Without revisiting in detail the widespread anger that followed Apple’s decision to lock down the video output capabilities of both recent iPods and iPhone, it suffices to say that squeezing video out of these devices has generally required special $49 Apple Composite or Component AV cables, which have struck us and readers alike as rip-offs relative to their perfectly fine $19 predecessors. For the higher price, you now get one set of somewhat flimsy cables and a wall charger, plus an iPod/iPhone Dock Connector plug with an Apple device authentication chip inside. Without that chip, it turns out, the latest iPod and iPhone models refuse to output video, so third-party developers have been forced to include the same chip and charge prices as outrageous as Apple’s.
Thus, a year after Apple released its cables, Griffin Technology has debuted its own alternatives, and they sell for $50 each. They’re called the Component iPod to TV Cable and Composite iPod to TV Cable, and consist of the same general parts that Apple sells, only with Griffin’s slightly different industrial designs. Whereas Apple’s parts are all on the small and thin side, Griffin’s wall power adapter, cabling and plugs are all larger, possessing the same white and gray color scheme as Apple’s cables.
On this particular occasion, larger is actually somewhat better. Apple’s individual “RCA-style” plugs that connected to a TV or receiver’s video and audio ports are metal-clad, a bit slippery, and use such thin cables that you’ll feel like you could tear the $50 part up just by disconnecting it from your set. Griffin replaces the metal RCA jackets with grippy plastic and increases the thickness of the cabling, giving you a greater sense of confidence during connection and disconnection. If you shop around a bit, you’ll find the Griffin cables for a little under $40, a savings you’ll never achieve on Apple’s full MSRP versions.
But other than that, there’s nothing to recommend the Griffin versions over Apple’s. They look the same when connected to your TV and sound the same through speakers. The Component cables from both companies connect to the five total RCA ports found on modern TVs, while the Composite versions connect to the three ports found on older and modern TVs alike. You’ll get a clean picture and clear audio from all of these cables regardless of whether you connect an iPod or iPhone.
There are a couple of small catches. While both companies’ cables work with the iPod and iPhone, Griffin’s version is Apple-certified only for the iPod, and thus brings up the infamous nag screen when connected to an iPhone. An extra button press is required to ignore the screen and keep using the cable anyway. Then there’s the Dock issue. Try to connect Apple’s current Universal Dock to the Griffin cable and you won’t be able to get video out of an iPod or an iPhone, despite the fact that this pairing of Dock and cabling should work—the Dock, after all, contains its own authentication chip for both iPods and iPhones. You can decide whether it’s worth picking the Apple cable instead based on this, or whether you’d be better off avoiding Apple’s Dock purely on the basis of how annoying all these compatibilities have become.
A year and a half have passed since Apple’s 2007 video lockdown, and there’s little doubt that everyone—consumers, developers, and Apple—has been worse off for the change. Worse yet, there’s no sign that it’s getting any better. Some companies—Scosche and EZGear among them—have tried to compete with Apple’s cables by leaving out their charging capabilities to reach a $40 asking price, still $20 higher than similar past AV cables; others have completely stayed away from making new cables because they know that Apple has left very little room for competition. So for now, though their similarly high prices mean that we can’t wholeheartedly recommend Griffin’s cables, we would definitely pick them over Apple’s if you can find them discounted online, unless you consider the iPhone nag screen or Universal Dock issues to be show-stoppers. In that case, consider holding off for a better solution. We continue to hope that one is coming.
Company and Price
Company: Griffin Technology
Model: iPod to AV Cables
Compatible: iPod nano (3G/4G), iPod classic, iPod touch, iPhone*, iPhone 3G*