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Thursday, March 22, 2007

I've got XM Radio!

For my birthday, my wife got me a portable (sort of) XM Radio, the Samsung NeXus 50, to help me stay in touch with the Reds this season. I plan to write up a full review of the MLB XM service and this little audio player after I've had more time to mess around with it, but I wanted to post a few quick impressions of the radio and the XM Radio service:

  • The player:
    • Player has a nice look & feel, and very small and compact.
    • Very affordable. There are other options that are a bit nicer in terms of features (see below in cons), but for someone who wasn't willing to shell out several hundred dollars, this was a nice option. There is a sizable rebate that is good through the end of the month.
    • Sound quality from the headphone jack seems very good.
    • Can hold MP3's (if I wanted...though I have an ipod for that), and can record up to 50 hours of XM radio material for listening any time. This can be a single song from a music station, or a complete broadcast.
    • Can output audio with an earphone jack (I have it hooked up to computer speakers through this jack), or through RCA output.
    • Screen is monochrome, but is easy to read and has a nice backlight.
  • XM Radio Service
    • Reception is great, even a few rooms in from the closest windows while at work. I don't get satellite service that far into the building, but XM has a number of terrestrial "relays" here in Phoenix which result in crystal-clear signal. ymmv.
    • Channel 175 (MLB Home Plate channel) has a nice lineup of shows. I listened this afternoon to Chuck Wilson's On Deck this afternoon and found it to be a nice talk show with a nice pace of news, as well as some analysis. The highlight today was an interview with Maury Brown about Extra Innings-Gate (it is enough of a scandal to be called a gate now, right?). Other good looking shows include Charley Steiner's Baseball Beat, Ripken Baseball (with Cal and Bill)...and heck, even Rob Dibble has a show. :)
    • Every baseball game is broadcast. And you can schedule a pre-recording of the show, which allows you to play it back at a later time. Handy with my crazy schedule.
    • There's also an online xm web broadcast available, though the MLB broadcasts are not--I'm guessing because it would compete with MLB's webcasts...
  • The Audio Player
    • The big one: this unit has to be hooked up to its cradle in order to play live XM radio. You can play back previously recorded stuff on the go, but if you want to be carrying a unit around and listening to live stuff like MLB broadcasts, you'll need to buy one of the more expensive options.
    • Interface could be better. The menus are logical, clean, and uncluttered, but I really miss the touch wheel on my ipod when trying to quickly scroll through menus--especially long lists of channels. The included remove helps negate this when it's appropriate to use it.
    • The remote works fairly well, though you do have to make sure you're pointing it directly at the unit.
  • XM Radio Service
    • As far as I can tell, only one broadcast from each game is aired at any one time. I don't know how they decide who to broadcast--maybe it's the home team? The result, however, is that I'll probably only hear Marty and Thom/Jeff/Joe about half the time. I'm not super upset about this, but it's irritating.
    • The interface for scheduling pre-recordings is really clunky. It's an add-on to Napster, and not very well implemented. Unlike similar services such as TiVo, the program guide and the scheduling software are completely separate. So, for each game you want to record, you have to note the channel (there are 14 channels, and teams aren't consistently on any one channel), date, and time, and then manually enter it in. I'm spoiled by Tivo, 'cause I find this really onorous.
Overall, I'm reasonably pleased with this setup right now. It gives me the flexibility to listen to Reds games when I want out here in Phoenix, completely free of the constraints of being near a computer (like when I'm in the lab doing research)--and that was my primary goal. It also allows me to do things like pause in the middle of listening to games so that I can be available as a teacher, husband, dad, etc, and yet not miss anything. I'm really looking forward to being able to follow the actual "live" events a bit more this year.