Portable Speaker Review: iHome iDM5 Bluetooth Keyboard Speaker System Review
Editor's Rating (1-5): 4
What's Hot: Very useable and comfy keyboard, good and clear stereo audio streaming and voice calling, charges two devices at the same time.
What's Not: Style from the past.
Reviewed by Tong Zhang
iHome has released a very uniquely designed speaker system, the iHome iDM5 comes with a full sized keyboard with a built-in tablet stand, stereo speakers that can stream audio wirelessly via A2DP as well as the built-in aux-in port, and two USB charging ports that can charge your tablet and your phone while you are typing. The iDM5 can function like your workstation as well as for video calling/conferencing and desktop speakerphone for your smartphone.
The iHome iDM5 has an ergonomic design that makes the keyboard comfortable to use, and the built-in tablet holder gives you a nice viewing angle while typing on the keyboard. You can position the tablet in both landscape or portrait orientation in the built-in stand, and when you are done, close the stand cover to save space and protect the keyboard. The iDM5 has a speaker on each side of the keyboard, firing to the sides. To the right of the full keyboard you will find a few control buttons for power on/off, volume controls, play/pause and Bluetooth button for pairing. There is also a Bluetooth and Aux-in slider which puts the speaker in either Bluetooth A2DP streaming mode or aux-in mode using the 3.5mm audio in jack on the back of the iDM5. Along with the aux-in jack, the speaker system has a power in jack on the back as well. Unlike most speaker systems or portable keyboards, the iHome iDM5 offers 2 USB charging ports that output enough amp power to charge both smartphones and tablets.
The black iDM5 measures 14.5 x 2.3 x 7.4 inches and weighs 3.3 lbs. While the keyboard speaker systems offers surprisingly more features than one might expect, the style harks back to old typewriters or old word processors predated computers.
It may have a style of an old word processor, the iHome iDM5 is a very capable portable system that can function as your keyboard, speaker system and a workstation. We will cover each of these functions below.
As a keyboard. The iDM5 has a full sized keyboard that's about the same size as a stand alone computer keyboard minus the number pad. The keyboard has standard US keyboard layout that works with most mobile devices. The keyboard has chiclet style keys that have nice size and very good travel. The design of the iDM5 gives the keyboard a very comfortable tilted angle for typing, and it doesn't tire out your wrists if you type for a long period of time on it. The excellent tactile feedback combined with well designed angle make typing fast and accurate. Unlike some of iHome's speakers that are specifically designed for a certain OS, the iDM5 works with a broader selection of devices and machines, therefore you won't find a lot of OS-specific buttons other than a "iPad/iPhone keyboard" button that launches the on-screen keyboard when working with an iPad or iPhone via Bluetooth.
As speakers and speakerphone. The iHome iDM5 has stereo speakers that fire out to either side. The volume is quite loud on the speaker system this size, and the audio separation is much more noticeable than other portable speakers thanks to the side firing speakers. The iDM5 has very clear sound while playing most music genres as well as streaming movie and gaming audio. The speaker system has SRS TruBass sound enhance which gives the bass some noticeable clarity, but the bass power isn't very strong.
For those who want to use the speaker system as their desktop speakerphone for their cell phones, the iDM5 offers superb incoming audio (mono) that's both very loud and clear, as well as very clear outgoing voice via the speaker's built-in mic. Though you will need to speak to the mic at a close range for a loud and fuller outgoing voice.
As a workstation. If you are using a tablet as your productivity machine, the iDM5 offers another very cool feature: it has 2 USB power through ports that can charge your smartphone as well as your tablet. We tested the USB charging ports with many smartphones as well as iPad models and Samsung Galaxy Tab models, all charged through the iDM5 fine.
The iHome iDM5 has built-in Bluetooth 2.1 + EDR. It supports A2DP and AVRCP for streaming stereo audio through its built-in speakers, as well as Hands-Free and Headset profiles for working with your phone for making and receiving calls. The dual speakers work well and loud as desktop speakerphone, and the keyboard has a handy built-in mic for outgoing voice. We tested it with several smartphones and it worked well with them all. Working as a keyboard, the iDM5 has Bluetooth HID profile support; this means any device that has Bluetooth HID profile can pair and work with the keyboard. Though for mobile OS, the keyboard only supports iOS 3.0 or later and Android 3.x and above.
Pairing is very easy with the iHome iDM5. It offers auto-pairing and auto-connect features that are common in Bluetooth 2.1 and higher versions. When you first turn on the keyboard speaker system, it goes into pairing mode automatically. Use your smartphone or tablet to search and pair with the iDM5. Subsequent pairing is also easy, press and hold the Bluetooth button while the unit is turned on, until a beep and the Bluetooth button flashes blue, and you are ready to pair. The iHome iDM5 remembers multiple pairing partners, but will automatically re-connect with the last paired device when turned it on or in range. You can select the iDM5 in your paired device list to re-connect manually also.
One thing to note, you must position the slider to Bluetooth away from aux-in on the keyboard in order to put it in Bluetooth pairing mode.
If you can pass beyond the looks, the iHome iDM5 is a very nice companion for your iOS and Android tablet. If works well as a Bluetooth keyboard thanks to the generous keyboard size, nice key travel and a standard US keyboard layout. Built-in stereo speakers can stream stereo audio wirelessly as well as via 3.5mm aux-in port; and the audio is nice and loud for a speaker system this size. The extra USB charging ports keep your tablet as well as your phone charged while you are working on the keyboard. And you can turn this puppy into a desktop speakerphone thanks to the clear and loud incoming and outgoing audio. So, if you are using your tablet as a computer replacement, get yourself this keyboard, and slap some nice looking stickers on it if you don't dig the color.