Let's start with the good stuff. Altec Lansing's InMotion Air IMW725, which retails for $199, is one of the better-looking compact wireless Bluetooth speakers out there. It's got a unique, modern design and comes with a built-in rechargeable battery, which allows you to take it outside without having to plug it in. We also liked the hideaway dock on the back of the unit for the small remote and the inclusion of a USB dongle. The dongle lets you stream audio from your Windows or Mac computer to the InMotion Air, using it as a computer speaker--whether or not you've already got Bluetooth compatibility built in.
Since this InMotion Air uses Bluetooth, it works with a wide range of devices that support the A2DP version of Bluetooth, including iPhones, iPads, and nearly every smartphone and Android tablet. Alas, there's no dock for charging your phone, nor is there a free USB charging port like the one found on Altec's own Octiv Duo speaker dock.
There is an audio input for connecting other devices (using an optional cable), but you don't get a built-in speakerphone like those found on some rival Bluetooth speakers, such as Aliph's tiny Jawbone Jambox.
As we said, we liked the design, though its off-kilter geometric shape may not please some. It's transportable but not ultraportable--meaning that it's lightweight and is easy to move around the house or take with you outside onto the patio or pool, but it's not exactly suitcase-friendly.
A tiny switch in the remote's hideaway compartment changes the InMotion Air's power system from in-home use (AC adapter) to portable mode, engaging the internal rechargeable battery, which Altec says will give you up to 7 hours of audio streaming. (Our initial tests yielded much shorter battery life; we're retesting and will update soon with final results.)
If you own an iPhone, iPod Touch (second generation or later), or any stereo-Bluetooth-enabled phone or portable media player (the InMotion Air supports the A2DP and AVRCP profiles), all you have to do is turn your device's Bluetooth on, wait for it to search and find the Air, pair it (we didn't even need to enter the usual four-digit code), then hit play on your music--the music will stream wirelessly to the speaker. You can then use your phone as a remote, controlling what music you want to play from the palm of your hand.
What we found impressive about the Air was that it offered better range than some Bluetooth speakers we've tested. The specs actually say that you're supposed to only have about 33 feet using your mobile device, but we managed to go beyond that distance by several feet. And using the included dongle for your PC, your range is extended to 300 feet.
As for sound, we had mixed views. Altec says the Air's AptX technology "works within Bluetooth to deliver CD-quality audio." Maybe it does, but you still need good speakers to take advantage of good sound. In that regard, compared with other Bluetooth speakers of this ilk, the Air performs reasonably well and sounds decent enough with lighter fare and acoustical material, which basically means it plays well in the midrange. It also plays pretty loudly. However, the treble's got a harsh edge to it and the bass is noticeably thin; there's just no oomph here.
We found the Suburbs' "Ready to Start" track sounded fairly muddy at higher volumes and pop tunes like Lady Gaga's "Poker Face" and Jay-Z's "New York State of Mind" just came off sounding neutered. With ballads, however, the Air sounded much more pleasant.
All things are relative, and anybody who expects the world out of a compact speaker like this is expecting too much. However, while we found a lot to like about the InMotion Air, our concern is that it simply costs a little too much. Yes, it's got the included dongle for PC streaming along with that rechargeable battery. Both are nice pluses, but there are plenty of competing Bluetooth models from the likes of Logitech, Creative, and Jawbone that are more portable, sound better, and/or cost less.
Associate Editor Julie Rivera contributed to this review.