KeySpan TuneView Review
For iPod/iTunes integration, the Apple TV is one of those devices that grows on you. But if you don’t have an HDTV, you’re pretty much out of luck. And the Apple device is no use at all if all you want to do is play your iPod’s music through your stereo.
There are many different docks around, but most of their remotes leave something to be desired. They are often either small, so you lose them; clunky, so you don’t like using them or offer limited control, so you hate them. But the principal problem with most is that they offer you no information to help you choose the next track. This means they are remote in name only – you still have to trot across to where the iPod is if you want to choose specific tracks, artist, albums or other media for playback.
KeySpan’s TuneView system is something different. It costs (£99, excluding VAT) and consists of a universal iPod dock and a two-way RF remote control equipped with a colour screen and boasting a 150-foot range. The remote’s impressive because it lets you remotely view the contents of your iPod, so you can easily navigate to whatever it is you want to play.
The kit includes the dock, remote control, a USB to mini-USB cable, USB power adaptor, and a 3.5mm stereo to dual RCA cable (with gold connections for better quality audio). Two AA batteries for the remote and a set of dock adaptors for supported iPods completes the £64 investment. Supported iPods include: iPod nano (2G and 1G) and fourth and fifth generation iPods, and the iPod mini.
Setup is simple. Plug the dock to a power supply, connect it to your music system or TV set using an S-Video jack and pop your iPod into the dock, which also recharges your media player. If you have a full iPod, the remote may have to spend a little time downloading the contents list using the small processor inside the dock. Once that operation completes, you’re good to go – and have a remote control that lives up to both its name and function, which sets it apart from most in the pack.
The remote offers a tiny colour LCD display which emulates exactly what you see on your iPod. You can hunt through by artist, track name, album, genre – any navigation element offered by the iPod. You can also search through video and photos, but you’ll need to connect the dock to a television to see these.
The remote’s control buttons are arranged in a circle, so the position of each control is familiar to an iPod user. You’ll find up/down; volume up/down; forward; rewind; play/pause; and a select button. There’s also a control that lets you navigate up to the top level of the iPod’s menu hierarchy. The black plastic buttons are clearly marked but they are springed, so they work mechanically, unlike the iPod’s Scroll Wheel.
There’s an additional button situated at the bottom of the device. This invokes a menu of shortcuts to appear (KeySpan calls these ‘Wizards’).
5G iPods let you quickly scroll through information alphanumerically. TuneView doesn’t do this, but the company clearly hopes the Wizards will help, as they let you immediately move to the end, middle or beginning of any given list. English, French, German and Spanish languages are supported.
In use, the remote is very effective and audio quality through the dock is perfect. We hit one hurdle when we connected the dock to the phono connection on our music centre: audio quality was awful. You need to connect digital devices to digital inputs on most such systems. Video quality through our widescreen TV was fine.
We experienced no lag when sending signals to the iPod, and exploring our music library these days doesn’t require regularly walking across to the iPod. We also used the system to drive a set of powered speakers – as long as you can connect the cables, you can use TuneView with any iPod product.
The dock can also be connected to a Mac or PC using its included USB cable. As well as using the device to sync your iPod’s music collection, both devices can also be updated through USB when connected to a computer. KeySpan recently released a remote-control firmware update which enabled users to search through song titles by first-letter.
KeySpan’s TuneView delivers better range and design than Bluetooth systems that attempt this level of remote control by beaming music to a receiver connected to a stereo. That’s the only competition right now. If you want a remote control system for your iPod-based home entertainment setup, then this is a one-horse race with KeySpan in first place.