Delphi SkyFi3 - Orbitcast Review
Tags: 2, XM
We saw the Delphi SkyFi3 Unboxed and now after spending some hands-on time with the unit (courtesy of The Radio Place) here's the full Orbitcast Review.
The Delphi SkyFi3 XM Satellite Radio is best described as a new "hybrid" plug-and-play receiver. OK so technically it's a plug-and-play receiver because in it's base form it can only receive the XM signal when docked, but it joins a growing category of receivers that offer on-the-go functionality.
Receivers like the Sirius S50 and Samsung NeXus come to mind instantly. Where the SkyFi3 differs is that it's primarily meant for vehicle use - where a majority of radio listening is done.
This is apparent first and foremost in it's form-factor. The Delphi SkyFi3 sports a large 2.8-inch display (the biggest in the industry) that can be viewed horizontally or vertically - great for driving. But there are no buttons on the SkyFi3 itself, only the directional controls. The included car dock sports large tactile buttons - perfect for use while driving. I do have to note that initially the car dock buttons take a bit getting used to because each button serves multiple functions: click on the left for one number, the right for another number. But it only takes a couple minutes before you're used to this action.
The SkyFi3 interface will be very familiar to Inno/Helix/NeXus users. Same exact controls as the Inno, and the interface is the same. The only big difference to point out is that the Delphi SkyFi3 allows for multiple bookmark lists (Favorites A, Favorites B, Favorites C), so you can separate your favorite channels by 3 different categories. Pretty neat if you share the device with others in the family.
From a functional standpoint, the SkyFi3 is really no different than the NeXus (see Orbitcast's Samsung NeXus Review). Except that while the NeXus is meant for home reception, and on-the-go listening - the Delphi SkyFi3 is meant for in-car listening - with the added benefit of on-the-go functionality. Delphi decided to focus primarily on where we do the most radio listening, rather than primarily on a time-shifted experience like the NeXus (and Sirius S50). The SkyFi3 really is too big to be primarily for on-the-go use anyway, but that's the tradeoff for in-car performance.
I do want to say that even though there's such a large display, it's somehow not irritating to handle while on-the-go. It's actually really lightweight and fits comfortably in your hand.
I do want to address the build quality for a moment. CNET in their review felt that the device had a sub-par build quality feeling. I disagree. The SkyFi3 itself doesn't, but the car dock does. The SkyFi3 unit feels very nice and lightweight, and this review unit didn't match that description at all.
Another key difference between the SkyFi3 and the NeXus is the addition of the MicroSD card slot. While the car is not included in the base kit, it's great to know that I can have the option of removable - and expandable - storage for my MP3s. Currently the max storage that MicroSD's allow for are 2Gb, which is hardly enough for me - but as technology grows, at least this device will be able to adapt. Another key difference is that the XM recording abilities are limited to 10 hours (as opposed to the NeXus' 25 hours or 50 hours options). Most people will use that storage for time-shifting only, so 10 hours is sufficient and I don't think detracts from the experience.
And finally the Delphi SkyFi3 has something that the Pioneer Inno, Samsung Helix and Samsung NeXus don't have: pause/replay functionality! Yes, finally you get the benefits of the 10 hours of recording functionality, the 2Gb of removable digital music storage and live pause/replay time-shifting functionality; all in one device.
So what are the negatives? Well, while I love the big display, I wish they did a bit more with it. The monochrome LCD display is just a little too oh-so-2005. The dream would be to have that big display in color, but I'd settle even for some color choices (e.g., the RoadyXT). The night-time look is pretty cool simply because the backlit display is so big (and the buttons have a cool blue glow), but some color would be appreciated. Another disappointment was that while there's support for MicroSD - none was provided with the base kit. I realize this would have driven up the initial cost of the unit, but c'mon. (Psst, note to retailers: SkyFi3 + MicroSD card bundles would be nice.)
The breakdown -
PROS: Big display; focus on in-car usage; MicroSD expandability
CONS: Monochrome color; Chintzy Car Dock; no MicroSD card included
Bottom Line: If you're in the market for a new XM plug-and-play, but have Inno-envy because you want occasional on-the-go usage - well, this is your unit.
Again, a huge special thanks to the folks over at The Radio Place for making the review possible. Please visit them and show them your support.