Review: DLO HomeDock
Owners of iPods that can output to a TV have quite a few options for getting what’s on their iPod’s screen to also show on a TV or projector. Without spending a lot of money, one can purchase a cable that carries the audio and video signals from the iPod’s headphone/AV jack to a TV. Keeping the iPod charged requires another piece of hardware and it still lays flat on a table or desk.
Docks have become popular as a place to keep your iPod when it’s not in use. Afterall, they charge it, usually offer a few ports for synchronizing with your computer or connecting to a stereo system, TV, or other home entertainment electronics. DLO’s HomeDock is a $100 accessory that charges your iPod, allows you to control it with a remote, and lets you connect it to a computer, stereo, or TV.
HomeDock + iPod
HomeDock (Back View)
Before you’re scared off by the price tag that is either 1/3 or 1/4 the price of a full-sized iPod, there are a few things that make this different than Apple’s $40 piece of kit. First, it charges your iPod from the wall without the need for Apple’s AC adapter or even a Dock Connector cable—it includes an AC adapter specifically for the HomeDock. Secondly, it does not just relocate the Dock Connector, but rather gives you a plan old USB “B” port, like what is on the back of many printers.
Also on the back of the unit is an S-video output and the three familiar RCA outputs for video, and audio. RCA cables are included in the box, but not USB or S-video. Furthermore, the package includes an infrared remote control (we really would’ve wished for an RF remote, but this one still works decently if you’re withing 10-15 feet), with the same buttons as Apple’s remote and mute, shuffle, repeat, backlight, and power.
The HomeDock itself is a pretty simple device. Made of black and silver plastic, it certainly looks out of place with a stash of iPod accesories, but does look more at home with a home entertainment system. An LED on the front glows blue or green based on if it is turned on and there is an iPod present. It’s a bit on the large side, but not too obnoxious. A little slot on the top allows the remote to stand upright when not in use. Next to it is an iPod Dock Connector. A clear piece of plastic provides support for the back of the iPod.
DLO has designed this system differently than many other manufacturers. Rather than have specialized dock inserts for the various sized iPods, the back support slides to fit any iPod from the thinnest 5G to the thickest 3G. The Dock Connector itself is not recessed, but actually is above the rest of the surface, allowing you to use the HomeDock with many iPod cases.
The HomeDock is a pretty good system, and is especially flexible—use it with a TV set, stereo system, or computer speakers. On iPods that do not support video out, it will still output line-level audio and allow you to use the remote, but the added value of the video output for those whose iPods can output to a TV is welcome.
What’s missing? Well, the HomeDock does not allow you to navigate the iPod’s menus on your TV screen, so in order to find a specific song, you still must use the wheel on the iPod. THe upcoming HomeDock Deluxe offers this capability, as does Griffin’s upcoming TuneCenter. If you can live with this, the HomeDock is still much cheaper than a mess of Apple’s official accessories (dock, remote, AC adapter, cables).
The One-Sentence Verdict™
The HomeDock offers a unique take on the idea of docks, and does so at a fairly decent price once you consider all the various features.
Pros: Works with all iPods with Dock Connectors, includes RCA cables, can be used with many cases, plain USB port for synchronizing
Cons: Can’t navigate iPod from remote or on TV screen, remote is infrared
Update: This accessory works with, but does not charge the iPod Touch 2G or iPhone 3G. Additionally, video out capabilities only work with the iPod photo, iPod with video (5G), and iPod nano (1&2G).