The GoodThe Altec Lansing Orbit Stereo IML247 PC speakers snap together for travel, cost less than $50, have a single USB cord for power and audio, and play louder and sound significantly better than the internal speakers on most laptops.
The BadThe speakers sound crunchy (distort) at higher volumes and the bass is pretty thin. There's no volume control on the speakers. And the lack of a 3.5mm input means that you can't use these with any non PC/Mac audio devices, such as an iPod or smartphone.
The Bottom LineWhile the sound quality of the Altec Lansing Orbit Stereo speakers isn't likely to blow you away, the travel-friendly and affordable USB speakers do sound significantly better than the internal audio found on most laptops.
Altec Lansing already offered a single housing monaural speaker in its Orbit line of portable speakers. But now it's doubled up with the latest model, the Orbit Stereo--a pair of USB-powered speakers that snap together into one long tube when not in use, so you can tuck them smoothly into a suitcase or laptop bag.
While the Orbit Stereo speakers aren't tiny, they are fairly lightweight, weighing in at 12.8 ounces, and you don't have to carry around any sort of extra power adapter. They also cost an affordable $49.99, which is $15 to $30 more than what you'd pay for the mono Orbit USB speakers.
If you're looking for something truly compact that sounds OK and puts out more sound than your typical laptop speakers, those single-speaker USB Orbits may be a better bet. But if you want a little bit more punch to your presentations or travel entertainment and true stereo for watching movies or music in your hotel room (or wherever), the Orbit Stereo is the way to go.
Executive Editor David Carnoy has been a leading member of CNET's Reviews team since 2000. He covers the gamut of gadgets and is a notable e-reader and e-publishing expert. He's also the author of the novels Knife Music and The Big Exit. Both titles are available as Kindle, iBooks, and Nook e-books.