Monster iCarPlay 800 Wireless iPhone FM Transmitter Review

The Monster iCarPlay 800 Wireless FM transmitter
The Monster iCarPlay 800 Wireless FM transmitter. image credit: Monster

This product has been discontinued by the manufacturer.

Works With
iPhones with dock connector
iPods with dock connector

The Good
Plays iPhone music via car stereo
Charges iPhone while in use

The Bad
Confusing interface
Doesn’t always pick clearest stations
Slow scanning
Occasional bursts of static
Requires adapter for iPhones with Lightning port
High list price

The Price
US$89.95

Finding a good iPhone FM transmitter isn’t easy.

There are a lot of contenders and a lot of detailed features that need attention in order to create a good product. Monster’s iCarPlay 800 Wireless is a promising contender in the iPhone FM transmitter arena, but some interface difficulties and usability quirks combine to place it in the middle of the pack.

A Solid iPhone FM Transmitter

In many ways, the iCarPlay 800 Wireless is a standard iPhone FM transmitter. One end plugs into a car’s power adapter to charge the iPhone or iPod while in use. The other end attaches to the iPhone’s dock connector and lets you either tune into an FM station to send the iPhone’s music to your car stereo or scan to select an interference-free FM frequency to broadcast your music on. It offers three preset stations and an LCD display to let you know what station you’re using.

When evaluating it for these features, the device does what it claims and works pretty well.

But there are a number of nuances and small shortcomings that add up to a less-than-ideal experience.

Quirks and Shortcoming

To control the station that the iCarPlay 800 Wireless broadcasts over, you either scan for open signals or use a dial to tune it. Scanning is somewhat problematic. The scan button is the same as the third preset, which is held down to begin a scan.

This was not immediately obvious. When I figured it out, the process of scanning took so long that I assumed that it wasn’t working. If you wait long enough, though, scan works and does find stations.

The stations the iCarPlay 800 Wireless finds aren’t always clear or interference free. This is true of all iPhone FM transmitters, but the stations located by the Belkin TuneCast Auto Live were consistently clearer than those identified by the iCarPlay 800, even when using the devices in the same physical location.

If the station the device suggests isn’t to your liking, you can also tune in other stations manually. Doing this with a dial rather than a button simply isn’t a good experience while driving. Clicking a button can be done easily with one hand, and without really taking your eyes off the road to look at the device. Tuning the dial requires more attention and feels less safe, an experience you definitely don’t want with something designed for use in the car.

The iCarPlay is also prone to short, loud bursts of static, even on clear channels. This seems to happen most when skipping songs, and is (obviously) unpleasant.

The Bottom Line

The iCarPlay 800 Wireless does what it sets out to do, at least in terms of its basic functionality.

Unfortunately, though, with a user interface that's not ideal for driving and slow scanning that doesn’t deliver the clearest station, other iPhone FM transmitters are better choices.

Originally published: April 2010