capsule review

Fruitshop Bone iLink Shuffle

At a Glance
  • Fruitshop Bone iLink Shuffle

The original iPod shuffle included a built-in USB plug, which let you sync and charge your shuffle by plugging it directly into a USB port on your computer. The second-generation (2G) iPod shuffle's much smaller size precludes the inclusion of such a plug; instead, the newer version features a unique, all-in-one headphone jack that -- with the right plug -- handles audio, power, and data. Apple includes a small docking cradle that connects to your computer's USB port via a long cable; however, while convenient for home use, this approach means you can charge and sync your 2G iPod shuffle only when you've actually got the dock cradle with you.

As a result, several companies have released more-compact connection accessories, including Incipio's IncipioBud adapter and Radtech's ProCable. Fruitshop's Bone iLink Shuffle is the latest in this growing field of compact docking replacements for the (2G) shuffle. Like the ProCable, the iLink Shuffle is a cable with a USB plug on one end and a special data/power miniplug on the other. At 2.5 inches long (not counting the plugs themselves), the iLink Shuffle is shorter than the ProCable, but it's considerably thicker and feels much sturdier. In fact, you can plug the iLink Shuffle into a USB port on the front of a desktop computer and the cable is thick enough to keep your 2G shuffle suspended rather than dangling down.

As with the IncipioBud and ProCable, the speed of syncing through the iLink Shuffle was comparable to using the shuffle's own cradle in my testing. You can also use the iLink Shuffle with USB chargers, such as Apple's own USB Power Adapter. Unfortunately, as with the other two products, the iLink Shuffle doesn't pass audio from the shuffle to the USB plug, so it doesn't provide compatibility with USB-plug speakers and FM transmitters designed for the original iPod shuffle.

I'm still a fan of the $6 IncipioBud thanks to its low price and diminutive size. But like the ProCable, the iLink Shuffle's cable approach is a better bet if your USB ports are crowded. It's a few bucks more than the $9 ProCable, but it also seems to be a bit more rugged; whether the minor price premium is worth it is up to you.--Dan Frakes

At a Glance
  • USB-plug adapter for second-generation iPod shuffle.

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