Even though Apple has discontinued the top-mounting accessory port used by most of the FM transmitters and remote controls released over the past two years, it was inevitable that companies would produce bottom-mounting versions for the new 5G iPod and iPod nano. Griffin Technology’s newest version of iTrip ($50) is the first we’ve received, and in all honesty, it’s underwhelming. We’ll explain why below.
First, the good points. The new iTrip preserves almost all of the functionality from its recent iTrip (with LCD) predecessor: there’s a bright LCD screen on the front and a station toggle on the right. Audio performance appears to be similar, perhaps not identical – we’ll have more testing to do before we can come to any definitive conclusions.
Holding down the toggle button – on the unit’s right side – toggles between “international” and “US” radio tuning modes, giving users an extended collection of FM stations to tune through, and LX or DX modes, which let you choose between cleaner monaural broadcasting or weaker stereo broadcasting.
New to the iTrip is a mini-USB port on the bottom left corner, which will enable you to connect an optional car charger cable at the same time as you’re broadcasting. Griffin also plans to release a dedicated automotive version of iTrip – iTrip Auto (previewed in our Holiday Buyers’ Guide) – with an integrated charging cable.
One of the bad changes to the new iTrip is its new tuning toggle – a three position lever (up, down, and “in”) rather than the great rotary dial that was on the iTrip (with LCD). You press the lever up to go up in stations, down to go down, and inwards to select one. It’s not as easy as using the dial, and not as attractive.
The back of the new iTrip isn’t quite as elegant as its predecessor, either. For the first time in Griffin history, the iTrip’s antenna is now visible on the back of the case, which has a plus and a minus: visually, it’s a minus, but tinkerers can more easily pull the antenna outwards for a boost in FM transmitting power. Neither we nor Griffin recommend this – it’s a violation of FCC transmitting regulations – but people hacked their iTrip minis with a similar trick, and it’s now easier than ever.
Another oddball thing about the new iTrip – it doesn’t sit evenly on the bottom of any iPod to which it’s attached, bending off on an angle. But it does attach to all Dock Connecting iPods from 3G to 5G, mini and nano, and looks okay doing so.
Why not make it perfect? We get the impression that Griffin is working on better versions of the iTrip, including iTrip Auto, iTrip for iPod nano, and perhaps others, and that this is just a temporary solution for people who need something right now (or in time for the holidays). Take that as you will.
We’ll have a full review of the new iTrip shortly. Our most recent full-length First Looks is still available for your perusal separately.