I was so excited after reading the Forbes article on the Sirius S50 a few weeks ago that I snapped one up. Then the backorder delays started. Then reports of RIAA-hobbling started to drift in. After using the device for nearly a week, I have to say my friend and neighbor Lance was right- it’s a big disappointment.
The design is by PortalPlayer- the same company that reportedly makes parts of that um.. other popular portable music (and now video) player. The package includes a complete installation kit, a standard cigarette lighter power adapter, an FM adapter (for installation into your line), and the docking cradle. The first thing that hit me was the cheap plastic feel of the cradle. I expected it to be more substantive; the dial used for tuning felt loose. The weight of the device also leaves it feeling cheap- I had to check the box twice to make sure the battery wasn’t floating around.
Speaking of the battery, a cryptic sheet in the install kit tells you to remove the plastic sheathing over the contacts on the device, but fails to mention you have to pry the backplate off the device, remove the battery, and then remove the plastic.
Next I activated the service and did a quick install in my car. The packaging was thoughtfully put together, but not at the vaunted Apple level. I put the antenna on my roof strung out the window and got a signal pretty easily. Activation was simple. The device has an announcement voice that announces station names as you switch, and a nice, easily readable display. They should however have put more thought into their UI design. From the time you first power on the device, the overloaded animation at boot creates a “tearing” effect on the screen as its hardware tries to keep up. Not a good sign on “second read”. Nor is the cheesy heart icon used to designate
favorites presets-er no… It’s for recording. Overall the UI feels a bit 2002 for a device of this price.
Speaking of the recording feature. A big selling point is the ability to play/pause live record and schedule record your favorite programs. But unfortunately you cannot listen to one station and record another- ala TiVo or Media Center w/ dual tuners. So basically if you want to record a live program and not listen (defeating the purpose), you have to switch to another input. Apparently these and series of RIAA-induced changes are getting folks in an uproar. Here’s a list of the hobbled features from Orbitcast:
The final straw for me is the utter lack of FM repeaters in the Seattle Eastside. If I don’t have clear line of sight, forget it. I can’t schedule recordings with my car in the garage, and I’m not going to leave it outside in order to record.
But wait! It supports MP3 & WMA right? Sort of. You can transfer music using the My Sirius Studio software, limited support for WMP via manual sync of non-DRM’d content. Sirius Studio was about the worst performing player I’ve ever seen on import of my tracks and transfer to the device. Playlists do not import. Album art does not transfer either. No support for PlaysforSure subscription content. No support for podcasting unless I manually transfer. Big thumbs down.
Lastly, there are bugs. I’ve had to reboot the device five times in three days with a No S_RAM (sp?) error when cradled and started. I’m not sure what is going on there.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m impressed by the Sirius service, but I cannot recommend this device as the way you enjoy it. Lance- you were dead on on this one in my opinion.