Altec Lansing InMotion iMV712 video speakers
In the last year or so, we've seen a handful of portable DVD players with integrated iPod video capabilities trickle onto the market (see the Philips DCP850, for example). Now we have the first digital minitheater for iPod, the Altec Lansing iMV712, a tabletop-style system with a built-in 8.5-inch wide-screen LCD that's designed for use in the home. Naturally, it's made to play your music, too, but with its 3-inch speakers and a 4-inch subwoofer, it's fairly beefy as far as that type of systems goes.
The all-black iMV712 scores well in the style department, but the one strike against it is that Altec Lansing made its brand logos just a little too prevalent on the front of the unit. With an audio-only device, it might matter less, but the large, white "inMotion" logo just below the LCD proves a little distracting when you're watching videos.
Measuring 18.5 inches long, 8.2 inches wide, and 7.7 inches high, the unit is lighter than you'd think based on its footprint. While the 8.4-pound unit can be moved around a room simply enough, there's no boombox-like handle to make toting it easier. The iPod dock is on top of the unit (the usual selection of iPod sleeves are included to give your particular iPod a snug fit in the dock), and that's also where you'll find the only three buttons on the system: source (iPod or line-in), volume up, and volume down. Additional settings, such as bass, are accessed through the included credit card-size remote, which we found to be clearly labeled and easy to use, though all the buttons are the same size. There's a master power switch on the back of the iMV712, but once it's set to on, you can toggle the unit between on and standby mode with the remote.
The remote offers a reasonable amount of control over your iPod. You can navigate through menus, pause and play tracks, and skip forward and back. However, expect to stand just a few feet away from your iPod when navigating its menus because--as is the case with most of these systems--your iPod's display will not be mirrored on the larger display; you're stuck with looking at your iPod's screen. That also means the iMV712's screen won't show album art while music plays.
While Altec Lansing refers to the integrated 8.5-inch wide-screen display as a high-resolution LCD, we weren't blown away by its quality; it's essentially on par with the average portable DVD player's screen. We purchased a few episodes of The Office from the iTunes Store, and while they looked perfectly acceptable, they were a little soft. Movie trailers and other videos we played also looked soft, but this is to be expected from compressed video with 640x480 resolution.
While the iMV712's wide-screen display is a good thing, getting your videos to appear in their proper aspect ratio can be a little tricky. For some reason, we had trouble with The Office. As sold on iTunes, the show is natively encoded as a wide-screen (16:9) version, which should fill the iMV712's entire display. However, when we set the output on our iPod to wide-screen in the video settings menu and set the iMV712 to 16:9, the picture appeared stretched. You can set the iMV712 to 4:3 or 16:9 (which are both, confusingly, labeled "Zoom"), but neither setting got us what we wanted. At the same time, the iMV712 correctly displayed a wide-screen DVD movie, filling the screen, when we connected a portable DVD player to the iMV712's composite video input. Go figure.