Review: Griffin AutoPilot
Not everyone wants or needs an FM transmitter to utilize their iPod in their car. For many, this is due to a crowded FM spectrum or the fact that many cars come with auxiliary inputs. Apart from a dedicated, permanent iPod installation in your car, a new wave of “smart” chargers emerged. One such product is Griffin’s AutoPilot, a charger with line-out and basic iPod controls.
The AutoPilot sells for $50, making it a bit more expensive than Griffin’s $20 PowerJolt. What do you get for the extra $30? Quite a few extra features, in fact. Rather than a cigarette-lighter/power outlet adapter that gives you a standard USB or FireWire port and associated Dock Connector cable that most chargers include, the AutoPilot features a hardwired Dock Connector cable and a set of 3 buttons on the actual charger itself.
These buttons allow you to control your iPod on a very basic level—skip back, play/pause, and skip forward. Holding the play/pause button turns off the iPod, as well. Depending on where your car’s power outlet is, these buttons might be harder to reach than wherever you place the iPod itself. However, they do work well and in many cases are a bit easier to hit without looking than the buttons on the iPod itself. Obviously, this function is most useful on the iPod Touch, giving you some tactile feedback. This is also handy if you have your iPod stashed in a center console or other hiding place.
Also located on the “main unit” is an LED ring around the Play button to indicate the charging status of an iPod. It glows red when no iPod is plugged in, flashes oranges when the iPod is charging, and glows green when the iPod is charged. This is a very simple design, but quite functional and won’t distract you from the road.
A 3.5mm line-out jack allows you to run the clean, unamplified audio signal from your iPod Dock Connector to your car stereo or cassette adapter. This is the AutoPilot’s big selling point. Rather than have a bunch of cables coming from your iPod, you just have a Dock Connector. From there, the iPod gets charged and connects to your car stereo. A switch marked “hi/lo” lets you adjust the signal coming out of the AutoPilot. In most cases “hi” is for direct connection to car stereo’s aux jack, while “lo” is for use with cassette adapters.
In summary, Griffin’s AutoPilot is much like the various standard car charger/line-out products already on the market and priced similarly. The product has the standard good build quality we’ve come to expect with Griffin’s products. However, for many the added set of basic controls will make the AutoPilot more useful depending on your car’s layout. If not, you might be able to save a few bucks by forgoing the buttons with other products.
The One-Sentence Verdict™
Griffin’s AutoPilot is a great solution to connecting your iPod in your car, but certain features will be more useful to some than others.
Pros: Basic iPod controls, Dock Connector, line-level output, charging status on LEDs
Cons: Buttons may be hard to access, depending on your car