capsule review

Ten Technology flexibleDock

At a Glance
  • Ten Technology flexibleDock

We previously reviewed Ten Technology's flexDock, a dock base and charger for using your iPod mini in the car. I liked that product and wished versions were available for other iPods, so I was happy to hear that Ten recently released the similarly named flexibleDock, which accommodates all dockable iPods.

Like the original flexDock, the flexibleDock's accessory jack ("cigarette lighter") base plugs into your car's accessory jack and provides a 6-inch arm with a dock cradle to hold your iPod. The flexible, articulating arm lets you put your iPod at a much more visible height than most in-car iPod holders while still being sturdy enough stay in place, even over relatively rough terrain. (Spacers are included to accommodate different sizes of accessory jacks.) But unlike the flexDock, the flexibleDock works with all dockable iPods via several included adapters. You slide the appropriate adapter into a slot at the rear of the dock; the adapter makes the dock's rear support thicker or thinner to fit the adapter's corresponding iPod. (Each adapter is numbered, with a card in the box explaining which adapter fits which iPod[s]. A more useful approach would have been to print the actual model number of compatible iPods on each adapter; during one testing trip, I left the card in my office and had to try each adapter until I found the correct size.)

The flexibleDock charges your dockable iPod -- a green light on the base indicates that the flexibleDock is receiving power from your car -- and provides an audio output jack on the base for connecting your iPod to your car stereo via a cassette adapter or auxiliary audio cable. This jack has two level settings; the lower level is useful if the iPod's standard line-level signal is too loud for your car stereo and results in distortion. I found that the lower level worked well in my test vehicle, a 2005 Honda Pilot, unlike that of the original flexDock, which was too loud at either level, requiring me to instead connect via my iPod's headphone jack.

The final notable feature of the flexibleDock is that instead of providing just a form-fitting dock cradle -- a common approach taken by iPod accessories -- it actually connects to the hidden notches on the inner sides of the iPod's dock connector; to release your iPod from the flexibleDock, you have to squeeze two release buttons on the sides of the cradle. This results in a very secure fit.

A minor issue with the flexibleDock is that, like most such products, you can't use it when your iPod is in a case. But the bigger downside is that if your car's stereo doesn't have a cassette deck or auxiliary input jack, you need to buy a separate FM transmitter -- one that connects to a headphone jack rather than the iPod's dock connector. In such a scenario, you're better off using one of the dedicated transmitter/charger combinations. But if the flexibleDock works with your car, it's one of our favorite auto accessories.--Dan Frakes

At a Glance
  • Cradle and charger for using an iPod in the car.

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