In 2005, SDI Technologies had a surprise hit with its iPod-compatible clock radio, the $99 iHome iH5. Expanding on that success, SDI has a new line of iPod-dockable audio systems, including the iHome2go iH4 Radio Clock with iPod Dock ($49), which brings down the price even further for an iPod alarm clock system. However, unlike the stepped-up iH7, this model doesn't feature any sort of radio.
The iH4, which is about the size of a small computer speaker, isn't a bad looking little alarm clock. It has a sort of half modern, half retro design (with its two strips of accent lighting, it vaguely resembles a mini jukebox), and it should fit nicely in a child's or a teenager's room. The model we reviewed (the iH4B) was black with blue lighting, and a pink version (the iH4P) is also available.
The iHome iH4 is a fairly simple device but you'll appreciate the fact that some thought went into button placement, especially when you're half asleep and don't have to fumble around to figure out how to turn off the alarm. The iPod dock is on top (you get various sleeves to fit various iPod models snugly in the dock), while an alarm reset button and a iPod play button are positioned on either side of the dock. To set the time and alarm (you can awake to either your iPod or a buzzer), you use the buttons on the side of the unit. If the alarm is set to your iPod, the iH4 will play the song currently queued up and gradually ramp up the volume. The snooze bar at the bottom of the speaker doubles as a dimmer, so you can turn off all the blue lighting if it bothers you. There's also a sleep function that lets you drift off to your iPod's music in intervals of 15 to 90 minutes. The numbers on the clock are ample sized and easy to read, so no complaints there.
It's worth noting that the iH4 has a line-in jack for plugging in other portable audio devices. It also comes with a small battery (it slips into the button of the unit) that keeps the clock running in the event of a power outage. But the speaker and dock are powered by a 10V AC adapter, not batteries, so the IH4 isn't really designed to be moved from room to room. However, you can purchase an optional remote at iHomeaudio.com for $15 if you want to control the iH4 from afar.
As you might expect from a single speaker this small, the iHome iH4 doesn't deliver a terribly impressive sound experience. But engage the SRS Bass (yes, it boosts the bass, but the sound still is pretty thin), keep the volume in the low range to midrange, and it delivers passable sound for its size. To be clear, this thing isn't designed for anyone whose priority is finding an affordable iPod speaker system that sounds good. This one's simply for someone who wants to charge his or her iPod on a bedside table or desk and casually listen to some tunes. Some radio functionality would have been nice, but I guess you can't have everything for $50. Given its low price, the iH4 will likely find a home on quite a few bedrooms. But prospective buyers should hold know that there's a stealth step-up model available: the Timex Ti700. For an additional $20, the Timex--which is actually manufactured by SDI--adds an AM/FM radio, dual alarms, and the wireless remote. If you're looking for any one of those extra features, it's a much better deal.