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Sirius claims that its S50 portable satellite radio receiver is the cutting
edge of its field. It may be true, only that there is one important thing
to explain before you consider to buy this device.
When operated by itself, the S50 portable receiver doesn't really
broadcast live content. The S50 receives a live satellite stream only
when it's plugged into your car or home's dock and connected to the
respective satellite antenna. When the S50 is not connected to the
car or home deck, it can only play recorded content, as well as MP3
and WMA files. In fact, it acts as a sophisticated recorder.
With that said, the Sirius portable satellite receiver S50 is still a great
satellite radio. If you're listening to music, it really doesn't matter if
the song you're hearing is live or recorded. After all, it's not that on
live recording the singer sits in the studio...
Moreover, listening to recorded music means you can fast-forward
though the recorded songs. You don't have to listen to live songs you
dislike. Although its price is not low, the Sirius S50 is a high quality
and impressive satellite radio.
The black look of the S50 is very elegant and attractive. The portable
unit is small, measuring 3.9 by 1.9 by 0.7 inches and weighing just 6.5
ounces. The TFT display shows 262,000 colors. There are no controls
on the front; the hold button and the volume controls are on the left
side, while power, menu, and playback controls (most of which pull
double duty if held for a few seconds) are on the right.
The car kit of the S50 is the most popular. The kit holds it upright
along the dashboard and includes an FM transmitter for listening to
songs through your car's stereo. The large and spongy five-way
navigation control is easy enough to use while driving. It also offers
audio navigation, which speaks the names of the channels and
setting screens as you turn to them so that you don't have to take
your eyes off the road for long while using it. The car combo also
includes headphones and a belt clip for portable use, as well as a
USB cable for connecting to a Windows 2000 or XP PC.
The home kit has a matching black dock that features a large tilt
button for selecting options. Either kit can connect to your PC via a
USB 2.0 connection (cable included) so that you can load your own
MP3 or WMA tracks, manage the S50's content, or download firmware
updates. Sirius has already released a crucial update that broadens
the S50's recording options so that you can schedule recordings of
music channels, not just talk channels.
The Sirius S50 has 1GB of storage, which is not much for an MP3
player. Half of this storage can be used for the user's own tracks. The
user can load purchased songs but not subscription content. The
other half of the storage space is for Sirius recorded content. The S50
keeps track of the three music stations you listen to the most and
automatically records content while on and tuned to that station.
Sirius content is in a proprietary compressed format and at a variable
bit rate. When the S50 is full of recorded Sirius content, you'll have
approximately 50 hours of music. You can use the settings to delete
a channel that you don't want automatically recorded but not to set
To get automatically recorded content, you'll have to connect it to
your car or home. When driving your car, you must record content
while listening. At home you can leave it on all night (or use timed
recording) for hours of fresh new content. Though keep in mind that
recordings can't be longer than two hours.
When you're not connecting the satellite radio to the car or home
dock, you can listen to three types of recordings: songs manually
added, scheduled Sirius recordings, or favorite-channel recordings
that the player creates by itself. You can listen to anything on the go
except live content.
Using the Sirius S50's controls can be awkward since the right-side
buttons take care of different tasks depending on which menu you're
in. The sound quality is surprisingly good for recorded content. The
main drawback with the Sirius S50 is its battery life, which can prove
to be a major problem if you use it as a portable player.
Apart from this, the Sirius S50 is a great portable satellite radio.