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iHome iA100 Bluetooth Audio System

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What's hot: Exceptional sound, Bluetooth audio streaming, integrated with the iHome + Sleep App.

What's not: iHome + Sleep App is a bit unintuitive.

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Reviewed November 30, 2010 by Tom Slayton

The iA100 is a brand new offering from iHome that seeks to do it all; and almost completely succeeds. Not only does it allow you to dock ALL of your iOS devices (including the iPad 2), it sounds great, and has a rock-solid Bluetooth component that works exactly as advertised.

iHome iA100

Hardware

The iHome iA100, with its integrated clock radio, is a speaker dock that is specifically targeted for the bedroom. The first thing you will notice is how nice this thing looks. The second thing you will notice, however, will make you forget the first; the sound quality is truly excellent for such a small unit. Undaunted, I cranked it all the way to its maximum volume and was surprised to find that the sound held together quite nicely. No distortion and a continuously good range.

The more time I spent with the iA100, the more I liked it. It has some nice little touches indicating that the engineers put a great deal of thought into designing it. It not only accommodates all iOS devices, but also accommodates those devices in cases; even bulky ones. It manages this by raising the docking plug, and allowing it to rock front to back, as necessary. I was able to dock both my iPhone and iPad in their Otterbox cases, which was a very welcome surprise. If you aren’t partial to cases, however, they’ve thought of you as well. The unit comes with a heavy rubber insert that fills the space around the plug very snugly so your unfettered device won’t be precariously floating above the dock. I found even my iPad to be quite stable when docked, thanks to a very sturdy metal support rod discreetly located behind the docking port.

iHome iA100

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Features and Software

The iHome iA100 is jam-packed with features, all of which actually work. In a matter of seconds, I had managed to pair my iPhone with the device, and was streaming music directly to it via Bluetooth. Seriously, it really was that easy. Next, I tried the Bluetooth speakerphone feature and was again surprised to be able to conduct a conversation with my wife (without yelling) from 10+ feet away. If you tend to shy away from techie features like this when you buy electronics, I encourage you to give it a try because it all just works.

The iHome + Sleep App is available free via Apple’s App Store, and while it makes the iA100 feature-rich, it is also a bit quirky. On the upside, you can set your device to play music as you go to sleep. The app gradually lowers the volume as it gets closer to the pre-determined shutoff time. This is one of those features that I never knew I needed but now cannot live without. It also displays weather, and gives you full access to your music library.

Now for the quirkiness… First, you can’t select individual songs or playlists when using either of the integrated hardware alarms. Consequently, you will wake to whatever music was last played. Based on the user manual, alarms actually look for a playlist titled “iHome,” and will play whatever they contain. Unfortunately, it didn’t do that in our tests even after I created the required playlist. In case you are wondering, hardware alarms are usually superior to software only alarms because they will always make some kind of sound, even in the event of a power failure (assuming you’ve installed the batteries). The second thing is the News feature. Yes, that’s right, you are given the option to wake to news; but only if you have a Facebook or Twitter account. If you don’t have any, you won’t be able to use this new feature. The iHome + Sleep App works nicely on the iPhone, but on the iPad, it crashes more than we’d like to see. Hopefully we will see future updates that fix the bugs and make the app more stable on the iPad.

iHome iA100

Conclusion

The iHome iA100 is a high quality, feature rich, iOS device speaker dock. The sound is excellent, the Bluetooth features work exactly as you hope they would, and the integrated app brings even more functionality. The App is the only weak link, especially on the iPad. The good news, however, is that it's only weak compared to the truly excellent hardware it interfaces with. Besides, it's easily updated, and I expect to see some tweaks in the upcoming weeks and months.

Pro: High quality design and construction. Bluetooth feature is very robust. Superior sound for something so small.

Con: The iHome + Sleep App isn’t quite up the high standards set by the hardware.

 

Price: $199

Web Site: www.ihomeaudio.com

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