Belkin TuneFM nano

Product: Belkin TuneFM for iPod nano
Price: $49.99 USD

I was quite optimistic when I opened the Belkin TuneFM for the iPod nano. Boasting the “best-in-class audio performance,” I expected nothing but.

The TuneFM nano is a sleek little tuner. It connects directly to the nano’s dock connector and headphone jack, fitting snuggly at the bottom of the iPod nano. Unlike many of it’s competitors, the TuneFM footprint matches the nano’s perfectly — making the pair quite visually appealing. The TuneFM is light as well, so using the nano with the TuneFM attached is far from awkward (like many other FM tuners out there).

The TuneFM operates off of the iPod’s battery, so you can use your nano from the back seat if you so choose — though that may make driving a bit difficult. Alternatively, you can use the included power adapter to power and charge your nano using your car’s outlet.

The power cord plugs into the TuneFM with a USB mini B, which means that if you have a standard USB A to USB mini B cord (much like many digital cameras use) you can charge your nano through the TuneFM using any USB socket. I’m pleased to see Belkin sticking to industry standards, which gives the consumer a bit more freedom in using the device. Thanks to the USB mini B, I was able to use my own USB cable to connect my iPod nano to my computer and charge it through the TuneFM without any difficulty, though accessing iTunes was clearly out of the question.

The TuneFM uses your iPod nano’s screen as it’s own, so when you adjust the FM frequency (using the arrow buttons on the TuneFM) you see the settings clearly displayed on your iPod’s screen. The TuneFM supports frequencies between 88.1 and 107.9 MHz.

Unfortunately, the TuneFM has two major drawbacks, the first of which is not Belkin’s fault. In Apple’s infinite wisdom, they moved the headphone jack on the new nano over about half a centimeter, which means you can’t use the TuneFM with a second generation nano.

The TuneFM, although small and very well designed, is still just an FM tuner. I found the sound quality to be mediocre at best, especially while in the city. I was unable to find any stations out-of-range enough for me to use with the TuneFM, which means I was constantly plagued with static. In fact, the only place I was able to achieve adequate sound quality was, quite frankly, in the middle of nowhere — presumably because there were no competing radio stations.

It’s been said before, but if you’re looking to preserve the digital quality you get through your iPod earbuds, you’re going to have to look into plugging your iPod into your car stereo the old fashioned way: with wires. While FM tuners give you the freedom and simplicity we all desire, the audio quality is variable and often subpar.

A remarkably designed complement to any first-generation iPod nano, the Belkin TuneFM offers a small form factor and intuitive interface which may justify the $50 price tag for some of you. It’s FM tuning capabilities, however, are par for the course.

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