It's taken awhile, but the first HD portable radio worthy of the name has finally arrived at Best Buy, and at a price even cynics will like. The new Insignia NS-HD01 is roughly the size of an Ipod, comes with a Velcro arm strap, earbuds, rechargeable lithium ion battery pack, and color LCD display, all for the sublime price of $49.99 at Best Buy's online store.
Early user reviews of the NS-HD01 are a mixed bag. Powered like an Ipod, the battery is integral (non-replaceable) and is designed to recharge from a USB port. A wall charger is not included, but since the pinout arrangement is identical to the classic Ipod, any USB compatible charger marketed for use with Apple's product should work. Battery life is said to be somewhat below the10 hours specified by the manufacturer, but that's a complaint common to most portable consumer devices, and even 6 hours would represent a huge improvement over the earlier generations of HD Radio receivers that were true power gluttons.
One nearly universal complaint about the NS-HD01 concerns its lack of MP3 player functionality. But hey, this is a radio after all, and most of us already own at least one (or several) flash player(s).
Some users have reported that use of higher quality headphones greatly improves the listener experience, though Insignia cautions against using anything but the factory supplied ear buds, due to the fact that they are designed to double as the radio's antenna. Your mileage may vary.
But make no mistake. The NS HD-01 marks a major milestone in HD Radio's tortuous timeline: true portability in a familiar, user friendly package at a price point that will surely convince some consumers to say "Aww, what the heck..." Sales of this little radio will be worth watching, as will user reviews and forum posts. If HD Radio is ever going to pass the tipping point, Insignia's new portable could prove to be the sparkplug.