The Bottom Line
2011 Readers' Choice Awards Winner: Best Car FM Transmitter
New Potato's TuneLink Auto is the first fully wireless iPod/iPhone FM transmitter I've used, employing Bluetooth to stream music to your car stereo. Between that and its effective technology for diminishing the noise and hum that plagues other FM transmitters, the TuneLink Auto is a top choice if you want to connect your iPhone to your car stereo.
- Easy set up and no cables getting in the way
- Very little interference when broadcasting on most frequencies
- Can be shared among multiple devices in a single car
- Changing transmission frequency requires looking at screen, which can be a distraction when driving
- Not immediately clear that it supports apps outside the TuneLink app
- Doesn't work with nano, Shuffle, Classic, or old iPods
- iPod / iPhone FM transmitter to connect device to car stereo
- Connects via Bluetooth (or optional audio cable)
- Includes battery-charging cable
- Works with iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad
- Requires iOS 4 or higher (4.1 or higher for sharing features)
- Price: US$99.99
Guide Review - New Potato TuneLink Auto iPhone FM Transmitter Review
Setting up the TuneLink Auto isn't quite as simple as some of its plug-and-play peers, but it's close. In this case, plug the TuneLink Auto into your car's cigarette lighter, turn on Bluetooth on your phone, pair the two, and you're ready to rock. If this process takes you 30 seconds, it took about 15 too long.
Having a wireless connection for an FM transmitter is a real upgrade over transmitters that use cables since there's no tangling with the cable or trying to turn the display to face you to see what frequency you're using. The wireless connection feels simpler and cleaner (though an included cable can be used to charge your device's battery).
One particularly nice feature of the TuneLink Auto resulting from its use of Bluetooth is that it can be shared with other Bluetooth devices in the car, allowing multiple passengers to be the DJ or shuffling between devices.
Once connected, you play music through the free TuneLink app that's required for the system to work) or through other apps. It's not immediately clear that apps work since they don't show up in the TuneLink app, but just exit the TuneLink app and open the app you want (I tested it with ESPN Radio) and you'll be good to go.
Superior Audio Quality
The TuneLink Auto boasts the best audio quality of any wireless FM transmitter I've tested. It does this with a feature that finds clear frequencies via GPS, and technology designed to eliminate the hum and interference that comes with using an FM transmitter in the car. While no FM transmitter is perfect, and there will always be some interference, the TuneLink Auto had the least I've encountered. In fact, I was able to use just a single station for the entirety of a drive from Providence to Boston, something that required two or three frequency changes with other transmitters.
Despite the TuneLink Auto's many great features, it does have a few drawbacks. For one, using the TuneLink app to play music through is a little confusing initially, since you'd expect to use the built-in iPod app. This isn't confusing for long, but the way it initially makes it appear that third-party apps won't work even though they do (as noted above), isn't smooth user experience.
The one real drawback to the Bluetooth/app combination in this case, as compared to the cable-based transmitters, is that to change your broadcast frequency, you have to unlock the phone, open the app, and make your change. This involves taking your eyes off the road a bit more than pressing a hardware button and glancing at a display, as with the cabled systems. It's not a major concern (at least in my testing), but it's worth keeping in mind.
Lastly, since the TuneLink uses Bluetooth, any device that doesn't have that, won't work. This shuts out any iPod that's not the iPhone, iPod touch, or iPad.
Despite these drawbacks, the strengths of the TuneLink Auto--especially the great audio quality--are strong indeed. Consider this one strongly.