Belkin TuneCast Auto Universal: "Your Mileage May Vary"
Jan 22, 2010
a Very Helpful Review
by the Epinions community
Pros:Amber backlit LCD display, attractive body design, simple controls, saves two frequencies.
Cons:Signal output performance is inconsistent from unit to unit - sometimes weak, sometimes okay.
The Bottom Line: Not a good first choice, but not horrendous either. You'll have to actually buy it and try it to see if it's for you. SAVE YOUR RECEIPT.
Belkin is typically a good brand for electronics - not great, but far better than a bargain-basement brand you'd see at a dollar store. I have had Belkin units for computers and my XM satellite radio receiver and have been generally satisfied with them. So when I needed an FM transmitter to send my satellite unit's sound through my FM radio in my car to the speakers, and saw the Belkin TuneCast Auto Universal unit, I figured it would be a good choice.
Recommend this product?
Priced at $30 at Fry's Electronics, it was a little steeper than I was planning on spending. (A previous purchase at the same Fry's, I'd bought a different brand FM transmitter that stopped working after only a few months.) But then I figured, spend a little more this time, and it may last longer. It wasn't on sale at $30, but I figured I'd try it.
I have to say I'm a bit disappointed at the signal level put out by this device. Every other unit I've ever had - and that goes back at least a decade - the signal is strong enough to hear clearly through the FM radio. The thing I've noticed with the Belkin TuneCast is that you have to place the unit very close to the radio - and sometimes that doesn't even help (more on that in a moment). I have a Chevy Cavalier with a Pioneer CD/AM/FM receiver that has a little empty storage bin directly underneath the unit. I can slip the Belkin TuneCast right underneath that, and the sound is good. But my feeling is that I should be able to place the Belkin device anywhere on that front seat and get the same results - that does not happen.
I had to put my car in the shop the day I wrote this review, and wound up renting a Nissan compact car with a factory-installed radio. Since my XM satellite receiver is portable (as is, of course, the Belkin transmitter), I carried both with me to the rental vehicle. I plugged the Belkin into the cigarette lighter/accessory jack and turned on the XM radio. I was astonished to hear nothing but static on the frequencies I chose, even if I placed the Belkin device right in front of the sound system!
This mirrors the comments I saw about this particular unit on Target's own web site. Many users said that they couldn't hear anything over their car's speakers but static. The Belkin TuneCast unit lets you choose any frequency on the FM spectrum (including the half-frequencies that end in 0.2, 0.4, etc.), which is a plus, but even on the weakest, most silent FM stations, the Belkin's performance will leave something to be desired for many users.
At the time I wrote this review, Target was selling the Belkin TuneCast for $23.95. That's a better price for it - I returned the unit I bought to Fry's and bought another one at Target, pocketing the $6 difference. But it's still a bit disappointing.
Part of why is that the physical design is nice! There's a sizable LCD display with an amber backlight. You can save two frequencies (with the "I" and "II" buttons). There isn't a monstrous amount of cable or wire with the unit, and when plugged in, the base has a green pilot light. You don't have to remember to replace AA or AAA batteries every few months - just plug it in. All those features are helpful.
But for all of this, its prime function - clear, strong sound - should be a no-brainer, and it isn't.
So, here's my final pronouncement. "Your mileage may vary." Some of you will buy this unit and have no problems with it. Others of you will buy the unit and won't be able to use it for whatever reasons - radio is too strong, your accessory jack doesn't quite put out enough power, the planets aren't lined up just right, whatever.
If you're shopping and comparing units, I would not make this your first choice unless there really are few other options. Since some users are going to really like this, and others really won't, I feel comfortable giving the Belkin TuneCast three stars out of five. You may be able to use it...but you may not. Keep that receipt!
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