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Gadgetell Review: Pioneer XMP3 portable XM radio

Sections: Audio, Features, Gadgets / Other, Household, Lifestyle, Portable Audio, Reviews, Satellite / HD Radio

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Pioneer XMP3 portable XM radio

Quick Review

What is it?

  • The Pioneer XMP3 (Model: GEX-XMP3) is a portable XM radio that costs $279.99

What’s cool:

  • Wide variety of channels
  • Superior sound quality when compared to FM radio
  • Intuitive menus
  • Simple design
  • Recording and bookmark features

What’s not cool:

  • Internal antenna is weak
  • Poorly designed layout on remote control

The Crux:

  • XM is to your radio what cable is to your TV. The service offers lots of very specialized channels and the sound quality is much better than your standard FM radio. Pair the XM Radio service with this portable XM unit and you’ve got a nice office or home radio provided you can get a signal.

This is a guest post by Merlyn Akhtar. Merlyn Akhtar is a tech-savvy person who isn’t afraid to get her hands dirty with hardware. One of the first upgrades she performed was installing a 2X CD-ROM drive in a PC in her early teens back when Prodigy was an awesome ISP.

Out of the Box:

This unit comes with lots of goodies. In addition to the main unit, you get a dock, which has a line out and antenna in for the included external antenna, charger, remote control, in-ear ear buds, and RCA cables. The portable radio is small, about the height and width of your standard clamshell-style cellphone and it feels light in the hand.

Design:

The main unit is lightweight and has a familiar navigation wheel design. The antenna stub is a bit chunky, which distracts from the otherwise clean design. The headphone jack and microSD card slot are conveniently located along the top.

There are 5 dedicated buttons, including one for the menu system, keypad, and options. The navigation wheel encircles the XM (select) button and has 4 dedicated buttons of its own for play/pause, forward/rewind, and record. Most people will find it to be a very familiar layout.

The included dock is basically a charging station and the only means for using the external antenna, which is about as big as the main unit. The dock also has a line out so you can listen to the XM-goodness on your favorite set of external speakers.

Interface

You can browse channels by scrolling with the wheel or by pressing the keypad button which brings up a menu to enter a channel number.

You can also schedule XM recordings so you never miss particular radio show. “My Music Library” is where you access recorded XM programs/music, mp3s/WMAs, and audiobooks from your microSD card.

The XMP3 features Auto Recording which records up to 30 hours of music from the five channels you listen to the most. You can set the channels yourself or just let the radio figure it out.

To get from submenu to submenu, you have to use the scroll wheel (the arrow keys on wheel won’t work). You can click the Options button while listening to XM programming which displays a menu. You can access TuneSelect for an artist or a song which alerts you whenever that artist or song is playing on another channel. You can bookmark the song, mark a channel a favorite, and view programs for your current channel.

The Remote

The included remote works well within line of sight, but it is a bit awkward to move from wheel control on unit to button control on remote. The “Back” button is placed in bottom right hand corner, but “Select” button is in the top-middle. This is a poor layout considering these two buttons are frequently used when navigating the menu system (can really hurt your thumb if you’ve got small hands).

Audio Quality and Reception

When I could get a signal, the sound quality was good. The equalizer has nine presets. There is no option to customize an equalizer setting.

I found the signal poor when I was at home using just the radio’s internal antenna. The radio has an antenna signal utility that is really helpful when setting up the unit with the external antenna. Reception was much improved using the external antenna, though I had to wander around the room a while to find the right spot to set it down.

I tested out the radio on my morning commute on the MetroNorth train (lower Hudson valley to NYC). Lower Westchester had good to very good (1 to 2 bars out of 3) signal reception. There was little to no signal by mid-Westchester, even when I brought the dock with me and had the external antenna. In Queens, NY, I had to use the external antenna to get a viable signal in a building. There was a very good to excellent signal in Manhattan and the Bronx.

I was initially excited when I took the radio on the train, but was greatly disappointed by the poor signal reception. I’ll stick with my dedicated MP3 player for my music on my commute.

Wrap up

The Pioneer XMP3 player is an interesting device. It can serve as your normal music player if you bring along a microSD card. The recording feature is also handy when there is no signal. The design could use another revision to integrate the antenna a little bit better. The antenna sticks out like a sore thumb on this relatively clean design. $279.99 seems a little steep for something like this. The price will likely be a barrier to most who are just curious about XM. For those who already love satellite radio, this is a very pocketable solution.

This device will appeal to XM enthusiasts, but probably won’t win over the masses yet.

Product Page [XMP3 Radio]

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