DLO TransDock Deluxe Review
By Sandy Berger on July 28, 2008
If you have an older car or truck, you don’t have to envy the new car owners who have built-in iPod docks. You can have your music close at hand in your old vehicle with the new DLO TransDock Deluxe. The TransDock Deluxe is an in-car iPod dock and FM transmitter that plays your iPod through your car stereo, also charging its battery. It also allows you to play videos on bigger LCD screens (if you have them already installed on your car) and charge cell phones or any other device that can be charged through a USB port. Let's take a good look at DLO TransDock Deluxe.
DLO (Digital Lifestyle Outfitters) provides a series of docking solutions for iPods. For cars, they provide TransDock, TransDock micro and Transdock Deluxe. TransDock micro isn't a docking station: your iPod is connected to the device through a cable. The regular TransDock and TransDock Deluxe have a docking base for you to directly install your iPod. The Deluxe version comes with a remote control with a steering wheel cradle, mounting and externder arms, exchangeable faceplates, a 6-foot cable and more, items not present on the regular TransDock.
If you are looking for a small, discreet solution for docking your iPod, you will want to look at a different solution. As shown in Figure 1, the TransDock is good looking, but it is big and sits boldly in your vehicle. This may, or may not, suit your tastes.
As shown in Figure 2, the TransDock Deluxe comes with many different pieces. In fact, when we opened the box, we were amazed, and a bit dismayed at the numer of components.
A quick look at the included guide showed us that several of these pieces were adapters, shown in Figure 3, that lets you use the device with different size iPods. There were also two face plates, as shown in Figure 4, you can attach the silver face plate or the black, according to your preferences.
There are two parts to setting up the TransDock. First, you snap the remote control into its base which, as shown in Figure 5, has a Velcro strap that raps securely to your steering wheel. Although some DLO materials show the remote attached to the outside of the steering wheel, the instruction manual shows it attached properly to the inside of the wheel, shown in Figure 6. Attaching it to the outside of the wheel will interfere with your driving. The remote is made to be put on the left side of the steering wheel, but it could also be put on the right. In that case, all the buttons would still be useable, only the DLO logo would be upside down.
The second part of the installation is attaching the dock itself to your vehicle. You insert the mounting arm into the cigarette lighter, attach the dock, and insert your iPod. Everything slides on easily and quickly. You may, however, depending on the location of your cigarette lighter outlet(s) have to make some adjustments. As shown in Figure 7, there is an extension arm that you may use if you need it to put the dock in the proper position. The elbows on the arms swivel are fully adjustable. Once you find the right position, you turn the knobs on the arms to lock everything down.
The mounting arm and extension can be adjusted to fit almost any vehicle. The TransDock can be installed in a vertical position or a horizontal position, as needed. In Figure 8, you can see the TransDock installed in the tight interior of a Volkswagen Beetle. Most vehicles will allow it to be installed in a more upright position, as shown in Figure 9, in a Buick Rainier.
One important thing to note is that this device comes with many small parts including the toggle nuts and bolts that adjust the arms. While they are nicely finished, they can be easy to drop. In one instance, we struggled to find a tiny black part in the black interior of the car.
On some of the vehicles that we tried, the arm fit so snugly into the cigarette lighter outlet that we were afraid of breaking the plug socket when we pulled it out. Obviously, the unit must fit tightly so that it does not wobble after installation. But because of the tight fit and the adjustments that you make to the mounting arm to customize it to the vehicle, we feel that this unit is best to be left in the car once it is installed.
After you have the dock and the remote situated, you will have to sync the doc to your radio. That means finding an unused FM on your car radio and setting the TransDock to the same frequency.
The TransDock has 6 preset stations: 88.1, 88.5, 94.9, 100.9, 103.9 and 107.9 MHz. You can cycle throught these presets by pressing the Mode Button on the left side of the TransDock, as shown in Figure 10. You can also set your own frequencies by using the up and down buttons on the right side of the TransDock, as shown in Figure 11. The TransDock shows you the number of the station on its LCD screen, as shown in Figure 12.
The 6 presets can also be controlled by the remote control. If you set the same stations as presets on your radio, if you lose a signal on one station, you can quickly move to another station by pressing a button on the remote and one on the radio.
Using the TransDock couldn’t be easier. It turns on and off with your car. You can also force it to turn off by pressing and holding the Mode Button.
As shown in Figure 13, the remote control can be used for most functions. You can use it to skip through tracks, turn on the iPod backlight, and tune the radio frequencies. There is also a very useful play/ pause button. We found ourselves constantly using the play/pause button when we took a cell phone call, ordered fast food at a drive-through, or wanted to focus on a conversation with a passenger. Because of this, we would like to see DLO make this button a little larger and put it either at the top or the bottom of the remote, so we wouldn’t have to take our eyes from the road when we used it.
As shown in Figures 14 and 15, the TransDock works with any iPod. In Figure 14, you see it with a small iPod nano. In figure 15, you see it with a larger classic iPod video unit.
While all the various sized iPod that we tried, fit into the Transdock, it should be noted that because of the snugness of the fit, you might have to remove any case that you have on the iPod. We even had to remove a rather thin plastic case that was on one of our iPod nanos. Yet, again, the snug fit mad the iPod in the Transdock very stable during driving tests.
The audio quality of the TransDock is on the par with other manufacturers. As with all of these units, interference starts to creep in when an FM station gets picked up. However, we found the TransDock strong enough to overcome weaker stations, which is a big plus. Also, the 6 presets make it easy to switch between stations when necessary.
One big advantage of the TransDock is that your iPod is automatically charged when in the Dock, so you are always good-to-go with a fully charged iPod.
One thing to consider about the TransDock is that it is quite obvious in the vehicle. While it is great to have a good-looking gadget in your car, if you travel into high crime areas, you will definitely want to remove your iPod when you leave your vehicle.
The TransDock Deluxe has several additional features not usually found in a product of this type. The bottom of the TransDock, as shown in Figure 16, has an auxiliary audio input jack, an iPod audio and video output, and a USB power outlet for charging devices like cell phones.
The ability to output video will be valuable to those who have entertainment displays for passengers and have a video collection on their iPod. TransDock Deluxe comes with the cables necessary for the hook-up.
However, we think that most average users will find the USB port to be the most valuable additional feature. We used it successfully to charge a Motorola Razr phone, a Bluetooth headset, and a Sony PSP. Just about any small device that charges via standard USB port can be attached and charged. Of course you will need to have the appropriate adapter cable for your cell phone.
DLO TransDock Deluxe main features are:
The TransDock is easy to set up and easy to use. Our pros and cons follow, but we want to mention one feature before we get to the pros and cons. While most will agree that the TransDock is visually appealing, its big, obvious foot-print will be a “pro” for some but it will be a “con” for others who a smaller less obtrusive solution.