Product Review (May 2005) - Delphi
XM SKYFi2™ Satellite Radio Receiver
with Vehicle Adapter Kit and SKYFi™ Audio System

Delphi's new XM SKYFi2™ Satellite Radio Receiver is their latest generation product that offers improvements in the original SKYFi™ receiver, making it the most advanced design currently available from the company. The good news is the new SKYFi2™ design is completely compatible with existing SKYFi™ accessories, so if you have already made an investment with the home and vehicle adapters or the boombox, your don't have to buy new support hardware. The XM SKYFi2™ can pause and replay up to 30-minutes of previously recorded digital audio from any active channel using the new replay feature. The unit can also be set up to display a personalized stock ticker or Info Extras such as a sports ticker along with a clock. Favorite stocks can be added or deleted through the menu interface. The Info Extras currently has sport score updates where the user can select specific teams they want coverage on, yet the data stream can potentially be used for other items as well. The unit also features a built-in FM modulator that can be used to transmit audio on select FM audio frequencies, allowing any FM stereo system to play XM satellite audio. The TuneSelect feature finds favorite songs or artists if they are currently playing. The unit is designed to be mated with the optional home or vehicle adapter kit or the SKYFi Audio System that is essentially a portable boom box. Since the SKYFi2™ unit is sold as an individual system, one of the optional kits must be purchased separately based on the user's need. The new white LED backlight display is in our opinion easier to read than the original SKYFi™ unit.

XM System
XM Radio took a bold step launching their satellite-based radio system and has been very successful in getting over 4 million subscribers since the official launch in late 2001. The systems is designed around a pair of high-powered geosynchronous satellites dubbed "Rock" and "Roll" to beam down more than 150 digital radio channels to customers in the 48 contiguous states. The system also relies on approximately 800 ground-based repeaters that receive and retransmit the signals to the XM Radio receivers. These terrestrial repeaters are particularly important in dense urban areas where tall structures might otherwise cause reception problems for customers. Based on our tests the system works very well with excellent coverage overall in the Los Angeles area. Dropouts were rare and only occurred when the antenna was blocked by large overpasses or tunnels.

The SKYFi2™ receiver has an easy to use menu system that lets the user adjust brightness and contrast of the LCD display, set the bass and treble levels, real-time feedback of the satellite and terrestrial antenna strength, Direct Tune (on/off), Search Mode (category or scanning), Channel Skip/Add, Memory Recall, Tune Select (Artist or Song), Stock Ticker, Info Extras, Display Screen Mode, Set Clock, Auto-On, Auto-Off / Sleep Timer, Set Factory Defaults.

The large rotary dial is used to select the channel while in the normal display mode. Turning the dial shows a list of five items with the active one highlighted. Using the Display button, the user can switch between displaying the channel name, artist and song while navigating through the channels. Identifying a favorite song is easy with this system since it is displayed on the screen.

Night view
The SKYFi2™ unit has a large black and white display with front panel buttons that are easy to see in the dark. The Display button changes the display mode to one of four different settings. Normally the Artist and Song are statically displayed with the channel name and number. The second mode displays the Artist and Song in large text as it scrolls across the screen. This works great when viewing the LCD display from a distance, such as when it is docked in the portable boombox. The third mode is for the Stock Ticker, where it displays your favorite stocks on the screen. Finally the last mode is for the Sports Ticker, which displays game scores. Both the stocks and team scores displayed in the last two modes require the user to configure the information in the setup menu.

The Search button goes through a list of music currently being played based on genre (i.e. Rock, Jazz&Blues, etc.). Simply select the song of interest and press the XM button. The Preset/Direct buttons allows the user to choose from the A, B, or C presets or the direct mode, where the user can manually enter the channel number. Each preset group can have up to 10 channels defined for a total of 30 presets. The Jump button bounces between the last two channels selected. The buttons just above the dial are used for the 30 minute buffer allowing users to skip backward or forward to each song up to the last 30 minutes. This is a powerful feature especially for those who want to repeat previous program material they just heard on the radio.

TuneSelect
The SKYFi2™ comes with TuneSelect, a feature that alerts you when one of your favorite songs or artists is playing on another channel. The receiver emits a beep to alert you when any of your saved artists or songs are currently playing. If you see a song or artist you like, simply push the XM button and the unit will immediately jump to that channel. Using the menu controls, you can remove some or all of the songs or artists in the list.

The IR remote included with the SKYFi2™ receiver is a compact design measuring only 5 inches long and 1-1/2 inches wide and powers from a pair of AAA batteries. The remote has many of the same buttons found on the front of the main receiver unit. Unlike the SKYFi2™ receiver, the IR remote does not illuminate at night, making it difficult to use in dark settings. The remote does work well from a long distance away based on our tests. We were able to control the receiver reliably from more than 30 feet away indoors when using the SKYFi™ Audio System (Boombox). We liked using the second display mode on the receiver which allowed us to read the large text on the LCD display from a distance. The unit apparently has non-volatile memory where configuration data is stored because it always kept track of the previous information and state even when power was completely removed from the unit. This included the power state as well.

The Car Kit
The Delphi XM SKYFi2™ receiver does not operate as a stand alone unit, but instead requires one of the optional accessories depending upon the user's installation requirements. We received the Vehicle Adapter Kit (Model: SA10002) priced at $49.99 that includes the car cradle, roof-mount antenna, audio cassette adapter, cigarette lighter power adapter and a universal swivel mounting bracket with adhesive pads and cleaning kit. This kit is essential for car installations and includes everything needed to get the system up and running in a short time. We installed the system in less than 30-minutes with the vast majority of the time spent routing the antenna cable. The cradle interfaces to the SKYFi2™ receiver through a single mating connector on the bottom of the unit. The side of the cradle has a high-bandwidth SMB jack for the antenna, a power jack for the cigarette lighter adapter and an audio output jack. Our tests utilized the cassette adapter as well as the built-in FM modulator, yet neither of these methods were typically as good as a direct connection to the audio system. The nice part is all three options (direct, cassette, or FM modulation) exist with this system.

Delphi made the antenna cable extra long (21 feet), which allowed us to optimally route the cable through our vehicle. The antenna is actually quite small with a foot print of 1-3/8" x 1-3/4" with a high powered magnet that stuck like glue. In fact, the magnet was so strong that removing the antenna required effort. Four tiny rubber pads help protect the surface from scratches. The SMB connector ensures an excellent high bandwidth connection to the radio receiver. The thin cable made it easy to hide under the carpet in the car.Radio ID (Ch 0), XM Preview (Ch 1) Emergency Alert (Ch 247) are the only channels available before activating service. The Radio ID number is needed to identify your receiver and will be requested during the activation process.

SKYFi™ Audio System
Delphi also offers the SKYFi™ Audio System (Model SA10001) designed for the XM SKYFi™ or SKYFi2™ Radio. This portable satellite radio boom box has a docking station that allows users to listen to their SKYFi™ or SKYFi2™ receiver from virtually anywhere a signal can be received. By simply pressing the inset cradle, the docking station clicks and tilts outward making it easy to slide the SKYFi2™ unit into the base. Pressing it again clicks it back into place. Just below the receiver is a headphone jack and volume control. The unit is designed to run from six "D" batteries (not included) or from the included AC adapter.

Sound quality was great from this portable unit, yet was inherently limited in fidelity due to the speaker sizes. However, the sound was very clean and free of distortion often heard with portable units. The detachable antenna included with the boombox can be mounted on the rear of the unit or placed in a location to optimize reception. Again, XM provides a long 21-foot cable not to limit placement of the antenna.

Rural Locations
We also took the XM SKYFi2™ system to rural Midwest locations where coverage is usually spotty for cell phone users and radio listeners. The XM SKYFi2™ radio worked perfectly with no drop out problems in this part of the country. Signal strength was high according to the built-in meter and we were able to enjoy the same variety of music on our journey that we had in busy Los Angeles. Another benefit of being in a rural part of the country is the built-in FM modulator in the XM SKYFi2™ unit work very well, where other FM station are not competing for the same frequency. While the cassette adapter worked fine for us during our tests, we liked the ability to wirelessly transmit the stereo signal to any local FM stereo (car or home).

Conclusion
The new XM SKYFi2™ is a wonderful product that offers great flexibility from the XM Radio system. The optional kits allow each user to tailor the installation and only buy the products needed. The downside is you have to get one of the kits or buy other optional accessories to get up and running. The Vehicle Adapter Kit is essential for mobile use and includes everything needed to install the receiver in a car or truck. The ability to transfer the receiver to a home installation or portable boom box is a great feature. A single mating connector on the receiver provides a simple interface without the need to move wires. We have been using the system for more than two months now and have really grown to like the features and performance of the system. Traditional radio is too polluted with advertising and offers little variety compared to XM's lineup. Rarely do we run into a situation where there is nothing interesting to listen to on XM Radio. The TuneSelect feature offers XM listeners even more control over the content they want to hear and is a nice touch. The greatest part is that the programming stays the same no matter where you travel in the country.

Standard programming from XM Radio costs $12.95 per month for more than 150 commercial-free, digital radio channels. In addition, no contract is required. Music is available on 67 of those channels. XM also offers a premium Playboy radio channel for an additional $2.99 per month.

- Kevin Nakano





OneCall: Your Home Theater, Digital Camera, and HDTV Experts



Review - At a Glance


Delphi XM SKYFi2™ Satellite Radio Receiver

Features

  • 30-Minute Replay including pause and replay up to 30 minutes of live broadcast.
  • InfoExtras - Personal stock ticker, sports ticker and clock.
  • Built-In Wireless Modulator Turns any FM stereo into an XM Radio.
  • TuneSelect™ Finds your favorite artists and songs.

    Technical Specifications

    Model #:SA10101
    MSRP:$119.99
    Dimensions:4.65 in. W x 2.91 in. H x 1.26 in. D
    (118 mm x 74 mm x 32 mm)
    Weight:Receiver: 5.20 oz. (147 g), Remote: 1.60 oz. (45 g)
    Antenna:RF SMB connector
    Power:6V, 1000 mA maximum current, P13 connector, positive polarity
    Audio Output:3.5mm diameter mini-stereo jack


    Delphi XM SKYFi™ Vehicle Adapter Kit

    Features

  • Car cradle
  • Small magnetic roof mount antenna
  • Audio cassette adapter
  • Cigarette lighter power adapter
  • Universal swivel mounting bracket with adhesive pads and cleaning kit

    Technical Specifications

    Model #:SA10002
    MSRP:$49.99
    Weight:1.28 pounds


  • Delphi XM SKYFi™ Audio System (Boom Box)

    Features

  • 2 dual cone speakers for maximum bass
  • External mini headphone jack
  • Integrated carrying handle
  • Docking cradle for the SKYFi™ Receiver
  • Integrated detachable hi-gain antenna with 20ft cable

    Technical Specifications

    Model #:SA10001
    MSRP:$99.99


  • Company Information
    Delphi Corporation
    World and North American Headquarters
    5725 Delphi Drive
    Troy, Michigan 48098-2815
    Phone: 248-813-2000
    Fax: 248-813-2670

    Source: Manufacturer supplied
    MSRP: $119.99 not including accessories

    URL:
    www.delphi.com/

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