Altec Lansing iMT702 inMotion Max review: Altec Lansing iMT702 inMotion Max

The primary purpose of the inMotion Max is playing music from your iPod or iPhone. Beyond standard playback and volume controls, the inMotion Max offers a few neat tricks, such as displaying the currently playing artist and track information on its LCD, and helping to manage incoming calls on your iPhone by automatically pausing music and playing your ringtone at an audible (but not deafening) level through its speakers. The inMotion Max doesn't act as a speakerphone, however, you can keep your iPhone docked and answer calls with a paired Bluetooth headset. We're glad to see that Altec Lansing effectively shielded the Max from wireless interference, allowing us to listen to our iPhone without the bouts of Morse-code-like distortion that are common on nonshielded systems.

The inMotion Max's FM radio also has a few tricks up its sleeve. Radio reception has improved since the iM600, although at the expense of a less convenient antenna, and Altec Lansing has included RDS broadcast information (artist, title, station ID) to display across the system's LCD. We were hoping the RDS-enabled inMotion Max might offer the same iTunes song tagging found in the Polk i-Sonic, but no such luck. The inMotion Max allows you to scan through radio stations using the skip buttons located on the top edge, and you store up to four station presets using the included remote control. There are no preset buttons located on the speaker system, however, so if you lose the remote control you'll lose the ability to store and recall radio stations. Fortunately, the back of the inMotion Max includes a slot for storing the remote control when you don't need it.

For all its desirable features, the inMotion Max is missing quite a few of the extras we've become accustomed to in this price range. There's no Bluetooth, no video output (Apple's partly to blame for this one), line-output, sub-output, USB pass-through, or even a basic clock. The bulk of the inMotion Max's value relative to the competition is tied up in its sound quality.

The back of the inMotion Max includes a slot for the remote, as well as a fold-up stand and inputs for power, aux, and antenna.

Given its relatively small size and fold-up design, the inMotion Max sounds fantastic. Similar systems, such as the Griffin Journi and Logitech Pure-Fi Anywhere 2 sound like tin cans by comparison. In general, the iMT702's sound quality is crisp and detailed, sounding brittle only when volume nears maximum. Bass is more present in the iMT702 than the iM600, but you're smoking something if you think you can get booming bass from a speaker system measuring only 2 inches thick. What you do get, however, is a surprising amount of stereo fullness, especially with the Max's ESS sound enhancement activated (we see no reason to switch it off). The rolling classic rock energy behind David Bowie's "Hang on to Yourself" came out loud and clear without making us wish for a beefier system. Modern songs, such as Yo La Tengo's "Mr. Tough" shined as well, with piano, vocals, and horns taking a slightly forward seat in the mix.

The inMotion Max's volume gets loud enough to fill an otherwise quiet room with music. It's not going to power your next dance party, but the inMotion Max has no problem being heard over the daily domestic clatter of screaming kids, washing machines, and television programs. Plus, the inMotion Max's built-in rechargeable battery makes it easy to temporarily move the speaker wherever you need it. Altec Lansing rates the Max's internal battery life at 3.5 hours when played at moderately high volume. For daily use around the house, 3.5 hours is more than enough to provide background music for washing the dishes or an outdoor barbeque, however, it's worth noting that the battery in Altec Lansing's iM600 was rated for twice as long.

The inMotion Max's IR remote control is rated for 30 feet, which we confirmed during testing.