XM Skydock Sat Radio (Review)

Discussion in 'TSS Radio Hardware Reviews' started by DAB, Oct 14, 2009.

  1. DAB

    DAB Mod Emeritus

    XM Skydock Review

    I received my XM Skydock today. When I seen the announcement for this product it just seems like a natural fit for me being an iPod Touch and iPhone 3GS owner. I’ve been happily using a Delphi XpressRC (which in its on right is a great XM tuner). However the thought of being able to have basically an all in one device was very appealing to me. A while back I began to use my iPhone for streaming Sirius XM, Slacker and Pandora to name a few. So, using the touch screen interface really makes this a user friendly and easy experience.

    Right off the bat I want to say the XM Skydock is an all in one unit; the stalk, the cig power adapter and the dock. It works with the 1st , 2nd, 3rd Gen iPod Touch along with the original iPhone, iPhone 3G and 3GS. You of course must have your own iPod Touch or iPhone, as that isn’t included with the XM Skydock.

    What comes in the package?
    XM Skydock sat radio tuner, with PowerConnect, magnetic mount antenna, aux-in cable, 3 spacers. Spacer 1 works with iPhone/iPod Touch with compatible case (2MM in any dimension and must have a large enough open area around the connector at the bottom to allow it to seat properly in the XM Skydock. Spacer 2 iPhone without a case or iPod Touch with a compatible case using the dimensions above; Spacer 3 for iPod Touch without a case. You also get a quick connect guide, Manual and XM Channel Guide. The packaging is all cardboard so no knives or scissors needed to get into it. Using the Incase Slider I have to remove the bottom part to dock it properly as it won't seat all the way down if I do not. No biggie I do this every night when I charge it anyway.

    Once I got it out of the box, I was a bit surprised how short the stalk was, because in every picture I’ve seen the thing looks really long. Well it isn’t long at all in fact it is like 3.5” to 4” depending on exactly where you start the measurement. In my Scion xB for where the cig plug is the stalk is a perfect size. In fact is puts it just a tad bit under my head unit. I can see that in some vehicles where the cig plug is real low this short stalk is going to be problematic. The setup is simple and sweet. You basically plug aux cable and the antenna, and then plug it into the cig plug. Once you get this done, you need to select the specific spacer as described above for whatever setup you’ll be doing iPod Touch or iPhone with or without a compatible a case. You then dock it, and it will power on; you click on the SkyDock Application. It will then take you through a few activation screens. The hardest part of this setup will of course be the antenna being installed. If you already have an antenna installed you can use this existing antenna, which is what I did.

    There are two ways to activate, one is to call in, and this allows you to do a new activation or to do a tuner swap. You can also click activate online and this allows you to active online, you can setup a new account if you are new to XM or you can do it as an add on to an existing account. This is done via the iPod Touch or iPhone provided you have Wifi /3G connectivity. (I phoned in and did a tuner swap, as I didn’t really want to add another subscription.) Once I called and they actually sent the signal, the SkyDock tuner was activated almost immediately.

    Using Skydock Application:
    When you start the Skydock software it will take it a few seconds to start up and actually connect to the dock. Once it connects to the Skydock Tuner, you will instantly get sound. I did find that it took several additional seconds for the display to actually pop up and show you what was playing. However, once it goes through this, changing channels for the most part is instant. The display doesn’t lag at all; the touch screen interface is just fantastic. (Like anything these days it is not recommended that you allow yourself to become distracted changing channels while driving. SAFETY FIRST USE GOOD JUDGEMENT).

    You will now have full access to setup the volume output. I found the volume to be very loud, so this won’t be an issue at all. You can setup stocks for the ticker, you can add sports teams and that also has a ticker for scores or schedules. There are also alerts so if you favorite team is playing you’ll get a pop up alert (notification in iPod/iPhone lanquage) that will ask you if you want to listen to it. With just a simple tap you are there instantly. If you tag a song or artist, you can then go to the tagged menu and click on it, to check off rather you want it to alert you by song or by artist. Once it gets a hit, you’ll get a pop up that will allow you with a tap to immediately switch to that station.

    There are parental locks for those with children; you can set the FM station to transmit on, which allows you to choose the best one for your area. You can disable rather the iPod Touch or iPhone display goes to sleep or stays active. My account menu shows you your Radio ID, rather you account is active, App Version, Dock Version and Sat/Ter Signal level.

    You can also select rather it displays all channels or your favorites. You can have up to 12 favorite channels. This will save having to go through a bunch of channels if you only listen to a select few. You always have the option of switching this to show all or favorites at anytime by going to Preview Cards menu.

    My initial test of PowerConnect doesn’t show it to be much better than that standard FM Trans. However, I plan to do some additional testing and will update this section if I find differently. You still do have an option of using the hardwired FM setup. When I tested this I was in a hurry and it is possible I simply didn’t have a good clearl station. I think this could be impacted by the fact that my Scion xB has the hidden antenna, which means it would not receive as good as a car with a regular antenna.

    Sound Quality:
    It is sat radio, so there is really no difference in my opinion between this and any other sat tuner out there. XM to some doesn’t sound as good as Sirius and others feel that XM sounds better. Clearly both could use a bump in SQ, however for the record I am happy with the Sound Quality for the most part.

    Odds and Ends:
    I find the SkyDock is really hard to plug in initially. This is a good thing because the last thing you want the iPod or iPhone twisting left or right because the adapter plug isn’t tight. The adapter power plug includes the connectors for the antenna, audio-out and fm-out. The stalk is stiff, but flexible and you can of course turn the dock portion in order to put the iPod Touch or iPhone in landscape mode. This also makes the text on the display a bit larger, which is nice. I find that when text scrolls that is very smooth and doesn’t become blurry unlike most other sat radios that I’ve had. The display is just the best I've seen for controling sat radio.

    Like I said in the beginning of this write up, for me this product is a no brainer because I have an iPhone and iPod Touch. I am happy being able to just grab one or the other of these and always have sat radio. I think the XM Skydock is easily transferable from vehicle to vehicle provided that you have an antenna in each one. I wouldn’t want to have to drag an antenna along with me for each vehicle unless it was just a temp setup. Like me I have a personal and company vehicle, so I have two antennas setup; I just have to unplug the antenna an aux take to the next vehicle, stick into the cig lighter plug, connect aux and antenna, I am ready to roll. What is also cool is that you can watch video on the 3.5” screen and have the audio coming through your stereo system. You can play your stored music; listen to podcast even stream Slacker if you want, so the dock also acts like any other dock out there for the iPod Touch or iPhone.

    I find this works incredibly well. I tried to abuse it a bit by yanking it out of the dock, dropping the power to the dock and each time it recovered within a few seconds to start playing again. Sometimes the display is a bit slow coming back when you do this, but once it gets back up and running there is no lag whatsoever!

    I love the XM Skydock Sat Radio Tuner and I highly recommend it for those with an iPod Touch or iPhone. Again consider where your cig plug is, because that stalk is short and unless you are okay with it being low on your dash you probably won’t be happy.

    My one big disappointment is the fact that you can’t go to other applications while continuing to listen to music, but this is an Apple issue. You can take phone calls and it will resume playing your station. However anything else you do you must exit the application and of course the audio will shut down.

    By the way it is my understanding that these will be in stock on Thursday at TSS-Radio. Check it out today and place your pre-order so you'll get yours soon as they arrive in stock.

    Screen Captures:

    This shows how you setup song/artist seek

    Tagged Song, this is what you do when you want to tag it for purchase or tag it for artist/song seek

    View of Rock Category (You can see what is playing and the nice channel graphics)

    If you want to quick switch between channel, just slide your finger from left to right or right to left. Same with categories in the above picture

    Check out that Sports Ticker (Stock ticker looks the same) If you enable both it goes through one then the other.
    I also love that it gives a running schedule of your favorite teams or conference when no games are active.

    You can have up to 12 favorite channels, this is where you add, edit or select them.
  2. me_rubin

    me_rubin Member

    Nice Review!


    Nice Review! Thanks for getting it up so quickly.

    I have some questions about the App that you run on it.

    I can understand the Tagging of songs for itunes purchase. But does the app have any Pause capability or recording capability?

    Does it do anything like record ( love button on Stiletto? )
    Finally, You did a tuner swap. Did you do this from an XM account or did you do it from a Sirius account?

    As you know, I have Sirius Accounts, and I think to use this I would would have to pay full price again for an XM account, is this correct?

    Thanks again for the review,

    Vargas likes this.
  3. semipenguin

    semipenguin Cheeseburger Connoisseur

    Does this mean you're selling your XpressRC? :scratch: :shock:
    Posted via Mobile Device
  4. shabadoo25

    shabadoo25 Member

    Hmm. That's a gorgeous interface and consolidating devices is always nice, but between the short stem and no remote, this seems pretty unsafe for a mobile device.

    I'd like to try it out, but the XMP3 with remote seems like a better car option.
  5. DAB

    DAB Mod Emeritus

    Hey Mike, long time no see!

    The application does not have any type pause or recording ability.

    Since this is an XM Radio, you would need an XM account. It seems so strange to me that they have YET to figure out how to combine the billing system. But you would have to pay an activation fee and another full $12.95.

    I may, but I've not really decided about that.

    I've had almost every sat radio you can have and I do like this setup better. Clearly it won't be for everyone based on their cars cig plug location. Remote to me is something I generally throw in a drawer at home and never use. I would think that is the case with most folks as it is just too easy with the touch interface to be worried with a remote. Once you get the favorites setup BAM one touch and you can change the channel. I don't get what you mean by Unsafe? How is fiddling with a remote safe? I find remotes to be much more unsafe than the touch screen on this. Again it all henges on ones cig plug location rather this would be an acceptable setup. So, I would not just automatically dismiss it for no remote.

    One has to decide if the location is good given the length of the stalk. If they are interested in recording or saving songs this will not replace a device like XMP3. Which by the way I reviewed too and it just never captured my interest like this one does. Sat Radio for me holds little interest in recording because the iPhone/iPod Touch offers so many options to me for content. I am no Howeird Fan (LOL), but again if recording is your thing this device won't do it.

    I think for me though having a dock for charging, listening to podcast, my own music, Slacker/Pandora. The fact that you can also have video playing it attractive too, though it isn't likely something I will use a lot. If I were to go buy a dock setup for my iPhone/Ipod Touch it would cost me $70 or $80. I paid $119 and got all the features of a standard iPhone/iPod Touch Dock with the added ability to have sat radio.

    I did my clean install this morning and I am totally blown away... No wires visible are even noticeable. XM Skydock and my Scion xB work together GREAT! I'll try to take a few pictures later.
  6. syphix

    syphix Member

    RECORDING/PAUSE: No, the app does not have that feature, and I doubt it ever will. Apple is pretty protective of apps allowing you to capture music. I was actually pretty surprised when the Rhapsody-To-Go app was greenlit since it allows you to stream any song in their library on demand.

    SUBSCRIPTION: The XM SkyDock is only available on the XM spectrum. Meaning, if you're a SIRIUS subscriber, you would need to get a full XM subscription to get the SkyDock activated ($9.99-$16.99). In the FAQ on XM's website, they say they have no plans for a SIRIUS SkyDock. I wonder if this is due to the way SIRIUS updates their channels.

    What sells me on the SkyDock (and it's replacing my XMp3...which I may be selling soon...not sure), is that it's a full fledged iPod car dock as well, allowing you to listen to your music collection, podcasts, watch videos (NOT while driving!), etc. etc. And I have one less device to bring out of the house when I go to work.
    Last edited: Oct 14, 2009
  7. DAB

    DAB Mod Emeritus

    Thanks for that added info syphix!

    I also agree with what sells you on the Skydock, my reasons exactly and when you consider the cost of just buying a dock vs the Skydock it just makes sense.
  8. DAB

    DAB Mod Emeritus

    Here are some pictures of it installed in my Scion xB. I tell you guys it just couldn't be any better. I wish everyone could get these results.



  9. me_rubin

    me_rubin Member


    Thanks for the reply, Yea, I've been lurking around now and then... The DRC site is blocked from work and on my work laptop so I only can view this forum from my home computer which I don't get to use too much when I'm on business travel and at work...

    Well unless they figure out a way to finally combine the services, I think they are missing a lot of opportunity from the Sirius side of the house...

    I guess I'll stick with my stiletto for now...
  10. shabadoo25

    shabadoo25 Member

    To each his own. It's a beautiful interface as you would expect from Apple, but I'm not going to have an aftermarket radio in the car that I can't pause satrad with. I use this all the time while I am out at a meeting. Without that, I might as well just use the in dash.

    As for the remote and safety, I use it in the car so that I don't have to take my eyes off the road to change channels. After a few uses, you memorize where the buttons are and can make changes by touch and feel while still looking out the windshield. Fooling around with a touchscreen means that you aren't watching the road for a few seconds.

    On a related note, I think that SXM could have sold a lot more aftermarket radios if they were marketed with the powered stalk instead of DC adapters. It sure makes a clean install more possible.
  11. DAB

    DAB Mod Emeritus

    Once again this device will not be for everyone, that is why we do reviews and why they have product descriptions. If pause and recording is important to you then this isn't the device for you. However, I am betting there are folks that have those abilities on their radios, sort of like song/artist seek that NEVER use them. If that was important to me I would have stuck with my Delphi XpressRC. I never used pause on it, so the Skydock not having it won't make any difference.

    The remote can be learned, but for the one moment it would be necessary to change a channel I doubt that anyone would put their safety at risk. The touch screen interface is amazing and fast. I think it is ridiculous to knock this setup for no remote.

    I think SXM could have sold a lot more of these if they solved world hunger too, but it is what it is. LOL It either works for you or it does not based on your cars cig plug location. No device is perfect in every way. However, for those with an iPod Touch or iPhone this is certainly a workable solution for them to have sat radio.
  12. shabadoo25

    shabadoo25 Member

    Just thought of a question: does this thing charge your iPod/iPhone while it is docked?
  13. JoeTan

    JoeTan Well-Known Member

    Is the SQ any different than a regular receiver? I do believe that the Ipod has EQ settings can they be used for the satellite broadcast also?
  14. DAB

    DAB Mod Emeritus

    Absolutely, it works just like any other iPhone/iPod Touch dock in that you can use it to watch video (not while driving) or listen to your own playlist, Slacker/Pandora if you have 3G and Podcast. Then on top of all that you can listen to sat radio live.

    You know I never change my equalizer setting, but I think it sounds really good. I will have to test the equalizer settings Joe and will let you know if it impacts the SQ. Thanks for the heads up on that.
  15. ravens#1

    ravens#1 Member


    I have an SL-2 and life membership... If next year when my nextel service is up and I switch over to an I-phone does this Iphone/app count towards my 2nd radio and a 75$ charge applied to the transfer....

    Or does a 75$ charge go towards the sky-dock???

    Or none none of the above ( lifers cant have 2 radios at 1 time )???

    They dont much go into detail about lifer guidelines... hhhhmmmm:confused:
  16. shabadoo25

    shabadoo25 Member

    The Skydock is technically the radio. However, it is an XM radio and you have Sirius service with the SL2. Not sure that you can transfer the lifetime to XM.
  17. DAB

    DAB Mod Emeritus

    The SL2 is specific to the Sirius side of the service. The XM Skydock is specific to the XM side of the service. Currently their billing systems are separate and there is no way to combine radios as secondaries and no way to do a swap of the lifetime plan between sides of the service.

    If you wanted a Skydock, you would have to do a new subscription on the XM side at $12.95.

    Just for the record if you got another Sirius Radio, you can swap your lifetime to it or you could add it as secondary for the lower $8.99 rate. Again this can't be done across the Sirius and XM sides of the service.
  18. TSS Taylor

    TSS Taylor DRC Fan

    Here's my thoughts. I got an iPod touch to play around with this setup and get to know how it works. Only have used it for about 20 minutes. This thing is AMAZING.

    What it does, it does really well. If you or a friend has an iPod Touch or iPhone and want a Satellite Radio for your car it doesn't get any better or more convenient than the XM SkyDock. After I downloaded the SkyDock app on the iPod Touch and activated the radio, and I opted for Best of SIRIUS I put it in the car and tried out the PowerConnect. OMG they finally have an acceptable situation out of the box. In Chicago we have very few unused FM frequencies so FM weak Transmitters don't cut it at all. So people have to hardwire or get an FM Direct Adapter for it to be decent. Out of the box this things sounds really decent on the PowerConnect. PowerConnect is something that SIRIUS XM actually patented and developed and it's something in a lot of ways Apple is jealous of. It grounds the Fm through the power adapter and it really works, unlike the FM Extender cables that Sirius had. I haven't heard as bad things about the XM Sure Connect though.

    The Stalk and Power Adapter are so easy and good to go. I've NEVER had a product for the car so easy to setup and with the least amount of wires as this. It truly is a game changer. Then when it comes to changing channels and using the interface it's absolutely flawless. I can't say how proud I am to be carrying this product. If getting Satellite Radio was this easy there would be a lot more subscribers.


    Here are some other thoughts on it. As hardware it's pretty simple and not too fancy. Stockholders would likely be pleased as IMO this may be one of the first pieces of hardware SIRIUS XM has made that actually make money on. I don't think that this would cost them a lot to make and unlike some other devices which have the prices subsidized this one may be profitable.

    I wish it was SIRIUS. There is an XM Minichip within the device and the XM chip is more advanced. That's not to say XM Radios are more advanced or last longer, but the chip technology is better than the SIRIUS side. SIRIUS has many other benefits though on technology. It's not hands down either way.

    The Stalk and Power Adapter are super easy for my car. But not all cars will be so easy. It will be interesting to see how some people use this if they have a non standard Cigarette Lighter location.

    All in all I've never been so blown away by an Easy, Smooth, Cool setup. I kinda want to keep this docked in my car to show off. Amazing product!
  19. DAB

    DAB Mod Emeritus

    Thanks Taylor!

    I have retested the PowerConnect but this time in my other vehicle. In my company car I have non OEM head unit and the antenna setup on it isn't very good. This was the vehicle I was in when I did my initial testing.

    Today I did the install in my personal Scion xB. This one has a factory radio with no antenna issues. Tonight I tested the PowerConnect; I found a station that had static and could not hear any bleedover from other stations. Turned to the proper station on my radio which I had setup using the Skydock software. BAM, I immedately got the signal and I was surprised that it was very strong. I rode around awhile and sure enough the PowerConnect is indeed much, much improved over the older FM Trans. I think this will allow many users that don't have the ability to connect via aux-input to get an acceptable experience.

    I've had co-workers and friends check this thing out today. Everyone of them were totally blown away by the ease in which it works and the great looking display. The Stalk and Dock really do blend very well in my car, so while there are those that just have to do a clean install I think the Skydock is very acceptable looking once installed properly.
  20. jeff0514

    jeff0514 New Member

    Maybe I'm just being sour grapes, but I was disappointed to hear that this only works for XM accounts. I already have a lifetime Sirius subscription, so no incentive for me to switch to XM. I would have loved to have given SiriusXM some money for a couple of these docks and the fee to transfer my lifetime membership from my Stiletto 100 to my iPhone.

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