Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Insten iPhone Dock

A while ago, I got fed up with not knowing where to put my iPod Touch when it was charging/plugged into my computer. I didn't like the idea of just setting it on my desk or on top of my case, so I decided to try to find a dock. At first I was just looking for a cradle that would charge my iPod, and that's all. But as I began to shop around (which I do quite thoroughly, I might add), I discovered that it would actually around the same price for a dock with more features, like a remote. So without any further ado: the Insten Dock.

You would not believe how many results come up for "iPod touch 3G dock". I was very wary about what I wanted to buy because I know for some stupid reason, Apple changed how the latest iPods charge and so they are incompatible with some past accessories. I didn't know exactly how far back the difference went, so I decided to only buy a dock that explicitly said "iPod Touch 3G." And this one fit the bill.

I honestly don't know what the model number is, if you're wondering. Insten kind of creeps me out in that sense.....the box was a plane, white box, as I recall....the instructions simply say "IPOD-RC" at the top instead of any model number at all, and the cradle itself does not have any stickers or type of classification. It kind of concerns me.

But the dock has actually been really good. I got it for the following reasons:
  1. USB port: Believe it or not, some docks plugged into the wall, which would not work for what I wanted to use it for (syncing with my computer). It also a straight up USB cord (ie, no iPod cord or mini USB), which I like since it seems more replaceable and tough than alternatives. (That and mini USB has always rubbed me the wrong way....)
  2. DC power: In addition to the USB, you can also use a DC power cord to plug the dock into the wall. This is really why I got this particular dock, because I wanted my iPod to continue to charge even when my computer was turned off/in standby/hibernation, but I didn't want to have to keep moving it from place to place.
  3. Audio Out: The final touch, for me. I wanted a dock that has audio out because my new speakers have audio in, and I wanted my dock to sit right next to my speakers and I could plug by dock out output right in.
  4. Remote control/Volume controls: This was actually just a bonus for me, since it's not what I was concerned with when shopping, but it is a nice touch.
  5. A/V out & S-Video: Again, more extras, for me. I'm pretty sure that the A/V out won't work with my model, and I haven't tried either that or the S-Video yet, but it's still kinda nice to have.

So those are the reasons I bought this particular cradle. As for how they played out....

The USB port works fine, but I haven't actually tried the DC power yet. Mostly because they didn't include the flipping cord. I honestly don't know where I go to ask "Do you have a DC power converter that will work with this?" (but then again I haven't tried much since school is consuming my time). DC boxes have so many sizes and shapes, I really haven't a clue of how to find a box that will work, but I'm going to look into it more this summer. So that kinda sucks, since it was one of my major reasons for getting a dock instead of a cord.

The audio out works....I think. The first time I tried it, it worked fine, except the signal was really dirty, which I assumed was from poor circuitry and the charging feature was spilling over into the A/V out feature. But I just tried it again for the heck of it, and it's fine. Before, I kept getting little pops and buzzes, even when the music wasn't playing, which was unacceptable to me. But I'm guessing I either used a bad cord, or I had the volume messed up (the iPod volume too low or too high, or something....)

As for the volume controls, they work fine. The remote, however.....well, it doesn't not work. I knew while buying this dock that the remote could not work at all. Instead, the only thing that works on it is the volume controls. (Don't ask me why......) So I can't use it to select tracks or play/pause, which sucks, but since I wasn't accounting for it anyway, volume control from a distance sounds wonderful to me.

The dock might be considered "chinsy" by some. You can tell it's just mostly plastic with a few innards. Sometimes, I like an accessory to be weighty, like with speakers. But when it comes to a cradle just to hold my iPod, I'm ok with chinsy. Why should it be all heavy when it's basically just a cord? It actually kind of pleasantly surprised me.
Plus, it has rubber grips on the bottom, which might sound like nothing to you, but -as I said at the beginning- I was afraid of just putting my iPod on my desk because I am so apt to accidentally knock it off. But with the rubber grips on the dock, it really stays in place.

The only other thing I can think of is that since it's not designed for this specific model of iPod (even though features do work), Apple decided it would be best if your iPod told you that. Every 4 minutes. I'm not going to rant about it now, but when you have your iPod plugged in to any accessory which "is not designed to work with" it, a message will pop up constantly, which can actually drain your iPod's battery if it's not charging from the wall or the computer.

That's about it. I'm not really sure if it was a good investment yet, since I haven't tried the DC power option yet and leaving it there all the time actually drains the battery instead of charging it when my computer isn't on. But other than that, it's a nice little dock. Could I have gone with something better? Maybe. But for the price ($16 from eForcity), I really think that it was the best choice, especially for being sure it could at least charge my 3G Touch.

Docking off,

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