Griffin Technology has been producing iPod accessories for nearly as long as the Apple iPod has been in existence. With each successive generation of products, Griffin aims to improve in just about every way. They take feedback from customers and reviewers (like myself) and integrate these desires into the products’ successors.
When I looked at the Griffin iTrip Universal FM transmitter, I found that the audio quality and signal strength was definitely lacking. It was convenient, to be sure, but if you lose out on sound quality, that’s kind of pointless.
When I looked at the iTrip Auto SmartScan, I found that the user interface and design were good, but that especially long cord made for a few unnecessary tangles. I liked being able to charge my iPod while enjoying its music, but it was more difficult to navigate through the interface without taking my eyes off the road.
The new Griffin RoadTrip with SmartScan appears to be the best FM transmitter from Griffin to date. It does the DC outlet charging thing, it offers good sound quality, and it’s got a little something extra that makes it a true in-car entertainment hub. Taking the Griffin RoadTrip with SmartScan out for a test drive, no pun intended, I was pleasantly surprised with what it had to offer.
Instead of the tangled wire of the iTrip Auto SmartScan, the RoadTrip with SmartScan uses a flexible arm. This way, the display of your iPod can be mounted in a more visible location. Looking at your iPod is no different than glancing at your stereo’s display. Further still, the control portion of the RoadTrip comes with three buttons, each of which have a small tactile tab on them.
In this way, you can shift to the next track, pause your music, or adjust your FM radio frequency without taking your eyes off the road. This is not only more convenient, but it’s also safer.
But wait, there’s more. In the DC power connector section that plugs into your car’s cigarette jack, you will find that there is a small 3.5mm jack as well. Since so many cars these days come with an auxiliary jack for audio, Griffin thought it would be fitting to take advantage of this feature. You can skip the FM transmitting portion and use aux-in instead for improved audio quality.
At the same time, your iPod remains comfortable docked in a great position, you still have access to the RoadTrip controls, and your iPod continues to receive a charge from the DC outlet. This is a fantastic comprehensive solution for people who don’t have iPod-enabled car stereos.
If you do opt to take the FM transmitter route, the SmartScan feature is designed to help you find three optimal frequencies where the transmitter can do its work the best. This feature is still a little buggy, because it didn’t always find the best “stations” for me to use. I ended up choosing my frequency manually. This is one area where Griffin still has some work to do.
Like many other iPod accessories, the RoadTrip with SmartScan will work with just about any iPod that uses the now-standard dock connector. A variety of cradle adapters are included in the package, accepting everything from the iPhone and iTouch to the iPod nano and iPod classic. Realisticaly, unless you really want the added stability of a proper cradle adapter, you can make do without one. This is especially true if you’re using a protective case.
With a flexible steel neck, auxiliary output jack, SmartSound Plus technology, and clever design, the Griffin RoadTrip with SmartScan is probably one of the best iPod FM transmitters that I have ever used. It won’t stand up to a professional alternative, but at $99.99, it’s probably less expensive.