April 2, 2009

Review: Griffin TuneFlex Aux SmartClick

As mentioned prior, I've upgrade my iPhone to the 3G version, which makes a few of my older iPod/iPhone accessories obsolete. Amongst them, is my trusty Monster Cable Ultra Low Profile Car iCharger w/ Aux-out is no longer going to charge both iPhone 3Gs. For me, having the Aux-out is very important since my car supports an auxillary input. However, from my experience, if you run the aux-input via iPod/iPhone's headphone jack it can be less quality for two reasons: 1). The output is not "line level" which means it can be loud or quiet pending on your volume setting and 2). if you charge it at the same time, you have essentially "closed" the loop in this electric circuit which may pickup engine noise and other electronics interference.

I've arranged a review unit of the new Griffin TuneFlex Aux w/ SmartClick remote since this is the closest solution to a factory/OEM iPod/iPhone integration w/o the hefty $300+ bill. The TuneFlex Aux SmartClick has a street price of $80 (probably much cheaper if you pick this up from an online vendor). Its essentially an iPod/iPhone charger with a built-in Aux out and a wireless remote control that can be mounted to your steering wheel.

Few noteworthy points about this product: 1. Remote Control: The remote control is battery-powered and can be mounted to the steering wheel. The way it works is by attaching the mounting plate to your steering wheel via velcro. The actual remote is attached to the mounting plate via magnet so it can be easily attached and removed (for storing or letting passengers control the iPod/iPhone wirelessly). There are five buttons on the remote: play/pause, Forward, Back, Backlight and Shuffle. The remote will work with most recent iPods and iPhones but it failed to work on my 5th generation iPod 30GB video. 2. The kit comes with everything you need including an audio cable along with 8 different adapters for all sorts of iPods and iPhones covering most recent generations; one complaint here is if you have a protective case for your iPod Touch or iPhone, it would not fit in the adaptor unless you have one of those EasyDock cases from Griffin which can easily be removed. Even so, I personally do not like to remove my cases as the removal and installation process may add to more scratches from all the movements. 3. Charger with Aux Out. This is the best audio solution to connect to your vehicle if you have an aux input. In fact, there is almost no reason to buy this charger if your car doesn't already come with an aux input.

Real life experience: I've taken this to my car and based on real life conditions, I find this product sufficient in delivering its promises but a little rough around the edges. It does an ample job of what it is intended to do, charging, aux output and remote control. Where I find the product a little rough is how tight it was for the charger part to go into the cig/DC socket; it almost feels like it was too tight (which makes rotating the charger impossible to find a good angle for the audio cable). The supporting arm is very stiff, almost too stiff to mold it into a good angle in my car. Aside from these two points, the Griffin TuneFlex Aux SmartClick is still a bargain considering what you'd have to pay for an OEM integration. I'll be keeping this thing handy in my car for my road trips!

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