The Good The well-built Apple iPod Hi-Fi possesses excellent sound quality for a one-piece system, and it has lightning-quick controls, particularly when using the bundled remote control. It's also visually appealing and includes design features such as a built-in power brick, handles, and battery operation. A digital (S/PDIF) line-in and a complete set of dock adapters round out the positives.
The Bad The Apple iPod Hi-Fi sounds only marginally better than its competition but costs much more. Despite the remote's menu button, you can't navigate the iPod's menu. There is no video line-out, headphone jack, or dock-connector output. The Hi-Fi's weight and size take away from its portability. Poorly encoded audio sounds terrible, and the speakers sound much better with higher-quality files/sources.
The Bottom Line The pricey Apple iPod Hi-Fi portable stereo speakers are well built and sound great, but they don't bring anything new to the table.
Apple iPod Hi-Fi
Apple iPod Hi-Fi boom box
Apple's superhyped February 28 announcement didn't yield a new video iPod, but it did bring a new iPod speaker system to the table. The $349 iPod Hi-Fi is Apple's answer to the many third-party iPod speaker systems available from companies such as Bose, Altec Lansing, and Logitech. The one-piece speaker system has a built-in dock for any dock-connector iPod, it can be powered using six D batteries, and it ships with the simple iPod Remote. There's no doubt that the Hi-Fi outputs excellent sound for its size, though after putting it through a few sonic workouts, we think Apple should have offered a bit more for the price.
The Apple iPod H-Fi is an Apple product through and through. From its white, glossy plastic to its minimal, boxy design, it's destined to become an icon in the living room, the kitchen, or the dorm room, in spite of the fact that some people consider it boring or unimaginative. The Hi-Fi is certainly durable, and it has excellent build quality. Experience with the Hi-Fi is critical before making any claims, though, because it has some great intangibles and some disappointing qualities (more later).
The Apple iPod Hi-Fi measures 17 by 6.9 by 6.6 inches and looks much like a center-channel speaker that one would find with a nice home-theater system, though these speakers have integrated stereo channels, of course. Thanks to its boxiness, the Hi-Fi's footprint is quite a bit larger than that of one of our fave iPod boomboxes, the($250), though it's not bad sitting on a table; plus, it makes an ideal shelf system, as long as you have enough clearance for an upright, docked iPod. Adding to the Hi-Fi's Apple-ness are the two built-in handles that are essential for transport, given the unit's weight of 14.5 pounds (16.7 pounds with batteries installed). Although the Hi-Fi can conveniently operate on six D batteries, it's more ideal in the home than at a picnic, and it certainly shouldn't be carried (actually lugged) ghetto-blaster style--less because of it weight and more because of the way the iPod sits precariously atop the box.
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