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Luna Clock Radio Aims for the Moon

Luna Clock Radio Aims for the MoonBy Kevin Hunt(c) 2007, The Hartford Courant The Luna clock radio-docking station has a one-track mind. Luna, as in Lunacy, is crazy about the iPod. Luna is so obsessed – topped in iPod white, with a king-of-the-world iPod universal dock atop the radio, minimalist Apple design and obsessive devotion to duplicating functions of the iPod’s infamous click-wheel control – that it shortchanged the AM/FM radio. XtremeMac, the accessories company whose name betrays its Apple allegiance, ran out of inspiration after dolling up the Luna for iPod lovers. The AM/FM tuner, in my audition, struggled to pull in all but the most powerful local stations without a steady hiss. Sadly, that makes it no worse than most clock radios. But through the background noise, the Luna still scores points for originality and, particularly, for its price ($150). Viewed as an iPod alarm clock – which is what the company calls it – with a standard-issue radio thrown in, the Luna begins to look like a bargain. The Luna deserves its spot in Apple stores (it’s also available at xtrememac.com) next to the iPod family for the ingenious, though not quite ideal, controls of its onscreen menu. Instead of singular knobs for volume or changing radio stations, the Luna has four chrome dials – one in each corner on top. The front two perform multiple tasks when pressed or spun. The rear two get off easy: Each has a simple responsibility, an alarm setting. The front left dial, for instance, turns Luna on and off. Press it to select for iPod or radio. Hold it down and the radio menu pops up on the 2.13-inch dot-matrix LCD screen. Spin it to control the volume. This dial also shifts Luna into snooze mode when an alarm sounds. The front right dial is a click-wheel wannabe. Holding it down displays the main menu on the screen. Spinning the dial scrolls he menu to set time and date, station presets (only four), adjust bass and treble, summon the radio submenu, dim the screen or set the sleep mode to doze off to music. When setting an alarm, you can determine Luna’s maximum volume at wake-up call, how long it will take to reach that maximum volume and whether the screen should be brighter than the previous night – and this is before deciding if you want to awake to a buzz, beep, ring, radio or iPod. All this requires some hands-on training. XtremeMac doesn’t help, supplying only a cut-out guide that fits over the pushbuttons. A complete manual is available only as a download at the company’s Web site. Anyone else feel duped? So I downloaded the manual’s relevant parts – not the 83-page multilingual version – then spent several days pushing, spinning and tapping the dials. The variety of settings, modes and lighting moods will delight iPod users, but sometimes Luna violates Apple’s keep-it-simple mission. Once you turn on the radio, for instance, the station can be changed only for the few seconds the AM/FM band indicator blinks. After that, spinning the right dial only adjusts the screen’s brightness. To change stations, you must access the menu, then press the dial repeatedly before locking in the desired station. Selecting a station preset, designed for quick-hit simplicity on most radios, requires similar steps. It’s much easier to use the remote – which handles basic controls for both the radio and iPod – to go from station to station or quickly select presets. The best sound, not surprisingly, came from my Nano. A pair of 3.5-inch speakers concealed behind black metal mesh sounded quite good for their size and the radio’s price. Despite its streamlined design – 11 inches wide, 6.5 inches deep and 3 inches tall – the Luna can play loudly without much stress. XtremeMac has made some tuner-software upgrades to the Luna, but it needs to do more. If it improves the AM/FM tuner’s reception and fine-tunes the controls, the Luna will ascend from a flawed but intriguing $150 clock radio/docking station to one of the best cheap dates for your iPod.


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