Review: SendStation PocketDock Family

by on June 9, 2005

Apple was somewhat foolish for replacing an industry-standard FireWire port with the dock connector, but now we get USB 2.0, FireWire, line-out, and more (in the future?) on the same connection, provided you have the right cable. The only problem is, you might not have the right cable when you need it.

What’s about an inch by an inch in size, white, and helps owners of a new iPod save their sanity? If you want to guess, and haven’t read the title of the article, it’s the family of SendStation PocketDock. These small devices allow people to use existing FireWire accessories and generic cables with any iPod that has a Dock Connector.

PocketDock
Line Out FW (Top), Line Out USB (Middle), Combo (Bottom)

PocketDocks
Combo (Left), Line Out USB (Middle), Line Out FW (Right)

iPod & PocketDock Line Out
PocketDock Line Out FW + iPod

PocketDock Line Out Audio Cable (RCA to miniplug)
PocketDock Line Out Audio Cables

PocketDock Line Out Audio Cable (miniplug to miniplug)
PocketDock Line Out USB + Keyring Guard

Although all of the PocketDocks have similar designs and features, they all have their own distinct uses. Previously, we had reviews of the original PocketDock and other models separate, but with the inclusion of the newest, the Line Out USB, we’ve consolidated and rewrote them to all be together.

The PocketDocks essentially take the place of any cable to connect an iPod to the computer or AC adapter. Everything works the same, including synchronizing, charging, and disk mode. On the USB models, the USB port charges fourth-generation iPods, iPod minis, and iPod photos. The FireWire port models charge all iPods with a Dock Connector.

Also included with the latest PocketDocks is a “Keyring Guard” — a small plastic cover for the Dock Connector that includes loop for attachment to a keyring. The PocketDock doesn’t lock in place, but it does fit quite snugly. It’s a good level of protection if you choose to keep the PocketDock in your pocket or in a bag.

The original PocketDock (the FireWire-only model) features two clips to lock the connector in place, like Apple’s cables. All of the other models fit in place, but do not stay locked. Potentially, this means that if you’re using a heavily shielded cable, the PocketDock could become disconnected.

Also, the PocketDocks work with some cases, but not all. Check the individual pages on the SendStation web site for supported cases.

PocketDock FireWire

This original model is the no-frills version for anyone that wants to just use a FireWire cable with their iPod, essentially giving modern iPods the same capability as first- and second-generation iPods. It also allows you to use older car chargers with newer iPods.

The price tag is pretty close to Apple’s own cables ($18.95), but the PocketDock offers more functionality and adaptability.

PocketDock Combo

Just like the original PocketDock, the PocketDock Combo provides users with a FireWire port. Besides that, it also provides a USB 2.0 port, allowing you to use any USB cable to connect it to most newer Macs and PCs with any standard USB cable. It’s slightly bigger, and does not have the same locking tabs. If the original PocketDock is like the Apple cable that connects the iPods to a FireWire port, then the PocketDock Combo is like the split cable that included both connectors. As Apple is no longer including FireWire cables with its iPods, this allows people to have the best of both worlds.

What makes this PocketDock useful is that it allows Mac or PC users to connect their iPods to any computers they might encounter. The only downside is that it does not include any cables, so you’ll have to carry your own or make sure they’re already at whatever machine you’ll be using.

The Combo costs $22.95, which is still cheaper than buying two different cables.

PocketDock Line Out FireWire & USB

The PocketDock Line Out models are the first to truly live up to its name. By including a line out audio jack, this model allows you to connect your iPod to a car stereo, home stereo, or anything else that expects an unamplified audio signal. The FireWire version came first, and the USB version followed around a year later. Apart from the USB/FireWire difference, both PocketDock Line Out models are the same.

If you use the FireWire model with an older car charger, you can have your cake and eat it, too. The line out port provides better sound for a direct connection or tape adapter, and the FireWire port allows the use of the multitude of chargers that exist.

Also included with the Line Out models are two audio cables – one with a standard 3.5mm stereo miniplug on each end, and one with a standard 3.5mm stereo miniplug on one end and a pair of RCA connectors on the other. Both cables match the iPod headphones almost identically, and include velcro wraps with metal reinforcements. The RCA connectors on the one cable look almost like those on our iBook’s AV out (it’s an older model before they started using the dongles with the S-Video connector), but with orange and white bands to identify the channel (L or R).

Since these PocketDocks sell for around $30 each, they’re still cheaper than Apple’s standalone dock, and smaller.

In Conclusion…

All products are priced between Apple’s own iPod dock ($39) and cables ($19), and match the iPod aesthetically in a very small, easy to transport package. For iPod owners that did not receive a dock, or appropriate cable with their iPod, or simply would like another, the PocketDocks are versatile products. They’re handy if the official iPod cable gets lost, damaged, or left at home.

Although somewhat expensive for adapters, there isn’t anything like the PocketDocks on the market, and they complement the iPod nicely. They do what they’re supposed to, and work well.

The One-Sentence Verdict™

By having an adapter that will allow you to use generic cables or allow you to have line-out without the dock, SendStation’s PocketDocks are useful products.

Pros: Small, allows standard cables to be used with an iPod, eliminate the need to carry around a ton of cables, Line Out models include audio cables

Cons: FireWire and/or USB cables are not included, most iPod cases must be removed to use these (many new cases are being redesigned), can be accidentally pulled out of Dock Connector

The Facts

4.5/5Product: PocketDock
Company: SendStation Systems
Platform: iPod (3 4 5 M N)
Price: $18.95 (FireWire only)
         $22.95 (Combo – FireWire & USB)
         $29.95 (Line Out FireWire or USB)

This post has been filed in Docks, iDevices and Reviews