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Altec Lansing InMotion iMV712 review: Altec Lansing InMotion iMV712

While it's hard to say where Altec Lansing's iMV712 mini home theater for the iPod fits into the home, it does up the ante for iPod speaker systems.

David Carnoy Executive Editor / Reviews
Executive Editor David Carnoy has been a leading member of CNET's Reviews team since 2000. He covers the gamut of gadgets and is a notable reviewer of mobile accessories and portable audio products, including headphones and speakers. He's also an e-reader and e-publishing expert as well as the author of the novels Knife Music, The Big Exit and Lucidity. All the titles are available as Kindle, iBooks, Nook e-books and audiobooks.
Expertise Mobile accessories and portable audio, including headphones, earbuds and speakers Credentials
  • Maggie Award for Best Regularly Featured Web Column/Consumer
David Carnoy
5 min read
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.


Altec Lansing InMotion iMV712

The Good

The Altec Lansing inMotion iMV712 mini home theater system features a built-in 8.5-inch LCD screen for viewing iPod videos; sound quality is quite decent in small rooms and the system plays loud; connectivity options include a line-in jack, a composite AV input, and an S-Video output for showing videos on an even larger display.

The Bad

Fairly pricey; limited aspect ratio control; screen size still too small to be seen from a distance; strains to fill larger rooms with sound; the logos on the face are little too big and distracting; no AM/FM radio.

The Bottom Line

While it's hard to say where Altec Lansing's iMV712 mini home theater for the iPod fits into the home, it does up the ante for iPod speaker systems.

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.

The back panel provides a decent selection of connectivity options.

That this model offers a video input as well as an S-Video output is a plus, even if it's unclear how many people will take advantage of the video output to display videos on a larger TV (if you've already got a TV nearby, why buy the Altec Lansing?). Still, at least it's an option. It's also worth noting that you can connect another, non-iPod portable audio device via the auxiliary jack and that a couple sets of basic cables are included for hookups.

Altec Lansing's inMotion line includes some relatively decent-sounding iPod speaker systems, and the iMV712 is no exception. Dialogue from TV shows came across loud and clear, and movies sound a lot bigger than what they look like on the 8.5-inch display. In other words, as a compact movie-watching device, you're going to get a lot better sound quality than you would from the tiny speakers on a portable DVD player--or the speakers on most small and midsize flat-panel displays (26-to-42 inches). But don't expect the iMV712 to beat a half-decent $300 home-theater-in-a-box system.

That said, this is one of the better-sounding tabletop iPod speaker systems we've heard. As noted, it's a bit bigger than some tabletop systems, and height-wise it's taller than such systems as the Apple iPod Hi-Fi and the Chestnut Hill Sound George. Even though the speakers are close together, they seem angled outward to widen the soundstage. Pressing the SFX button on the remote appears to narrow the soundstage and we weren't sure why you'd do that (there's no mention in the manual of just what SFX does). In any case, we left SFX off in our listening tests and were generally impressed with the output, so long as we didn't turn up the bass in the equalizer settings. Cranking the bass even a notch or two made the low end in such bass-heavy tunes as Snoop Dogg's "Drop It Like It's Hot" and Eminem's "Lose Yourself" sound boomy and muddy. But back the bass off and the system fares better and plays loud enough to easily fill a small room. And that's an important distinction; while it sounded fine in a small office, the iMV712's small size was more readily apparent when moved into a large home theater room.

The looming question, of course, is how you plan on using this miniature iPod home theater. While it's an appealing device--and has a certain coolness factor--some might question its overall usefulness. You could say it's a kitchen system (in that case, it would ideally be white and have a built-in TV tuner as well as an AM/FM radio) or even a bedside "TV." It also might find a place in a kid's room, where a parent could dock his or her iPod and choose from a wide selection of kid-friendly videos stored on the device (a DVD collection on an iPod, so to speak). Whatever the case, just make sure you foresee a definite need for the video element, because if you can do without it, you can probably save yourself $100 or so and go with an audio-only iPod speaker system that delivers comparable performance.


Altec Lansing InMotion iMV712

Score Breakdown

Design 7Features 8Performance 7