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Review: Griffin iTrip Auto

by on January 17, 2006

We’ve had the chance to review quite a few versions of Griffin’s popular iTrip line over the last few years. Recently, we tested one of the newest models, and arguably one of the most universal ones—the iTrip Auto. Although its $70 price tag might turn some off from the beginning, it’s not your average iTrip.

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). Besides not following the snap-on-some-end-of-your-iPod design of its siblings, the iTrip Auto also features a cigarette lighter connector on one end and a Dock Connector on the other. About halfway down the 3-foot cable is a little box with familiar iTrip controls.

iTrip Auto

iTrip + iPod
iTrip Auto + iPod

iTrip Auto (Close Up of Controls)

This iTrip is designed to do one thing and one thing well—work in car. Rather than deal with a separate car charger or car cradle, the iTrip Auto can be used with any case that allows access to the Dock Connector. It charges your iPod and pulls audio from the Dock Connector, meaning that it is compatible with every iPod that has such a connector.

Tuning this iTrip is just like the other LCD-equipped versions, but with slightly moved controls—an +/- switch lets you select a frequency, and “select” button locks it in. Holding down this button lets you choose between LX and DX mode and US or international mode.

What sets the iTrips apart from other transmitters are the choices for additional settings. 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.

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. It also pauses your iPod when you turn off your car—a nice touch. With the overall design being quite good, we can overlook the lack of presets.

The one downside to this iTrip is that it must be used in a car (or any other place that has a 12V cigarette lighter-style outlet). Since it does not drain power from the iPod, it must get it from somewhere. Since most people use transmitters in vehicles, this is not that bad of an idea, but if you are looking for a transmitter to use in other places, other iTrips might be better for you.

I used the iTrip auto in a few different cars on a few different trips and it seemed to perform better than standalone models in the car. Since some of the markets were crowded, I stuck with the lower frequencies.

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.

Despite the relatively high price, you must remember that this essentially gives you a car charger and FM transmitter in one compact package. Once you add up the costs and look around for a slightly-cheaper-than-list price, the iTrip Auto is an attractive product for those who cannot use tape adapters in their cars.

The One-Sentence Verdict™

The iTrip Auto is a complete package for using your iPod in the car, but still allows you to use your favorite case.

Pros: Well-integrated with the iPod, allows use of most iPod cases, easier tuning, LX/DX modes, black color doesn’t draw attention in car
Cons: Somewhat impossible to use in a larger radio market

Rating: 8/10

The Facts

Product: iTrip Auto
Company: Griffin Technology
Platform: iPod (3 4 5 M N)
Price: $69.99

This post has been filed in iPod, Mobile Devices, Reviews