Review: XtremeMac RoadShow Car AV Cable for iPod with video
Pros: An all-in-one car charger and AV cable that enables average users or professional car installers to fully integrate video-ready iPods into premium car AV systems without cable clutter or feature compromises. Outputs iPod’s highest-quality video and audio from its Dock Connector port while recharging the battery inside. Black and gray design nicely matches most car interiors. Reasonable pricing.
Cons: Dock Connector is slightly larger than we’d prefer; composite video looks good, but may be shy of what ultra-premium car installs are capable of handling.
It’s a professional auto installer’s dream cable: for the first time, XtremeMac’s RoadShow Car AV Cable for iPod with video ($50) combines two features previously found only in separate accessories, or in parts specifically designed only to attach to one company’s auto AV systems. At one end of the eight-foot cable is a matte black car charging bulb with a single LED light to indicate that it’s powered up, small and unobtrusive enough to mostly hide wherever you install it in your car. There’s also a glossy black iPod Dock Connector plug that’s ready to connect to the bottom of a fifth-generation iPod, and only a little larger than we’d prefer. Finally, there’s a set of three RCA-style, composite video and audio plugs that are ready to connect to an in-car monitor or AV system.
In short, RoadShow provides a single-piece solution to an increasingly common question: how does one fully integrate a video-ready iPod into a car without a mess of cables, or giving up charging? As we noted in our earlier review of Capdase’s Come Home cables (iLounge ratings: B+/B), you’ll need to compromise in one of two ways with other cable solutions - either connect a cable to the iPod’s top headphone port and sacrifice audio/video quality, then use a second cable to provide car charging, or use a Capdase cable to connect to the iPod’s Dock Connector and give up charging altogether. So far, only RoadShow eliminates this need to compromise, pulling top-quality audio and video signals from the iPod’s bottom while providing charging power.
The benefits of RoadShow became especially obvious in a high-end car install we’ve been working on for the past few weeks: having tried AV system-specific iPod integration cables sold by companies like Pioneer, we were dissatisfied both with the physical size and looks of some of these cables, and the way our iPods responded when connected to them. Pioneer’s AVIC-Z1 and CD-IB100II iPod integration kit (iLounge rating: C+) has a fantastic 7” monitor with standard AV inputs, but uses a bulky, case-incompatible white cable and a poor on-screen iPod interface. For systems like this - and even many that are less deluxe - RoadShow offers a better-looking alternative that also produces better results. Unlike Pioneer’s and other companies’ interfaces, which often cost twice as much, RoadShow gives you the ability to output video to video-ready AV systems, and preserve the superior control afforded by the iPod’s own screen and Click Wheel. All you give up is the on-AV system iPod interface, which regrettably is easy once you see how bad many of the car interfaces are at the moment.
There isn’t much we’d change about RoadShow - it works well, looks good, and is reasonably priced considering what it does - all major reasons for our high recommendation. Though not documented to do so, it does work just fine with non-video iPods, including the iPod nano, though it’s obviously limited to performing only the audio content of most of these models. Ideally, it would use even smaller Dock Connector and charger plugs, and come with a screw-based charging bulb that would be easy for custom installers to unscrew for direct connection to the car’s charging hardware. Versions to support even higher-quality video output would be great, too. Even as-is, however, RoadShow is an outstanding new iPod accessory, and one that we’ll certainly continue to find useful for years to come.