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Belkin TuneCast Auto

Not as clear as promised By John Haley
When I think of Belkin, I think of accessories that make my life easier. Belkin has a wide range of products ranging from cables, to networking cards, battery back-up, portable laptop accessories, and of course a huge variety of accessories for your MP3 devices. With a strong product name, I had hoped for a stronger signal.

The TuneCast Auto with ClearScan for iPhone and iPod looks like the perfect way to take advantage of your car's speaker system without having to get an input jack or new receiver.

The TuneCast Auto is very simple to figure out and easy to use.  You can store it in any small compartment in your car, I have been storing mine between the driver and passenger seat compartment, but the main component is much smaller than that.  The whole device may seem large if you wrap it up and hold it in your hand.  This size is only because of the long cable, ClearScan, charger, and the iPhone/iPod connector together.  It doesn't get tangled too badly when you store it while it's not in use.  I liked the overall length of the cable. It leaves enough slack so I could hold my iPhone and also pick a place to set it.  The ClearScan is in the middle of the long cable which also provides it with good slack between the charger.

The way you get your TuneCast Auto working is connect it to the Power Outlet in your car, and on the other end you connect your iPod or iPhone.  The way you know this is getting power is by the small white light that is built into the charger, you can see it lit from the end which faces you when plugged in.  For some car makes and models your car may have to be on to send power to your outlet.  (What I liked is that it also works as a charger! This might be its strongest feature.)

Next you use the ClearScan button the detect the best frequency, and then just match the FM station on your car stereo, and youre done (supposedly).

The ClearScan was fast in finding supposedly useful radio stations to link up with my iPhones music. Every once in a while it would pick a station that was in use, and sometimes it took a several clicks to find a an available station that would broadcast a good signal.  It might be that there are just too many radio stations in Los Angeles for this thing to work well.  If this is the case, it might be true in every large radio market city.

You can manually set up your own station to use, which was nice, yet you'll end up spending more time finding a good one to use. During the day, I found that the numbers on the front face of the ClearScan were hard to read. The illuminated numbers didn't stand out well enough (I don't have a convertible, so the roof casts plenty of shade). On the other hand, during my nighttime driving, I had no issue reading the numbers. The old OCR style font was easy to ready and the illumination was very good.

On the top left  part of the device, there are two programable buttons which might be helpful if you find a frequency that works really well in your area. At the top right is a PRO Setting to Improve Performance, mainly it seems to just increase the audio average volume, which works well with quieter music. I played around with it, and didn't really notice much of a difference overall.

After playing with this on my commutes to work and running my daily errands I didn't find it to work that well. I kept having to move the ClearScan device - probably not a good driving habit. This happened on every open station I could find, it cut out in and out a lot, and as I was driving around the station which it picked, was also picking up a lot of some in-between stations so I was hearing a mix of my music and some other stations music. Unfortunately, it didn't do a good job in cutting out the residual static. I thought if I put on one of the PRO settings that it would improve the audio, but that didn't work, so no luck with the reception.

My average commute is about 25 miles a day, and I was using this during the day and night, also it gives the option to select your own FM tuner which isn't being used, so one with static, but I didn't find that to change any of the problems I was having. There were one or two times where I was able to get a few minutes of  one of my songs, but I wasn't ever able to hear a complete song without it dropping out or hearing static.

If you do the two steps before you put your car in drive and it works well, you won't need to take your eyes off the road, yet if you want to change a song from your playlist then you will be using your thumb and your eyes, so be careful with that, as long as you have music playing from your iPod or iPhone. So make sure you have a fun playlist for your commute and you'll be good to drive.

Belkin has other products that don't rely on a clear RF and you can check them all out at  I like many of the Belkin hubs, router solutions, and some of their accessory options,  so it's a little baffling to find the TuneCast device working so poorly.

For rants, ramblings and general announcements - check out a chaotic blog in the BlogZone:

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John Haley is a freelance video effects artist, and demo artist. Recent projects have included creation of animations for many of Mattel's Sizzle Reels, designing motion slates, and animation of the Air Quality Index for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). He has worked on promo, commercial and music video compositing as well. John is a graduate of Video Symphony's Motion Graphics Program in Burbank, CA.
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