capsule review

Marware USB Travel Dock for iPod shuffle

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At a Glance
  • Marware USB Travel Dock for iPod shuffle

One of the great features of Apple's second-generation (2G) iPod shuffle is its tiny profile. Unfortunately, as we noted when reviewing Incipio's IncipioBud and RadTech's ProCable, this smaller size also has its drawbacks. Whereas the original (1G) shuffle featured a standard USB plug, making it easy to connect your 1G shuffle to any USB port for charging and syncing, such a plug wouldn't fit on the newer, smaller version. Instead, the 2G shuffle features a unique, all-in-one headphone jack that -- with the right plug -- handles audio, power, and data.

Included with the 2G shuffle is a small docking cradle that connects to your computer's USB port via a long cable. Although convenient for home use, this approach has a distinct disadvantage compared to the original iPod shuffle, as it means you can charge and sync your 2G iPod shuffle only when you've actually got the dock cradle with you; the original shuffle could be plugged directly into any USB port.

A number of vendors have released more-portable (read: smaller) solutions for syncing and charging your iPod shuffle, including the two mentioned above. The most recent is Marware's USB Travel Dock, which takes a slightly different approach. Rather than an adapter or cable with a USB plug on one end and the shuffle's power/data plug on the other, the USB Travel Dock is basically Apple's 2G shuffle dock without the cable -- the USB plug is built right into the dock itself. You place your 2G shuffle in the Travel Dock -- it's designed nearly identically to Apple's own dock -- and then plug the Dock into your computer's USB port. (Because of its horizontal orientation, the Travel Dock may not work with a row of vertically-aligned USB ports.) Your shuffle is charged and can sync with iTunes while in the Travel Dock; a light on the Travel Dock itself indicates that the unit is receiving power from the USB port.

Other than the horizontal orientation, the only real drawback to the Travel Dock is that the power/sync plug (the one that looks like a headphone minijack) is, as with Apple's dock, perpendicular to the base. This isn't an issue when used at home, but if you'll be carrying the Travel Dock in a laptop or other bag, there's a chance the plug could be bent or broken under the right (read: wrong) circumstances. (Marware includes plastic protective caps for the power/sync and USB plugs, but the cap for the power/sync plug won't prevent such damage.)

Compared to Apple's stock dock, Marware's offering is more compact, which makes it a more appealing option for carrying in your laptop bag. However, it's quite a bit bigger than the IncipioBud, and even RadTech's ProCable -- and is quite a bit more expensive than both. The advantage to USB Travel Dock is that, because it uses a 2G-shuffle-specific design, there's no risk that you (or someone else) will accidentally connect something other than the 2G shuffle (such as a 1G shuffle or other iPod) to your computer's USB port -- a connection that could damage those other devices thanks to the power provided by the USB port.

If you're looking for a second (or a replacement) dock for your 2G shuffle for home, the USB Travel Dock is a good choice and is cheaper than Apple's. On the other hand, if you need a second dock to throw in your laptop or travel bag, the offerings from IncipioBud and RadTech are smaller and less expensive.
--Dan Frakes

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At a Glance
  • Portable USB cradle for synching and charging the second-generation iPod shuffle.

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