Movie sequels are rarely as good as the originals. Fortunately, just the opposite is true with consumer electronics, where Gen 2 is almost always a good thing, loaded with extra features and tweaked for better performance. In the case of the new Pioneer Inno XM2go portable satellite radio, it's a great thing. The Inno (and, presumably, Samsung's similarly designed Helix) ups the ante on everything that made the original XM2go remarkable, adds the things that were missing, and packs it into a smaller and oh-so-much sexier package.
SETUP As with any satellite receiver, activation of service is required before use. The Inno comes with the basics needed to connect to your home system, but taking tunes on the road requires the optional car kit ($70), which includes a second antenna, a remote, a dock, a lighter charger, a cassette audio adapter, and a variety of mounts. Since neither of my vehicles has a cassette deck, I used the Inno's built-in FM transmitter with great success.
One important setup step is establishing the partition for the Inno's 1-gigabyte internal memory. You can choose from storing 100% XM (roughly 50 hours of programming) or 50% XM and 50% MP3 or WMA (roughly 25 and 8 hours, respectively). While this can be changed at any time, doing so erases all content - especially painful if you've built a large library of XM tunes.
Inno also comes with XM + Napster software, which is compatible with PCs running Windows 2000 or XP. The software enables some cool music browsing and organization options, and it's required to transfer MP3/WMA files to the device.
PERFORMANCE Small and compact, the Pioneer Inno feels comfortably solid in your hand, giving the impression that it's crammed with technology. The front panel is split between the color display screen and the navigational controls. Since nearly all functions are executed with the navigational arrows and XM key, you'll feel equally at home with the Inno whether you're right- or left-handed. In fact, I fumbled more when trying to use the tiny, button-packed remote control.
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