There are two ways to listen to music and other XM programming on the MyFi. In Direct mode, you tune in to the XM satellite service in real time as you normally would. Obviously, this requires that you get satellite reception, which means you have to either have a fairly unimpeded view of the sky or be in an area where XM has placed a lot of repeaters--as is the case here in New York City, where we did most of our testing.
So what do you do if, for example, you spend time underground riding the subway to work every day? Well, you can prerecord up to 5 hours of content into the device's memory buffer and listen to it essentially as you would if you were using an MP3 player (the mode is called MY XM), with the ability to skip from track to track. You can either hit the 2Go button to record what you're currently listening to, or you can preprogram the device to record a certain station at a certain time, just like a VCR (you can schedule only up to two sessions). The nice thing is that you're getting refreshed content on a daily basis--say, early morning news from the BBC--rather than the same stagnant content that sits on your player's hard disk.
After a quick browse of the manual and playing around with the MyFi for a couple of days, we found navigation to be fairly straightforward once we got used to using the scrollwheel on the side in concert with the buttons on the front. (Most navigation is done via the scrollwheel.) You can store up to 30 preset stations. The sound can be muted with a touch of a button or locked down by holding the same button. We also liked the TuneSelect feature, which allows you to store up 20 artist names or song titles and continuously check whether they're playing on any XM channel. And day traders will be happy to note that you can set the MyFi to stream a stock ticker across its face. Need more? It also displays sports scores and works as a clock and an alarm.
As we said, the MyFi is also designed to be used at home and in the car and comes with all the cables, antennas, docking stations, mounting brackets, and chargers to make that happen. A protective carrying case with a belt strap is included, along with a remote, earbud headphones, and an extra rechargeable battery, which is rated at 5 hours of battery life, though times will vary depending on whether you're listening to direct or prerecorded programming; we got closer to 6 hours listening to prerecorded music. The inclusion of those extras makes the somewhat hefty $350 price tag a lot more palatable, and as a bonus, the MyFi has a built-in FM transmitter (the equivalent of an iTrip for the iPod) that allows you to wirelessly transmit songs and programming for output on any FM radio. (Yes, it worked.)
A lot of things really impressed us about the MyFi, but the sound quality didn't blow us away, especially when we were using it as a portable. It doesn't sound bad, but it is a little volume challenged. It doesn't play loud enough for the streets of New York, for instance, and we definitely felt our iPod delivered richer, more refined sound. We can't say what the audio bit rate is, but it sounds compressed--even more so than your standard 128Kbps MP3. In other words, if you're used to ripping your MP3s at high bit rates (192Kbps to 320Kbps), you'll probably be disappointed. However, for more casual listening--both at home and on the road--the sound quality is acceptable.
Summing up, the MyFi has a lot to recommend it, and it's a truly groundbreaking product. In fact, if not for the average sound quality and volume levels, the MyFi would be Editors' Choice material. Ideally, Delphi could figure out a way to add a slot for memory so that it could be an MP3 player as well, covering all the bases. We'd also like to see better customized-recording capabilities, so you could pick and choose songs and other content from a programming guide, much as you would with a TiVo. It's a safe bet to assume that successive generations of portable satellite players will improve, but the MyFi is ready for prime time.
Editor's note: We have changed the rating in this review to reflect recent changes in our rating scale. Click here to find out more.