Griffin TuneFlex in-car iPod Nano holder
Your flexible friend?
Review I like listening to my iPod in the car, but I've longed for a more sophisticated set-up than having the player tucked in a cup-holder with one cable dangling down from the cassette player and another coming from a power adaptor plugging into the ciggie lighter...
There are good mounting kits on the market, but I'm not automotively savvy enough to fit one myself, and I don't like the idea of taking it out again when I come to sell my current vehicle. Griffin Technology's TuneFlex sounds like the ideal half-way measure: a removable unit that's nonetheless permanent enough for you to just slot in an iPod Nano whenever you set off on a journey.
The TuneFlex draws its power from you car's cigarette lighter. The adaptor end is also home to the 3.5mm earphone-jack socket into which you connect the bundled cassette deck adaptor, a pair of earphones, or whatever else you use to connect the iPod to your car's stereo. iTrip owners will be please to know that the dock end of the device not only connects to the Nano, but also provides a dock slot of its own for the addition of other add-ons, so you can continue using your wireless transmitter.
Joining the Nano dock to the power adaptor end is a tough, ribbed plastic-cased cable that's designed to let you pose the player at almost any angle. That's the idea, at least, but I found its flexibility limited. It doesn't twist well, for example, and it's not keen on being bent, at least not in tight loops and not at the power plug end. The dock, at least, rotates through 180°, so you can always keep the Nano upright.
Don't get me wrong - TuneFlex is flexible. It's just not quite flexible enough, I think - it's too rigid. I couldn't, for example, replicate the curve the TuneFlex is folded into in the stock photo shown above. It would bend, but not stay bent. Presumably, Griffin decided this would stop it bending when you don't want it to, when you're pressing the Nano's buttons, for example. However, I found that wasn't the case - move the TuneFlex did unless the dock is placed against the console.
I also found it too easy to knock the Nano off the connector, once to the extent that I lost the right-hand stereo channel. The TuneFlex uses the dock's audio lines rather than the earphone socket, but the addition of a redundant 3.5mm jack - or at least some restraining clips on the connector itself, would have helped keep the music player in place, as it does with Griffin's other Nano-friendly product, the TuneBuds set.
The TuneFlex's power adaptor end glows blue when a Nano is attached. Which is nice. It also sports a tone switch to knock back the line level to the earphone socket if, like me, you get distortion when it's set to high. The Nano's dock connector transmits sound at full volume, handy for hi-fi devices but not lower-fidelity kit like cassette tape adaptors.
How practical the TuneFlex is depends largely on your car. The cigarette lighter socket in my Honda Jazz - aka the City in Japan and the Fit in the US - is tucked right down at the base of the instrument panel. It's fine for USB and Firewire iPod-oriented power adaptors, but the air vent controls above it limited the TuneFlex's room for manoeuvre. Your own mileage, as they say, may vary.
Still, I was able to get the Nano into a place where it was convenient to use and view, though I too frequently found myself pushing the player out of the way, or off the dock connector. In my case, TuneFlex wasn't a patch on an console-mounted dock, but again I stress your own make and model of automobile may not limit you this way.
TuneFlex isn't expensive, and it's better value now Griffin has begun bundling a cassette adaptor with the holder.
Think of TuneFlex not as an in-car iPod mount but as simply a handy holder that also recharges your Nano. It's somewhere to keep your player while it's playing, not to lock it in position while you use the Nano's controls. Even so, it's not an ideal holder - it's too easy to knock the player off the dock - but it's certainly more sophisticated than connecting your iPod to the power socket by cable and leaving the player sitting in a cup-holder. TuneFlex at the very least allows you space to place a latté ®