At a Glance
Cassette adapter that can control your iPod using your car stereo’s own controls.
The SmartDeck is a unique and clever product that we’re glad to see finally hit the street. Although it’s not going to be the perfect solution for everyone, it’s definitely worth considering if you’re in the market for a cassette adapter. Is it worth the $10 to $20 price premium over other cassette adapters? That depends on what you’re looking for in an adapter. The SmartDeck’s ability to control your iPod via your car stereo’s controls is very cool, but it’s not as responsive as you might expect; this feature is likely to be most useful for those who like to keep their iPod in a glove compartment or console–somewhere where you wouldn’t be tempted to use your iPod’s own controls instead. It’s also a good option if your car’s layout makes it easier (or safer!) for you to use your car’s controls; for example, if you’ve got such buttons on the steering wheel. But even if you never use your car stereo’s buttons to control your iPod, the SmartDeck has advantages over the competition: Its auto-volume feature (which makes setting the right volume level much easier than with other adapters) and its auto-play/pause capability can’t be found in any other cassette adapter and might alone make the SmartDeck worth the price premium.
On the other hand, the SmartDeck doesn’t work with all iPod models, so if you’ve got more than one iPod, make sure they’re all compatible or else you’ll have to buy a second accessory, as well. And the standard cassette adapter caveat applies: We have yet to find one that works with every car stereo. In fact, up until now, that’s been one of the major differences between most cassette adapters: The bad ones have problems with many cars, the better ones only a few. In the case of the SmartDeck, which depends on even tighter interaction with your car stereo to provide iPod-control functionality, compatibility may be even more of a issue. For example, in my testing, the SmartDeck worked in both test cars, but its behavior differed slightly depending on the car. Performance–the time it takes the SmartDeck to change tracks on your iPod–may also differ. So, as I mentioned earlier, if you’re considering the SmartDeck, buy it from a retailer with a good return policy so you can give it a test run in your own vehicle.
(See our full review at the URL below.)–Dan Frakes