I recently tried out the “Entertainment Dock 500” by Kensington. This device allows an iPod owner to connect their video/music player into a stereo or television to enjoy their media through speakers or on a bigger screen. That’s it in a nutshell.
If you have an iPod with video capability, and you like to watch various video podcasts (oh, sorry… netcasts), then this device can help to bring the video to your TV. Or, evern better – if you downloaded the entire season of LOST, and you’re wanting to watch it on your TV – the way it was meant to be.
We all know that the quality of the videos that play on the video iPods is not the highest resolution, but the quality of playback on a TV through this kit is good enough to be able to sit back and enjoy it.
I had trouble plugging the kit into a Panasonic TV. It was only when I plugged it into my parents’ TV and tried it with my dad’s old stereo over Thanksgiving break that it was able to work. The old equipment that my dad owns is a 30-year-old amp that has that nice silky, earthly feel to it, which added something to the audio I heard. The dock uses the dock connector of the iPod to get the audio, with no distortion or compression beyond what the iPod would normally have.
In the box, Kensington provides everything you need to get started, assuming you have an iPod, and an amp or TV to plug into. The AC adapter will charge your iPod in the dock, and the composite video and audio cables are included (S-Video optional, not included). The kit also includes a remote to navigate the iPod from across the room. However, there is no on-screen menu to see on your TV, so it’s pointless for navigating the menus from your sofa. The remote also lacks a “back” or “menu” button, so you can only select in the current or next menus or control playback. So the remote is useful, as long as you don’t need to navigate the menu. The remote uses RF to communicate with the dock, which means that you can control the device from the other room when listening to your music.
The $99 accessory does seem to be on the expensive side for something that does the same thing that Apple’s own universal dock or their “AV Connection Kit” (which also includes Apple’s own slick-looking remote) and is the same price. The Kensington kit does not include the “dock adapters” which Apple’s kit does include. The dock adapters allow the iPods of days gone by (or the nanos) to fit into the dock designed for newer iPods. I would personally go with Apple’s kit instead, since the features are basically the same, mainly because the remote that Apple provides is nicer – both in control and the feel in your hand. The Kensington one feels big and “clunky” next to the Apple remote.
There are times when I pressed buttons on the remote that the dock didn’t seem to respond (or the response was delayed). The lag isn’t a good thing for an impatient user such as myself (“@#$!ing remote! WTF?!”). After doing some obvious troubleshooting: Turns out that the batteries were shot, but if they get even the slightest bit low, the remote starts to have trouble…
In terms of appearance, the Apple dock looks cleaner and nicer (of course), and works better as a “complete package”.
But, with iTV on the way, I am tempted to say “wait”. The iTV may bring more features to the table – on-screen menus, sharing, etc. The docks from Apple and Kensington do not yet do those things.