Having seen—and tested—the earlier evolutions of satellite radio receiver, from dashboard model to in-home unit to hip-connected recorder/player, I’ve felt like I’m judging contestants in the Special Olympics: The radio service is fine, but the gadgets aren’t really expected to measure up to other contenders in the same field. XM’s latest, the XMp3, is impressive in that it records five channels at once and records your most popular stations automatically. But it needs this functionality to make up for the fact that it depends on spotty satellite reception for content.
If that’s not enough acknowledgment of frailty, it has a microSD slot for you to add your own memory—and your own tunes. And although Best Buy says it’s a Pioneer-branded player, these things are all developed by XM, and then licensed to CE companies when they need a branding boost. So it’s not like the brand is any guarantee of actual Pioneer DNA.
If that’s not bringing you down enough, it costs US$280 before the 8GB memory card and XM monthly fees. Sorry, XM, but the revenues isn’t charging a lot of money, but getting people to pay it. Good luck with that. [PopSci; Best Buy]