Review: SendStation Dock Extender
It seems like a constant struggle for accessory developers: at what point does something that's unquestionably a good idea become so overpriced that customers won't buy it on principle alone? Unlike the company's recently re-released and re-priced smartCharge (iLounge rating: A-), SendStation's handy new Dock Extender ($29) walks over that line -- enough that we take the rare step of radically reducing our rating based on price rather than anything else.
The idea behind Dock Extender is a practical one: You have an iPod. Your iPod’s in a case. And you have an existing iPod accessory, such as a Universal Dock-based speaker system or other iPod docking device, that you want to use without removing the iPod from its case. Dock Extender can solve your problem: it’s a five-piece kit consisting of a Dock Connector port extender, a plastic and wire Universal Dock insert, and three rubber pads of varying thicknesses to keep your iPod’s back safe when it touches the wire back of the insert. You put the Extender on the bottom of your iPod, place the insert into your speaker or dock, and voila—the encased iPod works fits in your accessory.
You can also use the Extender without the Universal Dock insert, and this is the only way to fly with certain accessories. FM transmitters, car chargers, and other cabled accessories won’t have any place for the insert to go, so you just attach the Extender to the iPod and the accessory, and they work together. Additionally, SendStation’s wire backing sticks out on an angle that appears to render the insert physically incompatible with certain speakers we tested, specifically those that have plastic or metal surfaces immediately behind their Universal Docks’ backs—Griffin’s recent AirDock is only one example. You may be tempted to go insert-less just because of the wire.
For dock and speaker accessories, using the insert is a smarter idea. Without it, the reclining iPod and Dock Extender put extra pressure on your original accessory’s Dock Connector, which isn’t a good thing for docks or speakers that haven’t been reinforced to cope with the strain. If your full-sized iPod’s in a heavy case, the extra weight could snap the Dock Connector, especially if you’re moving your speakers or dock around with the iPod attached. Thankfully, SendStation enables you to disconnect the wire portion of the insert with two tiny screw-off nuts, enabling the plastic bottom to fit inside most incompatible docking accessories. The company deserves credit for thinking through different usage scenarios, and trying to provide a solution that works with most of them.
The only major sticking point is how much Dock Connector costs. As nice of a solution as it is for a relatively common set of issues, it’s not worth its asking price on its best day—frankly, we’d think twice about even paying half as much for such a thing. At $10, this would be an easy add-on to a case purchase, but for nearly $30, we have to consider it worth passing on unless you’re one of those few people who are truly desperate enough for a case-compatible accessory adapter that you’d pay anything to get one—the reason for our B- level limited recommendation. That said, if you can find it at a reasonable price, look past our rating, as it’s nicely designed and works properly.