XM Satellite Radio
Faced with a daily commute to San Mateo — 23 miles each way — I weighed my options for driving entertainment. I could buy a 40 GB iPod to listen to music, audio books, and podcast tracks every day. I could also buy a satellite radio. I knew a lot about the iPod, but very little about satellite radio. XM Satellite Radio is the dominant player with over 2.5 million subscribers compared to SIRIUS Satellite Radio‘s 600,000 subscribers. XM is $3 cheaper at $10 compared to $13 a month for Sirius. I have also been reading a lot about the XM’s programming lately, so they were the clear winner. I went to my local Best Buy and checked out the Delphi XM Roady2. Tiny box, backlighting to match my car’s interior, tiny satellite antenna, and a built-in FM transmitter. I played around with the unit in the store, was happy enough with it, and picked up a box from the display. I paid $120 for the unit and $10 to activate the service online. I of course hooked up the satellite radio in the parking lot but the only channel available to me was full of channel promotions. XM should instead cycle through some channels to let me have a true satellite radio experience! After activating the service and waiting the recommended hour I got back in my car to test reception and channel offerings. The right thing to do is mount the antenna on your roof with a clear view of the southern sky. Too much effort. I placed my antenna on the dashboard and drove around downtown and across San Francisco. My signal did not drop through all of downtown San Francisco. I had some reception troubles driving around the steep hills Pacific Heights and some areas of the Presidio. Yesterday I was able to drive through the “Rainbow Tunnel” north of the Golden Gate Bridge with no loss of signal. The main argument I hear about Sirius right now is access to the Howard Stern show. Most people do not realize that the station featuring Howard Stern on Sirius will be a premium channel for an additional monthly fee. XM charges an extra $2 a month per radio for its High Voltage channel featuring Opie & Anthony. Howard Stern’s show will most likely be on a premium channel and cost above $2 a month per radio to help cover the $100 million a year Sirius is paying the radio personalities. So far I have been happy with my choice but I am still getting used to the channel listings. I’ve been listening to Unsigned, Fred, and BBC World Service. I am able to browse channels by the currently playing song and artist: an easy way to find new favorites.