Company: Digital Lifestyle Outfitters (DLO)
Model: Flexible Dock
Compatible: iPod shuffle
DLO Flexible Dock for iPod shuffle
Pros: An attractive, flexible metal gooseneck mount that extends the length of a computer’s USB port by seven inches to allow connection with an iPod shuffle. Gooseneck works properly, doesn’t give under added weight of shuffle.
Cons: Short length limits utility to specific types of monitors and laptop computers; impractical for most floor-mounted desktop machines. Not the cheapest iPod shuffle dock we’ve seen, or the most useful.
Of the two iPod shuffle docks recently released by DLO, the Flexible Dock ($19.99) is clearly the more innovative and interesting. It’s a seven-inch metal gooseneck pipe attached to a male USB plug at one end, and a iPod shuffle cap-shaped female USB port at the other. The big idea is that the gooseneck lets you mount and position the shuffle wherever you want near a USB port, similar to Belkin’s TuneBase and TEN Technology’s flexDock car mounts.
For some people - certain laptop owners and people with USB ports at the right places on their monitors - this will be a cool enough idea. And better yet, the Flexible Dock works pretty much as you’d expect it to. It synced properly with our computers, just like connecting the shuffle without a dock. And while the seven-inch length isn’t anywhere near as long as the aforementioned car mounts, the Dock is quite stable once positioned, and you can twist it into arcs and mild spirals without much of a problem. In this regard, it’s considerably better than DVforge’s similar gooseneck iFlex mount for Apple’s iSight camera, which had problems staying in place when connected to a USB port.
The Flexible Dock is also attractive enough: the “dock” cap for the iPod shuffle resembles DLO’s earlier Cool Caps for the iPod shuffle, mostly white with a small gray bar of plastic between the shuffle and the cap. DLO’s metallic gooseneck piping looks good, too.
In our experience, however, the Flexible Dock’s utility was really limited. Our primary computers’ USB ports aren’t well-suited to use of a short gooseneck mount - their single front-mounted USB ports are low on the machines near the ground, and their rear USB ports don’t benefit in any way from a mount of this sort. Similarly, the Flexible Dock was only OK when mounted on USB ports on the rears of our monitors, which situate their ports such that the seven-inch Dock and shuffle can only overlap the screen, not go around it.
DLO’s packaging suggests that this wouldn’t be the case with side-mounted USB ports on an eMac or a laptop - accurate if you’re using a PowerBook with ports on its sides, which is perhaps the Flexible Dock’s highest use, especially if adjacent ports were filled such that a dockless iPod shuffle couldn’t fit in by itself. But the Flexible Dock won’t be as useful if the ports are near the center back, where the dock will be hidden behind the laptop’s screen. Similarly, a depiction of the Flexible Dock on the back of a Mac mini is cute, but appropriate only for people who want to devote its precious second USB port to an iPod shuffle dock.
If you’re one of the people whose computing hardware fits the design of the Flexible Dock, you’ll be impressed by its design, and its under-$20 price won’t kill you. In fact, because of its good looks, you may even be tempted to go out of your way to try and find a way to make it work with your computer, something we’ve tried without success with gooseneck designs before. Based on what we’ve seen, we’d lean more heavily towards Pacific Rim’s less expensive Shuffle Cradle (iLounge rating: A-) or Thought Out’s iPed Shuffle Dock (iLounge rating: B+), but if you need something small and flexible, this is a nice option.