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Review: Samsung Helix

The three words that Samsung uses to pitch the Helix -- a pocket XM radio receiver and recorder -- is "TiVo for radio." Like most analogies, it's not quite right. But it's not all that far off, either.

PersonalTechPipeline recently got a chance to work with an early production model of the Helix for this First Look.

About the same shape as a Palm Treo but half an inch shorter and a bit lighter, the Helix could easily be mistaken for a cell phone. A color screen 1 ½ inches square sits above three function keys and four directional buttons with an XM button in the middle -- all backlit. On/off/hold and volume switches are along the right edge, a power/docking port is on the left edge, and the headphone jack and USB port are on the top, next to a stub antenna. The rechargeable LiIon battery is a service item but replaceable. Battery life is rated at 15 hours for playback and 5 hours of live radio listening.

A remote control, docking station, AC adapter, external antenna, ear buds, RCA and USB cables are included, as is a CD-ROM with Napster software. More about that later. A car kit is a $70 aftermarket option; the Helix itself contains an FM modulator so it can play through the car's radio.

The docking station holds the Helix horizontally. When docked, the Helix's display rotates so it is easily readable. Even more nifty is that the directional keys also rotate, so that the Up button is always the one pointing up and the Left button is always the one pointing left, whether the Helix is being held in your hand or stored in the dock.

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