Wires, increasingly, are things of the past. This iPod docking solution gets rid of the need for several cables, and means you can stick your iPod in one place and not even have to move it from room to room when you want to use it.
The WiDock uses Apple’s universal design, and can sync your iPod with your computer over a wireless network. It includes both audio and video outputs, and charges your iPod, too. But it is the ability to free you of the need to move your iPod between your living room and your desktop that makes the product unique, though it’s not without limitations.
The WiDock is light and compact, so it should be easy to choose a spot that best suits your home entertainment system. Its design is simple: on the back of the WiDock you’ll find a 1/8-inch stereo minijack for audio output and an S-video output. On the front, you’ll find a ‘Link’ button that you press to sync your iPod.
But before you can take advantage of the WiDock’s wireless capabilities, you must first go through a reasonably complex setting-up process. This involves first running a set up utility with the dock connected to your computer with an Ethernet cable. This allows you to setup the dock to connect to your home network. When this is set up, you then install the SX Virtual Link utility on your computer, and finally unplug the Ethernet cable and use the WiDock wirelessly.
Synching your iPod with iTunes via the WiDock is slower than synching over a direct USB connection. On a 2.16GHz Core Duo MacBook Pro, it took just over two minutes to transfer 110MB worth of MP4 video files to an iPod wirelessly via the WiDock over an 802.11g network. It took a minute to transfer 32MB worth of AAC audio files. Over a direct USB 2.0 connection, the same transfers took 32 seconds and 27 seconds, respectively. The convenience of circumventing the USB cable is worth the loss in speed, though if you’re synching your entire iTunes library to your iPod it might be worth doing it via USB.
One factor contributing to this slower performance over wireless is the lack of support for 802.11n. Although the WiDock works with 802.11n products such as the newest AirPort Extreme Base Station and similar routers from companies such as LinkSys and Belkin, it connects using the slower 802.11g technology. If Silex does upgrade the WiDock for 802.11n compatibility, sync speed should increase considerably.
The WiDock is compatible with first- and second-generation iPod nanos, the iPod mini, and fourth- and fifth-generation iPods. Included in the box are plastic dock inserts that allow each of these iPod models to fit properly in the dock. We tested the dock with an iPod nano as well as a fifth-generation iPod, and didn’t run into any issues switching between them.
The WiDock can also be configured to sync up to five different iPods with multiple computers.
The setup process is slightly complicated, but Silex’s website includes an illustrative manual that walks you through the process. Once this setup is done, you can, for example, place your flatmate’s iPod nano in the WiDock, and the Link button will automatically sync their iPod with their computer over the network. And when you place your iPod in the WiDock and press the Link button, your iPod will sync with your computer.
Although the WiDock, unlike many AV docks, doesn’t include a remote control, Apple’s standard Apple Remote can be used to control basic iPod playback-play/pause, forward/back, and volume up/down-when in the WiDock. However, just as when using Apple’s iPod Dock with the Apple Remote, you can’t browse your iPod’s menus to choose tracks or playlists or to access videos. Silex would be wise to design its own remote
to add a bit more remote control to the next version of the WiDock.
At a price of £125, the WiDock is not cheap, especially considering the lack of a full-featured remote control. the convenience of a wireless dock is in some ways compromised by the need to get up and walk to your iPod each time you want to switch to a new playlist or a different movie. But as a device that offers new, never-before-seen technology, the WiDock works well and is, hopefully, a sign of even better things to come. If your entertainment system is cluttered with too many wires, the WiDock offers a unique solution that just may be worth the cost.