Satellite radio have proven itself to be more than just a passing fad and I decided to try it for myself. I didnt want to break the bank so being a cheap skate, I bought the entry-level XM Snap! Even the name got me excited. I mean, it has an exclamation mark. It must be good, right? After testing out Snap! for a few months, I think they should have called it the XM Crap! Because thats what it is. Since I cant really sugar-coat it, Ill do a 2 part review. Both on the Snap! and the Sirius XM service.
I purchased Snap! at Best Buy on sale for $30. I figured, Hey, its cheap and I can try out the service to see if its any good. Ive been hearing Sirius XM often as newer cars have them built-in. My brother owns an older car so hes stuck with land radio and a cd player. Snap! promised simple plug-and-play. It was fairly simple to get started.
Take Snap!, shove it into your cigarette lighter plug, route the antenna, hook the antenna, match the FM tuner, and start listening. Before you can start listening though, you need to subscribe to XM radio which can be done easily on their website. You need to choose a subscription and activate a radio. Each radio has a unique id, sort of like a phone ESN. Once you pay for a subscription and activate a radio, you can start listening to satellite radio. Setting up XM online was fairly easy though a bit tedious. Instead of paying one price, they actually have tiered plans that offer extra channels or whatever. I simply went with the cheapest, most basic plan. It was easy. Plug in my credit card info, radio id, and it was done. This is where things started to go downhill.
After using Sirius XM for about 2 months, I can honestly say that their service is just okay. Not great but not bad. Just okay. Let me explain. In my opinion, the basic plan was already pretty expensive. It was about $14 which is about half the price of basic Internet access around here. I have high-speed Internet service so I pay more but a basic net plan can easily deliver streaming music and video. Besides the relatively high price, I cant but help feel a bit conned into signing up. Granted, no one put a gun to my head and I probably should have read the TOS more closely(who does?) but I signed up for a recurring payment. There is no option to make single payments. I pay all of my bills online except for rent and I have the piece of mind knowing that I have to manually pay and not have xyz company reach their grubby little hands into my bank account and take my money. Ill even admit that I often keep my balance low so overdraft fees are a legitimate threat. After realizing that I signed up for recurring payments, I figured, Ill just listen to it for a month and if I dont like it, Ill just cancel. Boy was I wrong. Here comes the real con job. Sirius XM makes it so easy for you to sign up online with a few keypresses but to cancel your subscription, you have to call them on an 800 number. Really? Ive been through this before with phone contracts. Id have to call CS, tell them to cancel my contract, they beg me to stay, and go through all that BS. They make it so easy for you to pay and sub online but they dont give you the same option when you want to cancel. You know what? It works. Ive let recurring payments go on and to be honest, if I could cancel online, I would. The only thing that is keeping me is Howard.
Howard carrying XM
You all you Howard right? The KING of all media, Howard Stern. Yes, I enjoy listening to his talk shows. Hes an interesting character and his shows are entertaining. I also listen to music obviously. Unfortunately, the music is not so good. First of all, lets talk about XM Snap! I bought the XM Crap! on sale for $30. The original price was $60. No way in hell is this little thing worth 60 bones. Let me tell you why. First off, the thing is cheap. Not really surprising since they advertise it as an entry-level XM receiver. It is all plastic. Im guessing they gave it the name Snap! because you can easily snap it in half. I have to give it some credit. Using it is pretty easy. You plug it into your cigarette lighter, tune your existing car radio to match the Snap! XMs frequency and enjoy satellite radio. They recommend that you use an AUX cable to hook to your cars stereo but unfortunately, that wasnt an option for my brothers old Eclipse. If you live in a metro area like me, you will constantly have to fight existing radio stations and re-tune your Snap! to get clearer sound. You really have to find an abandoned FM frequency to have it working without interference. I would highly recommend hooking up the AUX if your car supports it. Save yourself the headache.
Apart from the cool name, I found the XM experience to be very similar to its old FM counterpart. The reception is live and a bit spotty at times. If you drive under a highway bridge, you will lose reception for a split second. They say you should mount the magnetic antennae on the top-center of the car. We did that but we still get breaks in reception even when trees are a few car-lengths to our sides. The ability to change stations based on genres is nice back in 2000. Sirius XM also delivers song artist and title data. Unfortunately, and this is my biggest complaint about XM Snap!, the text does NOT scroll! Lets say you are listening to a good songs and you want to know what it is. All you see is Backstreet Boys It (:P)and it stops there. literally. It does not scroll. I paid $30 and I still feel ripped off. How hard is it to put scrolling text onВ this thing? Im not a computer programmer or anything but its 2012 and I have scrolling text on my damn watch. You mean to tell me a big company that charges 14 bones for radio subscription and $60 for this thing cant give us scrolling text? I have to pull out my phone and use Shazam to look up the titles. Why?
Another dumb thing about this thing is the backlighting. Its shines bright blue which isnt bad at all in the daytime, but at night, it ruins your night vision and you end up squinting at the road. If youre going to use backlighting, why not go with a color that preserves night vision like green, amber, and red? And you cant turn off or dim the brightness? So youre only choice is to (appropriately) wring its neck to the side. $60?
I have very specific taste in music. Most people looking up this review would feel the same way if theyre considering XM. For music, it didnt satisfy my appetite. For one, their electronica stations are very limited. They dont have trance, vocal trance, goa/psy, breakbeats, or dubstep. Although they have chillout(my fav) they often repeat tracks. You hear them way too often. Their hip-hop selection is pretty narrow also. They have southern hip-hop but not 90s hip-hop or conscious rap? The usual radio rap like Drake, Lil Wayne and all those auto-tune guys but Ive never heard Nas, RAKIM, Blackstar, or Mos Def. They have pop by the decade but they omit the freestyle era of the 90s? Come on. I want to jam out to Stevie B! Overall, for $14 per month, you dont get much at all. And Im not so impress with their service to upgrade any time soon. Especially after finding out about their cancellation procedures. I am still a subscriber. Honestly, listening to Howard is the only reason I am still paying. I commute over 2 hours a day to work so I have a lot of time to test things out. The selection is mediocre, the quality is fair(mainly due to FM tuning), the price is high(for what you get), and the product itself(Snap!) is subpar. It really is that bad. It shouldve never left quality control. They should haveВ hired a college dropout to program scrolling text. I mean, that in itself is inexcusable. I bought it for $30 and honestly, it feels like its worth $10. I dont know what went on during the Sirius/XM merger but it looks like a mirror of the Kmart/Sears merger. They need to get their act together or theyre going under. I get better music from my phone running Pandora and DI.fm and I would do so once I upgrade. After trying out XM Snap! I would steer clear of any XM branded products. I would rather buy a deck that supports XM as an option rather than a standalone XM receiver. They dont seem to stand by their products. Another thing to note. My friend purchased a new car and apparently, there seems to be a trend where car dealers give you a 3 or 6 month trial of XM to get you hooked. His trial ran out and not surprisingly, he didnt sign up. Overall, XM Snap! is garbage. there really isnt much more to say. The Sirius XM service is fair. With so much competition from smart phone apps like Pandora, Slacker Radio, and Spotify, there no need for shifty tactics like calling to cancel. Plus Bluetooth A2DP is quickly becoming a standard so unless XM get with the program, they will go the way of the video store. People will just stream music from their smart phones. Try harder guys. Siriusly
I called customer service to have my XM service canceled and В as I predicted, I was transferred to a customer service representative who hassled me to keep subscribing. I politely told the rep that I wasnt using it that much and she offer me more time to explore it with 2 free months. After giving her all my information and talking for a few minutes I asked her why do you guys make it so easy to sign up for XM via the website but I have to go through the hassle of calling customer support, being put on hold for 10 minutes, and fighting with you[XM] to cancel my service? She quickly changed the subject saying some written, We value our customers and we do our best to provide our users with the best experience blah, blah blah.. At this point, I didnt feel like arguing and was happy to get it over with. Ive since purchased a new phone and will use Pandora to substitute XM on those long rides to work.
Sirius XM Snap!
Sirius XM Snap! is a cheap entry level Sat-radio receiver and it shows. The device is all plastic and although it works, Sirius cuts costs by omitting obvious standards like back-light control and scrolling text. The Snap! is easy to install and it works as advertised but the XM service is spotty and way too expensive. The device itself is very expensive costing $60. Sirius XM needs to get their act together. Verdict: Pass