Best Buy Launches First Portable HD Radio (I Gots)

Dave Zatz —  July 12, 2009

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After a bazillion year hiatus, I’ve rejoined the gym. And find myself in need of a portable FM radio to tune the evening news or Sports Center from facility flat panel televisions while on the hamster wheel cardio devices. As we know, Apple would prefer to sell iTunes and thus refuses to incorporate a FM tuner into their iPod or iPhone lineup. Accessories can be had for about $50 but, unlike Mr. Tofel, I prefer to keep my 3GS out of harms way.

So when Engadget blogged the new Insignia NS-HD01 ($50) potable radio today, the first of its kind, I printed out a $10 Reward Zone coupon and picked one up. Not only does it handle traditional FM reception duties, it also pulls in the newer (and free) digital “HD Radio” broadcasts. HD Radio hasn’t really caught on – most folks don’t seem to know or care. But for $50, I figured what the heck.

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As expected, the bundled ear buds don’t sound very rich and aren’t very comfortable. Unfortunately, my two pair of iPhone earbuds (one Griffin, one Apple) don’t provide stereo sound when fully inserted – possibly due to how the little metal thingy lines up in the jack given the extra mic contact. (We’re in the midst of packing for a move and my Shures are MIA.) But from what I can tell, given a little jiggling, the sound quality is pretty good when tuned to an HD station.

The NS-HD01 incorporates a rechargeable battery, which is nice. Not bundling an AC adapter is less nice. A USB cable is provided, so you can charge via computer or the wall if you have an adapter. But I’m surprised one wasn’t included. On the other end of the spectrum, an armband is included. I’ll never use it, but it’s a nice perk for a gadget that won’t have a marketplace full of accessories.

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It’s a cute little device. Plasticy and fingerprint prone, but mostly attractive, relatively compact, and quite lightweight. Plus the display and info is much better than I expected – especially at this price point. All that’s left now is to figure out how to preset my channel favorites… which isn’t the most intuitive process as discovered by Falcone over at CNET.

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15 responses to Best Buy Launches First Portable HD Radio (I Gots)

  1. Wasn’t thinking about getting one of these until your tweet convinced me it was worth consideration.

    davezatz Screw it, it’s only 50 bucks. Bought myself the worlds first portable “HD Radio”

    You, sir, have a way with words.

  2. Wunderradio is a good app for streaming radio on the iphone. Essentially eliminates the need for a tuner. $7 not too bad.

    A friend dropped her iphone on a treadmill and it got crushed. Totally and completely crushed. Would much rather replace a $50 radio. Apple took pity on her and she got a new one for $100 though.

  3. Can you play back via USB?? I’m wondering as my new Toyota Scion has an awesome sound system but NO (!) HD option. I was thinking I could USB this into the iPod port. Do you think that’d work??

  4. Doesn’t say anything about streaming music to PC (or car) over USB in the manual. Although, I read in the Engadget comments a prototype model had a memory card slot. So this may have seen a haircut to launch in a timely fashion and at a low $50. Maybe a higher end model is in the works if this sells OK (doubtful). Given the info/about screen, they may have intended for broader PC/accessory connectivity and OS updates. But I’m not counting on it. (Sure wish Dell’s Zing had launched last fall – think it was supposed to have been about $100.)

  5. Nothing “plays music” thru a usb. It powers units. Many newer car radio’s have a headphone jack for what you want to do.

  6. Cars with iPod kits/adapters play music over USB… Which is exactly what his Scion port is for. (It’ll charge, too.) Some radios read folders and play files off USB storage. But yes, his aux line-in jack will do the trick.

  7. I am a bit confused. Is the USB just for charging. I don’t know if I have ever seen a device that has nothing to do with a PC use a USB port exclusively for charging.
    Interesting.

  8. Yep, it’s just for charging at this time. Like I said, I think they originally had grander plans for it.

  9. It COULD also be a USB sound card too….that would let you be able to listen to the music on it.

  10. So I went by the Best Buy in San Carlos (seriously, you convinced me) and I couldn’t find it in the store. I pride myself on being able to find the most logical place in a store for a product (maybe I’m just trying to rationalize why I don’t ask for help) and I failed completely on this one.

    Wasn’t with the portable music devices, wasn’t in the car stereo/GPS area. Wasn’t with the random radios. Wasn’t in the phone section. Wasn’t in home theater (stretching). Wasn’t in appliances (now I’m just enjoying the store and being out of the heat). Where should this be? Store placement failure overwhelmed me. Had someone asked if I needed any help I’d have bit the bullet but it never happened.

  11. None were on the shelves in my store. They had two, they were in back, but supposed to be placed out near the boomboxes. I talked to three people before they were able to locate and get one for me. I’m persistent and figured they hadn’t stocked the shelves yet.

  12. In the back! I should have known. Seriously. Sadly.

  13. Does this work adequately through the AUX jack in the car, or should I consider a HD radio unit for the car instead?

  14. Scott, not sure – it might work out OK. Surely easier to ‘install’ and cheaper. But messier.

    Also, one of my Twitter followers mentioned poor reception. Not sure if it’s the device or his location. In the Maryland (DC) suburbs at home I get tons of stuff with no prob. But in the Virginia suburbs at the gym near work, I noticed get much less to choose from. Hm.

    Wonder if I should have picked up the cheap refurb Zune (with FM) on Woot a few weeks back instead.

  15. any way to play hd portable radio through car speakers with an adapator connected to the cigarrette lighter?