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. Setup: 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. Activation: 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. PowerConnect: 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. Summary: 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.