capsule review

SendStation PocketDock (4 models)

At a Glance
  • SendStation PocketDock (4 models)

When Apple introduced the redesigned iPod in early 2003, users praised its slimmer, more elegant design, but this improvement came with one catch: Doing away with the standard FireWire port and replacing it with a new dock connector meant that the accessories that used the FireWire port -- such as car chargers -- were no longer compatible. And, perhaps more importantly, instead of being able to use any standard FireWire cable to sync and charge your iPod, you had to make sure you always carried a special dock cable with you.

In light of the many new dock-oriented third-party peripherals that have since been released, the dock connector doesn't seem like such a bad idea anymore, but it would still be nice to be able to use a standard FireWire or USB cable in a pinch. Similarly, one of the dock connector's killer features is that given the right adapter, it can provide a line-level audio signal, which provides better sound than the headphone jack when connecting your iPod to a home stereo or headphone amplifier.

It's for these reasons that we think SendStation's line of PocketDock adapters are must-have accessories for your iPod. The standard PocketDock ($19) is, quite simply, a tiny adapter that plugs into the dock connector on your iPod and provides a standard FireWire port. Anything you could do with an older iPod's FireWire port -- sync with iTunes, charge the battery, use the iPod as a portable hard drive -- you can do with a "dockable" iPod via the PocketDock. The PocketDock is small enough that you can keep it in your iPod case or laptop bag, and because you can connect your newer iPod to your computer using any standard FireWire cable, you never have to worry about forgetting your dock cable again.

The $23 PocketDock Combo serves a similar purpose except that it provides both FireWire and USB ports, allowing you to connect your iPod to any Mac or Windows PC using a FireWire or USB cable. This allows you to sync all dockable iPods, and charge all ClickWheel iPods and iPod minis, via USB. (You can also charge and sync any dockable iPod via the Combo's FireWire port.) The only catch to the Combo is that its uses a Type B USB port (the larger, squarish version) rather than the more common Type A (the smaller, flatter version). However, the company's view is that since Type B cables are commonly used by USB printers and scanners, most users are likely to have one on hand.

Finally, the $30 PocketDock Line Out FireWire and PocketDock Line Out USB provide a FireWire or USB port, respectively, but also add a line-level audio output minijack for connecting your iPod to a headphone amplifier or home stereo without the need for Apple's dock base. As a nice bonus, the Line Out versions include two audio cables -- a 1/8-inch mini-to-mini and a mini-to-RCA (left/right) -- to allow you to connect your iPod to virtually any stereo system or amplifier.

Note that the PocketDock Combo and Line Out models are slightly wider and thicker than the standard PocketDock; as a result, some iPod cases that have holes for Apple's dock cable won't accommodate the Combo and Line Out models. But apart from that, the PocketDock line of adapters is perfect for people who want a compact way to increase iPod connectivity.--Dan Frakes

At a Glance
  • Provides FireWire port (Standard), FireWire and USB ports (Combo), FireWire or USB and line-level audio output ports (Line Out) to dockable iPods via a dock slot adapter

Related:
Shop Tech Products at Amazon