• Motorola's New Roadster 2

      Motorola Roadster 2
      Having become increasingly enamored with listening to audiobooks, streaming audio, and satellite radio on road trips, I was recently considering swapping out the factory-installed AM/FM radio/CD player in my road trip vehicle for a newer device. I wanted something that could also broadcast audio from Internet streaming sources or a storage device like an iPod or a smartphone. I’d done some initial shopping online and at a car stereo store. I had steeled myself to the fact that my vehicle’s attractive dashboard might now sport a new ugly “after-market” visage. Short of buying a new car, it was my only option, right? As it turns out, the answer is a simple and happy “No!”

      I might have gone through with the dashboard surgery if a small package had not arrived in the mail at the perfect moment. (Okay, here’s the disclaimer – I was sent this device free in the hopes I’d write a review.) I opened the box to find a small square device called the Motorola Roadster 2. Imagine my delight as I read the accompanying literature. A gadget about the size and weight of a garage door remote (and similarly equipped with a clip for attaching it to a visor) promised to deliver my stored or streamed audio content through my car’s speakers or its own built-in speaker. If the brochure could be believed, I could listen to music, audiobooks, Internet radio, old episodes of “Law & Order,” etc, etc, ETC, without disturbing my dashboard or buying an expensive new component.

      Bracing myself for a steep learning curve, I took the Roadster 2 to my car along with the instruction booklet and my smart phone. I clipped the device onto the visor and attached its charger, which has a micro-USB plug on one end and a car power-point (cigarette lighter) plug on the other. The device was ready for immediate use. Within minutes, I had followed the Roadster’s voice prompts to “pair” my smart phone with the Roadster 2 via Bluetooth, and I was already listening to music via Internet radio. A few more voice prompts later, I had music streaming through my car’s FM radio and speakers. It was all so easy, the instruction booklet was all but unnecessary.

      I just returned from a week-long road trip. The Roadster 2 was a delightful companion. Not only could I listen to streaming audio whenever I had a cell signal, I could switch to stored audio content when I was out of cell range. When I felt like checking out local offerings, I switched the Roadster 2 off and reverted to my trusty AM/FM in-dash radio. It was the best of all worlds.

      The Roadster 2 is also designed to provide hands-free cell phone use. While I prefer to avoid talking on the phone while driving, I did test out this functionality, and it worked just fine.

      For around $75 (here's a link to Amazon's page about it), the Roadster 2 provides everything I was looking for and thought would cost me $300 to $500 (plus an ugly dash). In addition, I can use it in a rental car, and that’s only the beginning. I used the Roadster 2 in a motel room on my trip. Its built-in speaker is remarkably good for its size, and the battery lasts a good long time. There are also a few interesting apps available, one that remembers where you parked your car, and another that lets you listen to and dictate text hands-free. I haven’t tried them—it’ll be something new for my next road trip.

      In the meantime, I’m still amazed by what this great little gadget offers. Not only is it far cheaper than the component I thought I would have to buy, it’s small, portable, and works like a dream. Well done, Motorola, and I’m not just saying it because you sent me one. I’m saying it because the Roadster 2 is my new favorite road trip companion (next to certain human ones, of course).

      Comments 3 Comments
      1. alex_b's Avatar
        alex_b -
        It's worth checking your cell phone's data plan. Streaming media for 4-5 hours a day is going to eat up a good amount of data and you could have a nasty surprise at the end of the month. I'd suggest podcasting media when you're in free WiFi coverage and then listening to that instead.
      1. Megan Edwards's Avatar
        Megan Edwards -
        You are absolutely correct, and I'm glad you mentioned this. I have an "unlimited" data plan, which makes streaming a reasonable option for me. Without such a plan, podcasting is a MUCH better choice. Thanks for pointing this out -- surprises can be fun, but not nasty ones like a huge unexpected cell bill.
      1. Mark Sedenquist's Avatar
        Mark Sedenquist -
        Just used this device again this week. Listened to a 9 hour CD Audio Book. Works really well.