iPod Accessory Reviews: video player
Sonic Impact V55
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Review posted April, 2007 by Jacob Spindel, Chief iPod Correspondent
When we reviewed the XtremeMac MicroBlast, I noted that it was perhaps the pioneer of a new type of iPod peripheral: a hybrid between a case and a speaker dock. However, the device’s limited functionality and audio quality impaired its ability to execute this new idea successfully. Sonic Impact’s V55 attempts a similar idea, but it adds an attention-grabbing 7-inch LCD screen to the mix. Besides the screen, the unit also adds several more subtle features that the MicroBlast lacked. Although it adds a few new problems too, the Sonic Impact V55 is, at last, an effective combination of an iPod case and a speaker dock.
The V55 measures 10.8 inches by 1.6 inches by 9.5 inches, and it folds open “clamshell” style, much like a laptop. The top half features the aforementioned widescreen LCD, with a resolution of 480 pixels x 234 pixels (the iPod’s built-in screen is 320 x 240), and stereo speakers with enhanced bass are built into the hinge area. The bottom half has a bay for a 5G iPod (inserts are included so that any capacity of iPod Video will work, but no other iPod types will) and a hold switch, as well as buttons for controlling the volume, navigating the device’s own onscreen menu, and a power on/off button. The buttons don’t actually move when you press them—they are touch-sensitive and light up instead. This is a cool idea that complements the iPod’s own design, although I had occasional problems with the buttons getting “stuck” even though I was no longer touching them (you can move the hold switch on and then back off to remedy this situation, although it is not especially convenient).
The iPod bay itself is remarkably well designed, with a base connector that is hinged and an indentation on the other side to allow for some “thumb room.” In other words, you can remove the iPod simply by lifting it forward and then pulling it off the connector, without having to pry at it for hours or smash it against a blunt object (don’t ask). It’s still a tight fit, though, so you won’t be able to use any other iPod case (except for thin film protectors) while your iPod is docked in the V55.
By now, you may instinctively be wondering where the controls for the iPod are. The answer is... on the iPod. The V55 does not make any attempt to replace the iPod’s built-in interface; instead, you just use the click wheel as you normally do, except that you must turn TV mode on (you can configure this in the iPod’s Settings menu). Although the V55 does have an AV output port that could potentially be used to connect it to a TV (as well as an input port for external video sources), it is primarily designed to be used in your hands, not from across the room.
Nonetheless, the V55 does include a remote control, which is also very cleverly designed. A small bay at the front of the V55 stores the tiny remote with the same sort of spring-loaded “push-in/push-out” mechanism that most PDAs use for inserting SD cards. Snap the remote in, and you can carry the remote with you, without adding any extra bulk or volume whatsoever. Snap it back out, and a small door flips in to cover the remote bay, preventing the bay from getting dusty or hindering the aesthetics of the device. The remote has all the same buttons that are built into the main unit, but again, no iPod controls.
Built into the bottom of the V55 is a rechargeable lithium-ion battery whose appearance again evokes the phrase “like a laptop.” Although it is indeed a relatively large battery by portable device standards, in my testing, even after bringing the battery to a full charge with the included AC adaptor, the total amount of video-watching time I was able to get per charge was generally in the range of 2-3 hours. This is enough for shorter trips, but I wouldn’t recommend the V55 as an “extended battery” product—if extended play time is your main goal, you would do much better with a product like XtremeMac’s MicroPack.