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Altec Lansing InMotion Moondance Glow iM402 review: Altec Lansing InMotion Moondance Glow iM402

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Not only has Altec Lansing set out to optimize the sound of its latest iPod speaker and clock-radio systems, but it's also made a conscious effort to throw in a couple of bonus features that it hopes will set its products apart from the competition. The latest result of that focus is the Moondance Glow (actually, the full name is the InMotion Moondance Glow iM402), a compact iPod clock radio that sounds pretty decent and has a mood-lighting option, as well as an extra RF "snooze" remote that allows you to turn off the alarm from across the room without pointing the remote at the unit.

7.3

Altec Lansing InMotion Moondance Glow iM402

The Good

iPod FM clock radio with dual alarms; cool design; decent sound for its size; a couple of interesting extras, including a mood light and RF "snooze" remote that allows you to turn off the alarm from across the room without pointing the remote at the unit.

The Bad

No iPhone GSM shielding; no AM radio; no video output; setup and customization process isn't as simple as it should be.

The Bottom Line

Altec Lansing's InMotion Moondance Glow iM402 clock radio distinguishes itself with mood lighting, a special RF snooze remote, and good sound in a compact package.

The key thing to note about the Moondance's design is that it's been engineered to look thin--it's sort of the flat-screen version of an iPod clock radio--and it's actually fairly trim, measuring just over 3 inches deep, a little over 12 inches wide, and a shade less than 6 inches tall. It's fairly light (2.7 pounds) and has a spring-loaded, hideaway dock that pops out of the front of the unit.

The buttons on the unit are touch-sensitive and backlit in orange when the Moondance is powered on. Altec Lansing decided to make the LCD screen pretty small and wants consumers to see this system as an audio system first and clock radio second. OK, great. More practically, if you have bad eyesight and need an iPod clock radio that has a large display that you can see from across the room, you'll probably want to pass on this one. But the display is readable from about 10 feet away (take that from someone whose once good eyesight is now only OK after having to stare at a screen for all these years and write hundreds of reviews for CNET). Just as important, you can dim the display or completely turn it off. The screen also displays song and radio station info (it supports RDS). You can opt to make the clock even smaller and highlight song info, or vice versa.

As for the mood lighting, it, too, can be turned on and off, and you can choose between a variety of colors, depending on, well, your mood, or the company you're keeping. I've been out of college quite a while and haven't been single for years, but I guess I can see the appeal of a little background lighting to go along with your Barry White. It doesn't do anything as fancy as Philips' Ambilight--like pulsate to the music--but that's probably a good thing.

The Moondance Glow isn't the most intuitive iPod clock radio we've tested, but once you dig into a bit (it's a good idea to peruse the manual), you'll realize it has many of the right features we look for in a good clock radio. You can set the alarms to go off once, every day, on weekdays, or just weekends. You can also set the volume on the alarm and you can wake up to your iPod, FM radio, or the buzzer. (News, talk, and sports fans take note: AM reception isn't supported.) We were a little disappointed with the number of presets for the radio (there are only four; we like to see six to eight) and they can only be accessed from the remote.

Owners of the iPhone should note that this model doesn't offer GSM shielding, so you'll have to put your iPhone in airplane mode to avoid introducing any cell interference noises. Likewise, this product lacks any sort of video output, so don't expect to use it to watch any iTunes videos on your TV.

As I said, two remotes come with the system. There's the more standard miniature clicker that comes with most iPod speaker systems, as well as a separate "snooze" remote that looks like a little flattened pyramid. The big difference between the two is that the snooze remote uses RF technology instead of IR (there's a matching pyramid receiver that plugs into the back of the system). That means you don't have to point the remote at the system and you can stand far away from it (the signal can also go through walls).

The second remote also pauses playback on your iPod, but I should note that I did have to read the manual to figure out how to pair the receiver with the remote. Secondly, I didn't realize at first that you have to have the remote sitting on a flat surface to use the pause/playback button. That's because the activation button is in the rubber feet of the remote (you press down on the top the remote and the top two feet click). The design is a little strange, but it works.

As for sound quality, it's quite decent for a system this small. We put it up against Logitech's less expensive Pure-Fi Express Plus and Pure-Fi Anytime, and the Altec came out the winner with clearer, more refined sound and tighter bass.

However, the call got much harder when we threw Logitech's Pure-Fi Dream, which retails for about $20 more, into the mix. The Dream offered a little bit deeper bass and bigger sound (the Dream is bigger, weighs more, and has a hefty power supply, so it's not totally surprising that it sounds bigger), but the Altec had a better midrange, which makes your music sound more detailed. To put it another way, the Logitech Dream accentuates the highs and the lows, while the Altec is a more of an even-handed performer. It's worth mentioning that the Altec doesn't have any sound adjustment options--there are no bass or treble controls--so what you hear is what you get (the unit is optimized for the frequency range that it plays in).

It's worth noting that Altec Lansing has also released a similar model, the iMT702 inMotion Max. That model lacks the alarm functions, but it's portable (battery powered) and fully iPhone compatible (doesn't require the iPhone to be set to airplane mode). Alternately, the older iM302 Moondance model is cheaper and features a more traditional design.

In the end, the Altec Lansing Moondance Glow is one of the products that you like better once you figure out how to use and access all of its features. For instance, pressing the mood button turns the mood light on and off. But you have to know to hold the button down for 3 seconds to adjust the colors and intensity level of the light. The extra remote is a nice touch and I liked the sound, particularly when I didn't try to push the system too hard and crank the volume. If you want something that's capable of delivering a bit more bass and slightly bigger sound, the Logitech Dream will probably be more up your alley. But if you're looking for a compact system that serves up nicely detailed, well-balanced sound--and don't mind that it's missing the iPhone shielding--this Altec is definitely worth considering.

7.3

Altec Lansing InMotion Moondance Glow iM402

Score Breakdown

Design 7Features 8Performance 7