Altec Lansing iM600
The Altec Lansing inMotion series of iPod-docking speaker systems has enjoyed a relatively long and respectable run against a slew of competition. The original inMotion was one of the first to really deliver attractive design and great sound in a small, affordable system. The iM7 is perhaps the company's best-known product, with its distinctive futuristic boombox look. More recently, the iM500 brought a dramatically thin design to compliment the iPod Nano, and the iM9 offered a more rugged design for outdoor use. With this kind of history, no one can rival Altec Lansing's track record for producing small, rich-sounding iPod speaker systems with stunning design. The iM600 ($149.95) is no exception to the inMotion legacy.
At 11 inches wide, 6 inches tall and just under 2 inches thick, the iM600 packs a lot of sound into an alarmingly small space. Although larger than the iM500, its basic design is nearly identical. A spring-loaded button centered on the front panel releases the system's kickstand and reveals the iPod dock, power button, and volume controls on the front, as well as the USB, audio, and power connections on the back. On the top of the system you'll find rubber buttons for track shuttling (they also double as FM scan controls) and audio source selection (iPod, FM, or auxiliary input), as well as one marked SFX that activates a stereo enhancement feature. An antenna telescopes out of the right side and can be angled in any direction.
The iM600 includes a small remote control with most of the functions you'd want as well as four preset keys for the FM tuner. FM presets only work with the remote, however, so be careful not to lose it. A remote control storage slot located on the back panel will help keep the remote from falling between your sofa cushions. One feature lacking on the remote control is the ability to navigate through your iPod's menus, which would allow you to switch between playlists, podcasts, and shuffle modes without having to touch your iPod.
Sizing up the competition
To put the iM600 in perspective, its closest high-end competition comes in the form of the Bose SoundDock (twice the price of the iM600) and the Klipsch iGroove. Both of these competitive systems offer great sound in a small package, but the iM600 is unique in its inclusion of a video output, subwoofer output, and a USB port allowing the iPod to sync with your computer while docked. On top of it all, the inclusion of a digital FM tuner and auxiliary input ensures the iM600 will still have a purpose long after the iPod inevitably changes its connection type again.
Still, the Altec Lansing inMotion iM600 isn't perfect for everyone. It comes with adapters to support third, fourth, and fifth-generation iPods, iPod Nano, and iPod Mini, but the dock does not secure your iPod as much as cradle it. Because of this, the iM600 is less suited for outdoor use than systems like the iM9 or iM7, which really protect your iPod from falling out. Outdoor users also may bemoan the inclusion of a rechargeable battery which will need to be plugged in after it is drained, as opposed to common disposable batteries that instantly provide power in circumstances where a power outlet is not available. In this sense, the iM600 is really intended for home use where its seven-hour battery life feels more liberating than restricting.