capsule review

PodsPlus Dock with Video Out

At a Glance
  • PodsPlus Dock with Video Out

The original iPod photo included a handy dock base that could be used to charge and sync your iPod (when connected to Apple's dock cable) as well as to output line-level audio and S-Video signals. Apple eventually dropped the dock base from the package (and made it available only as a $39 accessory), but still included an AV cable that provided stereo audio and composite video outputs when connected to a photo iPod's headphone jack. Now even that cable is a $19 option. In other words, if you've got a photo-capable iPod and want to display photos on a TV, you've got to pay $19 for composite video output or $39 for S-Video output. (In fact, if you've got any iPod, a dock base will set you back $39.)

When you consider PodsPlus' Dock with Video Out in this context, it's a major bargain. For just a dollar more than Apple's dock for color iPods, you get the same functionality as Apple's dock base -- dock connector, S-Video, and line-out audio ports -- plus the equivalent AV cable for travel use, plus an S-Video cable, plus an extra USB-to-dock-connector cable. If you were to purchase the three iPod-specific cables separately from Apple, you'd be looking at $77, and you'd still be missing the S-Video cable.

Given how inexpensive PodsPlus' package is compared to Apple's options, the question then becomes one of quality. Although the individual components of the PodsPlus' dock package look a bit cheaper than Apple's, in our testing the dock base, AV cable, and USB-to-dock-connector cable all worked well. (Although, oddly, the PodsPlus dock cable plug, and the dock base's dock connector jack, are both upside-down compared to Apple's.) And although Apple's AV cable appears to be of higher overall quality, the PodsPlus version is thinner and more travel-friendly. The S-Video cable, on the other hand, provided very poor image quality. However, other S-Video cables worked fine when plugged into the PodsPlus dock, indicating that this was a problem with the cable, not the dock base. Given that S-Video cables are relatively inexpensive, and the iPod-proprietary cables and dock base all work well, the system is still quite a bargain.

If the PodsPlus Dock with Video Out had been priced closer to a comparable package from Apple, it likely would have received a 3-Play (Good) rating; but at nearly half that price, it gets a higher rating for being a superior value.

(The Dock with Video Out also works with non-photo iPods and iPod minis. Even though the video features and cables would obviously not be useful with these models, if you're shopping for a dock base, buying the PodsPlus system is still a good deal since you also get an extra USB-to-dock-connector cable.)
--Dan Frakes

At a Glance
  • PodsPlus Dock with Video Out

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