recessed buttons to minimize chances of accidental button presses. Has less of a problem with first-generation iPod photos than other RF remotes.
Cons: Pricey; small quirks in remote and receiver design; not as versatile as TEN’s naviPro EX on iPod control functionality, or Griffin’s AirClick on ease of use in pockets and cars.
What would the best possible current-generation iPod remote control look like? It would give you lots of ways to access your iPod’s music, work through walls and from great distances, and would be easy to carry wherever you go. Even better would be the ability to use the same remote to control both iPods and iTunes playback. In other words, the ideal remote control would combine and build upon the features of Griffin’s AirClick (iLounge rating: A-) and TEN’s naviPro EX (iLounge rating: B+). We’re relatively convinced that our dream feature - an LCD screen - won’t appear on a current-generation iPod remote, so our reviews don’t take that possibility into account.
Judged by this standard, ABT’s new iJet remote control for Dock Connector iPods ($59.95) is a highly recommendable though imperfect offering. Looking at broadcasting distance alone, it’s the strongest iPod remote we’ve ever seen, claiming 150-foot distances and actually delivering between 100-110 feet reliably in our testing with most iPods. (Its range was limited in testing only with the first-generation iPod photo, which still performed better with iJet than with any of the other remotes we’ve seen.) But unlike Griffin’s cheaper AirClick, which has remotes that are easy to use in a car and can also be used to control iTunes and other computer programs, and TEN’s cheaper naviPro EX, which offers a significantly wider array of iPod controls, the benefits of iJet are relatively simple: five button, long-distance iPod control.
A Brief Note on RF Technology
RF (radio frequency) wireless technology is an alternative to Infrared (invisible light) technology, which has been used in most but not all of the iPod’s wireless remote controls. Compared with Infrared, RF has the advantages of working through walls and equally well indoors and outdoors, and the disadvantage of working less well in an environment with strong radio interference. Since the density of your walls and the level of radio interference where you live may vary from ours, your results may also vary, and you should not regard any review’s statement of radio performance as definitive as to your own personal living situation. As such, we provide test results with our unobstructed (optimal) numbers, and a general sense of how the iJet performed when obstructions were added.
Cosmetically, the iJet isn’t the sleekest industrial design we’ve seen, but it looks fine. The receiver is a white mostly glossy plastic nub that’s comparatively chunky even on top of a 60GB iPod photo, with its name in simple lettering on its front and a stereo minijack on its left side - a tougher position than Griffin’s top-mounted jack and Engineered Audio’s right-mounted jack, both of which work with add-ons such as Macally’s PodWave and PodGear’s PocketParty. It also fits full-sized iPods better than iPod minis, hanging off of minis’ sides like most (but not all) of the iPod remotes we’ve tested.
Similarly, ABT’s standard white remote is a clean five-button design intended to generally match the look of a full-sized iPod. Four buttons are arranged in a rough square on its front for track forward and backward, volume up and down, while play/pause is a comparatively tiny circle in the center. A pinhole-sized red LED light indicates that the remote is working.
Though iJet isn’t available with an iPod mini-matching receiver, ABT is working on mini-matching remote transmitters, prototypes of which are shown in our photo here. The transmitters look nice, and though they aren’t a perfect color match for the minis, they’re currently close enough (except for the darker blue one) that we wouldn’t imagine anyone will mind the differences. ABT says that it’s still working on the colors, and is planning both better color matches and additional options for the fashion-conscious.
The company refers to the colored remotes as iJet Remote Skins, which we believe means that you’ll buy the standard iJet and then separately buy the remote shell that matches your iPod mini. This is possible because of the design of iJet’s remote, which contains a circuit board, rubber button strip, and two pieces of plastic; conceivably, you’ll pop the rubber strip and the board (the latter held in by a small screw), then replace the shell. Pricing and release dates for the Remote Skins aren’t yet available.
Using the iJet for the first time is a little less convenient than Griffin’s AirClick: ABT says that you need to give iJet up to thirty seconds for a self-diagnostic test before the remote works, but we found the time to be substantially shorter; typically five or fewer seconds. And when the iJet-to-remote connection is made, it’s undeniably impressive. We successfully tested iJet at a distance of 100-110 feet from the iPod and were able to control everything from playing to track switching without a hitch - around 50 feet better than Griffin’s AirClick, 40 feet better than Engineered Audio’s RemoteRemote 2, and 80 feet better than TEN’s naviPro EX and naviPod series remotes. While this didn’t meet the 150-foot claim on iJet’s packaging, it’s so much better than the competition that the number almost doesn’t matter. And it goes without saying that your experiences may vary.
As with all RF-based remotes, iJet performed well both outdoors and through walls, not suffering from any of the line-of-sight and other issues that can afflict Infrared-based remote controls such as TEN’s naviPro and DLO’s iDirect. Walls are the greatest challenge for any remote control, and ABT notes that each wall may cut signal strength of an RF transmitter by 30 feet. This isn’t a precise number, however - a lot depends on the density of your walls (and floors for that matter), and we found that our drywall and wood walls didn’t affect performance by quite that much. Try the same thing in a room with all-metal walls and you’ll see a difference. In any case, whereas AirClick and Remote Remote 2 did fine in our testing at a short distance from an iPod through two wall-like surfaces, they did better through one wall and best through none. iJet has the broadcasting power to work well through three of our walls and quite a few feet, or two walls and a good distance.
There were some other small differences in the look and feel of iJet’s remote as compared with Griffin’s and Engineered Audio’s offerings. Of those three remotes, we liked Griffin’s the best, as its five buttons were equally large and easy to press. AirClick also includes a hold switch, an integrated belt clip, and detachable wrist/car strap, nice gray rubber accents, and screws to open the casing. Engineered Audio’s RemoteRemote 2 uses a slightly smaller remote with no belt clip, buttons that are around the same size as iJet’s, and a similar hole that could be used to mount the remote on a necklace. We’d rate that one second in comfort, third in looks.
Because of a concave design, recessed buttons, and the way its casing opens, iJet’s remote is the least comfortable to use and open of the three, even though it looks good. In order to guard against accidental button presses when iJet is in your pocket, all five buttons are at least slightly recessed, but the center button was especially so, and occasionally hard to press down. Griffin engineered around this with a hold switch, and Engineered Audio ignored it; a hold switch would have been better. Additionally, opening the iJet remote’s casing requires a coin, which can easily damage the surrounding plastic, so be careful if you ever need to pop it open.
On a more positive note, iJet does permit you to control iPod photo slideshows, just like the Remote Remote 2 and AirClick, so long as current iPod photo firmware (1.1 or later) is installed. And it comes with a simple detachable belt clip mount, which is fully adequate (if not as nice as the spring-loaded clip on the AirClick), as well as a white stereo audio cable to connect iJet to left and right home stereo inputs. These latter added benefits place iJet two steps above the comparatively bare RemoteRemote 2 in both pack-ins and price.
Finally, though iJet doesn’t ship with an iPod mount like TEN’s naviPro and naviPod remotes do, ABT is working on the iJet Stand, a prototype of which is shown above. The stand permits you to easily mount your iPod and use it with a Dock Connector cable and a stereo system, storing an iJet remote inside when it’s not in use. Pricing and a final ship date are currently unavailable.
Overall, iJet is a broadcasting superstar with only three limitations: it’s pricey, doesn’t have the wide array of iPod controls found in TEN’s naviPro EX, and unlike Griffin’s AirClick, its remotes are currently only useful with iPods, not computers. But if you’re looking to operate your iPod from the maximum possible distance, and don’t mind its small idiosyncracies, iJet is the way you’ll want to do it.