Review: Funky iHome iA17 Serenades With Colourful Atmosphere
By Tony Ibrahim | Thursday | 25/08/2011
iHome has released an iPhone stereo companion that will light up any room, we just hope it has the sound to match.
The iA17 comes equipped with a remote control (battery included), AC power supply and radio antennae. Also included are the usual peripherals needed to accommodate Apple's iPhone and iPod range.
It has the proprietary 30 point pin that can be used for charging and managing music on Apple's iPhones and iPods. Docking the iPhone is easy, with the protruding pin holding the phone upright. The only bother is taking it off where concerns about damaging the charging port come to mind.
Unfortunately it lacks the standard auxiliary cable needed to connect non-Apple devices. Even though aux (3.5mm) is the industry standard, the iA17 comes off as being designed solely for Apple products as opposed to being optimised for it. Sure, an aux cable is only a few dollars, but not including one limits how it can be used.
The iA17 offers iPhone/iPod music playback, radio, radio streaming (device dependent) and AUX input. Setting radio pre-set stations isn't bothersome and because it has Apple's proprietary 30 pin connection, iDevices are charged as they're being used.
The Apple enhancement isn't hardware exclusive, with a free iHome Sleep App available that helps configure the device's preferences, such as alarm clock tone. Also available (at a cost) is the iHome radio App, which grants access to internet radio that can be played on the iHome iA17.
This has one of the easiest TimeSync functions I've seen yet. Simply plug in an Apple device, and press the labelled button located on the iA17's rear and the time will synchronise between the two devices.
Even though its optimised for usage with an Apple product, many of the benefits can still be gleaned from connecting it to a MP3 player, a computer or another phone, as long as they have the standard 3.5mm AUX input. Again, to do so you'll need to buy the cable first.
Design is where the iA17 scores most of its points, combining functionality with a pleasant bubbly personality. It has a fruit bowl like appeal to it, with the top serving a combination of speakers and buttons, while the bottom dazzles with its alternating light show.
The neon lights can be adjusted to a few programs, so the lighting scheme can suit your mood. When playing tunes, it definitely creates a lovable atmosphere, but the bubbly party ambience could cause dismay come morning, when it comes time for the alarm clock to wake you up.
At first I was lukewarm when it came to reviewing a disco-like alarm clock. I pictured myself waking up to a sensory assault, with the lights piercing my eyes on top of the usual alarm clock ringing.
But after closely examining it, I realised ingenuity was in the detail.
Stretching along the bottom of its control panel is a single, elongated button, labelled 'snooze/dimmer.' Because it's stretched across the unit, it's easy to snooze the alarm, and better yet, dim how bright the iA17's lighting is.
Thanks to the dim feature, going to sleep and waking up isn't any more bothersome than usual, and I appreciate how they anticipated such a need because it shows that this product was well thought out.
The buttons have a rubber coat that makes them easy to press and also give feedback. Layout is fantastic and the simplistic LED readout changes colours to match the alternating neon lights.
The iA17's design is great as its encasing is stylish, unobtrusive and doesn't take up much space.
I'm afraid praise for the iA17 comes short here, with the entertainment hub failing to deliver premium sound. Although the on board speakers are enough to find yourself singing out loud, they begin to distort under high volume strain, and even the coolest of lights can't fix that.
Playback at lower levels though is pretty decent, offering adequate range from a compact stereo.
The iA17's RRP price of $149 puts it in competition with some decent sound providers, but for atmosphere it's a system you can't go past.
If it was any other mediocre multimedia station, without the lively lights and detailed design, the sound quality would've been a terminal weakness. But the iHome iA17 isn't about optimum sound clarity: it's about atmosphere, and it delivers that in bulk.
Apr/May 2011 issue
reviews the hot new iPhone attach device, the Zeppelin Air. And we look at what's going on in the tablet space...