Review: Griffin Simplifi Dock/USB/Card Reader for iPod and iPhone
Some time ago, Atech Flash released two iPod docks that we liked: the $45 iDuo Card Reader and $60 iDuo Hub, one to let you sync and charge an iPod on top of a memory card reader, and the other to add three USB ports and an iPod dock at once. With Simplifi ($70), a new alternative from Griffin, you get all three of those concepts in a single, Mac-matching enclosure.
Simplifi’s outer shell is anodized aluminum, matching the look of all of Apple’s recent metal computers, with a white Universal Dock at top center, a white dual-slot card reader in the front, and a gray rubber pad on the bottom. The left slot handles slim Memory Stick/Pro, SD/SDHC, and xD cards, while the right handles CompactFlash, the latter format recently in decline but still found in a number of large-sized cameras. On the back, you find four more ports: two full-sized USB ports for connection of other devices, one DC power port for connection of an included wall adapter, and one mini-USB port for connection of an included black cable to your computer.
This mini-USB port is the only thing that needs to be connected to your computer; the original iDuo Card Reader used to require separate cables for the iPod and card slots, and both of Atech’s designs also featured other ports—line outs and video—which might or might not have been useful given your needs. Griffin’s approach is different and more practical; Simplifi is not an audio or video dock. It’s here to declutter your desk, adding two things that most computer users these days need.
What it does, it does very well. We connected multiple USB devices, iPods and iPhones to Simplifi and tested it over the course of two weeks with no issues whatsoever. Memory cards read and wrote properly, iPods and iPhones synced and charged properly, and Simplifi looked really nice while doing everything without complaint. Little blue lights glow through the white plastic front and back shells to indicate power and connection of cards and USB devices, a nice touch, though some users might not like the pulsing of the front lights to show that data’s being transferred.
We only had two issues with Simplifi: first, the presence of only two USB ports on the back leaves it a little light on connectivity for our tastes. Three or four ports are what we typically look for when we go shopping for hubs—Belkin added five in its oversized TuneSync—so this dock will be better-suited to those who have lighter connection needs. Second, there’s the $70 asking price. Believe it or not, you can currently buy both of the aforementioned Atech docks now for a combined price lower than that—$50, as of this writing—and Griffin is definitely hoping that Simplifi’s good looks will sway people to cough up an extra $10 or $15 over what the combined functionality should cost at this point in time.
It’s worth considering. There are more sophisticated card readers, more versatile iPod docks, and more expansive USB hubs, but Simplifi’s appeal is that it offers just enough mainstream-friendly functionality in the right size and form factor to work nicely on any desk. As an iPod dock, a two-port USB hub, and card reader, it does a lot right; consider it worth a higher rating if you’re a style-conscious Mac owner with either few devices to connect or enough USB ports on your existing machine to handle most of your connectivity requirements.