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Tuning to the programs you prefer

From Thursday's Globe and Mail

Satellite radio should need no introduction by now. Launched into the Canadian marketplace just before the 2005 holiday season, Sirius Canada and XM Canada offer similar but critically different lineups.

Both offer abundant choice in programming for a monthly subscription of $14.99. The key considerations are how much time you spend listening to radio, and what kind of programs you prefer. For those who travel or spend a lot of time in the car, satellite is a good alternative to constantly fumbling to change CDs or find stations.

Sirius Canada offers 110 channels, 65 of them commercial free, of music by genre, news, talk, entertainment and sports — including live CFL, NHL, NFL and NBA play-by-play games. XM has slightly fewer channels but a similar lineup, with a special emphasis on NHL coverage. Sirius boasts attractions such as Martha Stewart and Howard Stern, while XM has Bob Dylan, Mike Bullard and Oprah Winfrey.

New-car buyers may find themselves skewing to XM because it comes factory-installed on a number of GM vehicles.

Sirius, on the other hand, has gone big in retail channels and recent numbers show it is outselling its rival by two to one.

The question, then, is choice of programming, followed closely by choice of hardware.

Sirius Stiletto 100

$449 This satellite radio receiver is small enough to fit in your pocket and lets you listen, record and go seamlessly from car to home to office. You can even plug into Sirius over the Internet. The Stiletto 100 records up to 100 hours of music and is also configured to buy music through Yahoo! Music service. Users can also upload their own MP3/WMA files.

XM Pioneer Inno

$399 The portable Inno can store 50 hours of XM content and links to Napster. It also plays MP3s. Note that it requires both a home kit and a car kit, at about $130 each.

Sirius Sportster4 Plug and Play

$169 This slim line unit will hook up to your car or home sound system via an FM transmitter and will store and replay up to 44 minutes of radio programming. It has an easy-to-read display and large tuning knob and buttons and will alert you when you favourite artists or songs are coming up.

XM Delphi MyFi

$329 The MyFi captures up to five hours of content, allowing you to listen even when you're somewhere the satellite signal can't reach, such as in the subway or on an airplane. Billed primarily as a personal player, it also includes the car and home-mount kit.

Sirius Starmate Replay

$109 A small player that can be mounted in the car or at home with an optional kit. It has a large wide-screen display with up to five lines of text for content details such as artist name and song title. Like the Sportster, it will record up to 44 minutes of programming and features a preview function to check what's playing on another channel.

XM Delphi RoadyXT

$99 A mini personal player about the size of a cellphone that can be adapted for home or car use with purchase of the optional mounting kits. Few bells and whistles but ready to go out of the box.

XM Audiovox XCS9

$49 This low-profile unit has a six-line LCD display and blue backlighting and can double as a clock and sleep timer. It also has 14 built-in selectable frequencies to hook up to your car or home system.

Sirius gift card

$50 and $75 For the person who has a satellite-ready car radio or portable player, there's also the option of a gift card. The money on the card can be used toward satellite activation or subscription.

Special to The Globe and Mail

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