Belkin TuneBase FM with Hands-Free £60
5th Sep 2009 | 10:00
Want an integrated car system for your iPhone without buying a Merc?
There's no substitute for a manufacturer-fitted iPod/iPhone system for your car; built-in holders, 30-pin dock connectors, track info and album artwork on the dash – the works.
Sadly, though, proper integration remains the preserve of luxury brands or at least high-end models in manufacturers' lines, but Belkin has the answer for the rest of us in the form of the TuneBase FM.
Though you can use the TuneBase FM with any iPod, it's designed for the iPhone, and the beauty is that it pretty much does everything you want.
Of course, it charges your iPhone, so you arrive with a fully-charged device. (It even boasts a USB port on the stalk, so you can still plug in, say, your sat-nav as well as charging your iPhone.)
Its main feature, though, is an FM transmitter, broadcasting your iPhone's music to your car's stereo. It's smart, scanning the airwaves to pick one that's clear of interference.
The frequency is then displayed on the (rotatable) screen, and you just have to tune your car's stereo to that frequency. (Nice touch: RDS-capable stereos display the station name as 'TuneBase'.)
FM's a bit clunky for this, and on long journeys you may find you have to rescan and retune a few times; audio quality's pretty clean, and there's a 3.5mm jack for optional direct connection.
A large button – with a handy chin that lets you grip and press it easily – lets you play/pause, skip and backtrack with the same clicks you'd be used to on the iPhone headset, and it even lets you do Voice Control on an iPhone 3GS. It can struggle to pick up your voice clearly enough, especially at motorway speeds, but it can work.
Lastly, it lets you do hands-free calling, pausing any playing music when a call comes in, and channelling the audio through your car's speakers. Callers reported reasonable audio quality, though it was a little quiet.
Depending on where your cigarette lighter socket is, the (very versatile) stalk might get in the way, but you might be lucky enough for it to position your iPhone at a handy enough height for it to be useful for GPS apps such as Sygic.
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