Gadget Spot: Insignia HD Radio Portable Player

Staff Writer
Columbus Alive

In the age of iPhones, iPod Touches and other personal media players, radio has a tough row to hoe.

Symbolic of that struggle is the fact that 99 cents buys you a single song on iTunes, yet for under 40 cents you can purchase a share of Sirius XM satellite radio stock and own a piece of the entire company.

Then there's local over-the-air radio. It makes sense to me that Alive's sister station 97.1 The Fan carries OSU football and basketball, ESPN Radio and lets sports fans talk smack all day long. That kind of content isn't found on a personal media player.

But stations that dedicate themselves to music almost defy logic in a media world where PMPs allow you to listen to all types of music whenever and wherever you want.

Yet despite this fierce competition, and the odds against them, HD Radio continues to introduce consumer products. First it was gadgets that took FM radio to the higher, static-free quality of digital signals. In the process, HD Radio allowed stations to add a second digital station at the frequency where there previously was only one.

Now HD Radio has come out with their first handheld, portable radio - the Insignia HD Radio Portable Player (available for $50 at Best Buy). The development of a small, low-power receiver chip capable of tuning in digital broadcasts makes this possible.

This new gadget almost has it all. The sound playing through the manufacturer-supplied earbuds is impeccable. Insignia plays all of your local FM and HD Radio channels for 10 hours per battery charge. It has a 1.5-inch LCD screen that reports on station information and the song and artist currently playing.

There are no batteries; the unit is charged via a USB port on your computer. It comes with an armband so those of you who like to listen to the radio while you exercise don't have to buy additional accessories or, worse, balance this palm-size unit on your head or shoulder.

The Insignia HD Radio Portable Player even lets you pick 10 stations to set as presets. Which is what makes this gadget almost perfect. This radio only found 11 Columbus stations broadcasting in HD Radio.

Aren't presets supposed to let you tune to your favorite out of hundreds, or at least dozens, of choices?

If you're about choice and control, I doubt this new gadget will excite you. But if you're an avid radio listener, this gadget may appeal to you as you continue to hoe that tough row.

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