Review: Griffin iTrip (LCD)

by on October 5, 2005

Over a year ago, we took a look at Griffin’s iTrip, an FM transmitter designed specifically for iPods. Unfortunately, the biggest drawback with the iTrip was that it required you to load sounds onto the iPod to change frequencies, as well as requiring you to go through playlists to pick frequencies.

The newest iTrip, which many have dubbed, the “iTrip LCD” has added an LCD display and the ability to change frequencies by turning a knob, a method similar to the push-buttons on XtremeMac’s AirPlay.

For those not familiar with the iTrip, it is an FM transmitter, allowing audio from the iPod to be broadcast to a radio (essentially creating a miniature radio station with an FCC-limited 30 feet range). At about the same size as a pack of gum, but thicker, the iTrip is small, and is installed by merely snapping it on the top of the iPod. Rather than using its own batteries, it taps into the iPod’s battery using the connector for the remote control and the headphone jack. The iTrip turns itself on when audio is playing, and turns itself off after 60 seconds of silence.

iTrip
iTrip

iTrip + iPod
iTrip + iPod

iTrips
iTrip Old and New

This iTrip is much easier to use, compared to its predecessor. Once attatched to an iPod, you can adjust the frequency by turning the shiny chrome knob. Pushing the knob confirms the selection. A fairly large, white-backlit LCD display shows the current frequency, as well as the selected mode (more on that later). The iTrip will look great when used with any full-sized iPod, due to the white and chrome color scheme. It does work with iPod minis, as well, but hangs off of the edge.

Another new feature is the LX/DX mode selection, achieved by holding down the button. DX mode offers monaural sound, with little noise, and LX mode provides stereo sound with noise comparable to tape adapters. If you hold the button down longer, you can pick between US and INTL (international) modes. With the combined modes, the iTrip can tune between 76.0 to 90.0 and 88.1 to 107.9 MHz in .1 increments. We found that the ratcheting knob made it easy to tune from one end of the FM spectrum to the other, despite it tuning in .1 increments instead of .2, which is what many Americans are familiar with.

The iTrip doesn’t have a preset button, which many of its competitors have, but it does remember the last frequency used, which helps quite a bit. With the overall design being quite good, we can overlook the lack of presets, especially considering its predecessor didn’t have them either.

After testing the iTrip on a variety of radios at different frequencies and distances, I can say that the results were quite positive. By being able to sacrifice a stereo signal in some situations, the new iTrip can be used in areas where a strong signal might be tougher. Unfortunately, for many in crowded radio markets, the iTrip still might not be able to keep a strong signal in a car.

Furthermore, but connecting something to the Dock Connector (like a car charger), the iTrip can actually be heard at an even further distance. Athough we’re not sure why, it was noticable.

Another feature worth noting is that the iTrip has an auto volume control to avoid distortion. This, combined with a fairly good transmitter provides a good dynamic range with acceptable highs and great lows.

Currently, the iTrip sells for $40, at a special introductory price, but is expected to run at $50 list price in the future. Just like the previous version, if you do your homework, you can find it slightly cheaper.

Overall, this iteration of the iTrip is a great upgrade from the original, as Griffin clearly listened to the customers. With improved broadcasting abilities, this iTrip is clearly a winner.

The One-Sentence Verdict™

Although not a wise choice for the most crowded radio markets, the new iTrip is a great sequel.

Pros: Well-integrated with the iPod and a slick design, easier tuning, LX/DX modes

Cons: Nearly impossible to use in a larger radio market

The Facts

4.5/5Product: iTrip (LCD)
Company: Griffin Technology
Platform: iPod (3 4 M)
Price: $49.99 ($39.99 intro price)

This post has been filed in FM Transmitters, iDevices and Reviews