Rating: ★★★☆☆

Pros:

  • Works with the iPad
  • iHome+Sleep app provides enhanced features
  • Quick and easy setup

Cons:

  • Docked iPhone interferes with radio reception
  • Just so-so sound quality for $200
  • Plagued with a few bugs

UPDATED.  iHome bills their iA100 as their flagship bedside solution, and given the feature set I’d have to agree. They’ve done justice by those who don’t own just an iPod or iPhone, but for those who made the investment in an iPad by including a universal docking system that requires no special adapters – just a simple, removable rubber strip for those who prefer a case around the Apple tablet.

In the features department were looking at 4 speakers with Bongiovi Acoustics DSP, Bluetooth with handsfree and stereo (A2DP) profiles, FM radio with 6 presets, clock, 2 alarms (more can be set with the iHome+Sleep app) with snooze and wake function and of course the quintessential 30-pin dock.
From an aesthetics standpoint the iA100 is a rather unremarkable device. At the end of the day it’s just a black box with silver accents and a set of removable speaker grills on either side. A segmented LED clock with additional readouts (radio station, alarm on/off) sits front and center, and the top of the device is outfitted with a number of buttons that include: call answer/end, mode, volume up/down, play/pause, fwd/bkw track (double as radio tuner), bedtime, wake, snooze/dimmer and an illuminating power button. On the rear of the device, hidden away from the eye, are the controls for the clock, eq (bass/treble) and Bluetooth pairing as well as an AUX input for those that bring a non-Apple device to the party.

Situating the iA100 takes just a few minutes and thanks to two AA battery slots the time can be set without the need to plug it in, though the device’s other functions will be useless until you do so.

iHome has developed a companion app (iPhone/iPod and iPad versions available) for their bedside docking system called iHome+Sleep. It’s free to all, while their other app, iHome+Radio costs $1.99 – I didn’t check that one out and for good reason (I’m cheap). iHome+Sleep allows you to administer a wide variety of controls, but most importantly lets you to set the iA100′s two different alarms, that if you so choose, will wake you to the musical contents of your iPod player. On the converse you can sleep to music as well as control snooze times, sync the time between the two devices, control the music playing and view the weather conditions. There are a few other features available in the app, but for the sake of this review, which focuses on the hardware, we’ll skip over them. It is worth noting, though, that the iPad provides a much larger display over the built-in one and thanks to the iHome+Sleep app can be dimmed to a sleep tolerable brightness.

*Our iHome iA100 would not play music from a docked iPad despite being able to stream tunes over Bluetooth. It worked fine with an iPhone 3Gs*


Pairing the Bluetooth to the iPhone is not a complicated affair and requires you to push the ‘pairing’ button found at the back of the device. Assuming your iProduct’s Bluetooth is enabled it will pair with no passcode necessary. Once paired, and the ‘mode’ of the iA100 is set to Bluetooth, you can play music sans wire (or dock in this case) from your iPhone or iPad as well as take calls directly on the bedside alarm clock. An answer/end button allows you to start and finish calls on the device and a hidden mic picks up the voice. I tested the call quality with a few friends, and while they said they could hear me, it was a typical Bluetooth affair with such remarks that referred to me as standing in a cave or sounding far away, despite hanging my head directly over or in front of the iA100. Streaming music to the iA100 over Bluetooth absolutely suffices, but as any audio snob knows won’t live up to the sound quality of a direct connection, though for most the difference won’t be discernible.

The overall sounds quality, while great for a bedside alarm clock, isn’t earth shattering. iHome uses some digital audio processing called Bongiovi Acoustics, but if you ask me it’s just a sales pitch. Without it enabled the sound is hollow and rather meaningless. In fact it’s a useless feature since you’ll leave it on 100% of the time, though perhaps during phone calls one might opt to turn it off to achieve a more flat sound, which makes understanding a voice much easier. Useless features aside, the iA100′s sound is lacking a bit in the mids and is relatively devoid of deep bass. But given its small footprint I’m not outright disappointed, I just expected more from a $200 device.

Since the radio is a big part of some people’s wake up routine, we ran the iA100′s through the hurdles. On its own, at least in my apartment, the iA100 couldn’t pick up an FM reception to save its life. But as soon as I extended the built-in included rope antenna I was picking up the usual Los Angeles stations, though many were still filled with some static (to be fair, other radios struggle in my abode, this one more than others, though). To add insult to injury, the radio’s reception was made worse whenever an iPhone was docked. Performing actions, such as opening an app, or tapping through the iHome+Sleep app’s features caused the static to subside, but with no action performed the static would reappear. Was the iPhone drawing in static to the radio when idle? I downloaded a firmware update for the device thinking that might solve the problem, but nothing changed. To make matters even worse, the iA100′s 6 FM radio preset numbers, at random times, wouldn’t display on the iA100′s screen with an iPhone in place. This might have something to do with the ability to access the radio presets as well as the tuner in the iHome+Sleep app, but doesn’t seem like an intentional option on the behalf of iHome. Most will perceive the radio as an ancillary music source – especially with the option for an iPhone, iPad or iPod – thus trivializing the issue.  But nonetheless it’s an odd set of bugs that, and if anything, lends itself to questioning the overall build quality of the iA100.

The iHome iA100 is outfitted with a sleep function that allows you to doze off to the tunes of your choosing. Setting it up is a sorted affair. Despite it being a significant part of the device’s feature set, the setting for the sleep function, which is activated by the device’s ‘bedtime’ button, are hidden deep within the iHome+Sleep app. You’ll need to tap the settings icon (represented as a gear cog), scroll down to “app enabled devices”, click on the appropriate device (in this case the iA100), scroll down to the portion of the menu that reads “sleep” and then select the sleep duration. And breath. If reaching this menu wasn’t confusing enough, I found it frustrating that iHome choose to call the button ‘bedtime’ and the menu item ‘sleep’; it would have been logical to name them the same thing for simplicity’s sake. So yes, after trial and error I got it, but navigating to the appropriate menu took time and mental effort, the last thing I wanna do before heading off into slumber land. Ideally the home screen of the app would have featured a sleep clock function with the standard iOS scroll wheel.

The iA100 while practical and feature heavy when compared to the average bedside alarm clock is quickly overshadowed by its buggy operation. Hopefully a future firmware update will fix the radio/iPhone debacle and the app, while a great compliment to the iA100 could use some reconfiguring to make accessing its menus and features more streamlined.

You can purchase the iHome iA100 from Amazon for $199.99.

UPDATE: After installing iOS 4.2, the iPad’s iPod now plays while docked.










Christen Costa

 
Grew up back East, got sick of the cold and headed West. Since I was small I have been pushing buttons - both electronic and human. With an insatiable need for tech I thought "why not start a blog focusing on technology, and use my dislikes and likes to post on gadgets."