CNET logo Why You Can Trust CNET

Our expert, award-winning staff selects the products we cover and rigorously researches and tests our top picks. If you buy through our links, we may get a commission. Reviews ethics statement

Altec Lansing Octiv Mini M102 review: Altec Lansing Octiv Mini M102

Altec Lansing Octiv Mini M102

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
3 min read

There's a growing trend in iPhone/iPod speaker docks. Instead of building in a bunch of features like an LCD display for the clock, and AM/FM radio, or fancy alarm systems, companies like Altec Lansing are bringing out simple speakers that leverage the iPhone or iPod Touch's impressive capabilities that include the ability to run custom-designed alarm apps.


Altec Lansing Octiv Mini M102

The Good

Compact, minimalist design; plays bigger than its size; turns into full-featured alarm clock after you add Altec's Alarm Rock app; GSM-shielded so iPhone can be used without the need to switch it to airplane mode.

The Bad

Take away the iPhone app and the Octiv Mini is a basic iPod speaker that's a tad more expensive than it should be; app doesn't automatically launch when you dock your device.

The Bottom Line

The Altec Lansing Octiv Mini is an ideal option for anyone seeking an affordable, minimalist iPhone speaker for the bedroom, bathroom, or kitchen.

Some recent examples of the trend include the "app-enhanced" iHome iA5 (not a bad little system) and the iLuv iMM190, which we have not yet reviewed. But Altec's Octiv Mini M102 (reviewed here) is more successful than the iHome because of its smaller, more attractive design and lower price.

Plug your iPhone or iPod Touch into the Octiv Mini for the first time, and you'll be prompted to download Altec Lansing's alarm clock app.

Like iHome, Altec offers a free downloadable alarm-clock iOS 4 app. When you first plug in your iPhone or iPod Touch, you're prompted to install the free app, which is nice, and if you have a wireless connection, you'll be taken straight to the App Store to download it. Alas, the app won't automatically launch when you dock your device (that's an Apple issue).

iHome's app is currently more robust, feature-rich, and snazzier-looking, but Altec says it's in the process of upgrading its app, which is called Alarm Rock. Even if it isn't all that slick, you do get the ability to set alarms only on certain days, so you could, for example, have a weekend alarm and a weekday alarm (you can set the alarm to only go off on particular individual days as well).

The speaker itself is 3.8 inches high by 4 inches wide by 5.3 inches deep, though it has a unique cutaway design that gives it a more angular, modern look (it's thinner at the back of its base). Altec has also raised the speaker grille in the middle, splitting it in two and turning the square into to two triangles. Kudos to the designer for making what could have been a boxy little speaker a lot more interesting to look at.

In terms of features, you get virtually nothing. A slim LED lights up green when you dock your device, but there are no buttons on the speaker whatsoever. Everything is controlled through your iPhone or iPod, which means you can't just reach over and hit the snooze button; instead, you have to carefully touch the screen on your device.

Though Altec has included an auxiliary input (for connecting other audio devices) with the first units to hit stores, company reps told us that in the future it may eliminate that input. We hope that Altec reconsiders. Yes, this product is geared toward iPhone and iPod Touch owners (though it does work fine with most non-touch-screen iPods), but it's nice to have the flexibility to plug in another phone or audio device should you choose to give up your iPhone at a later date.

This is a single-speaker mono system (read: no stereo) that Altec told us shares a lot in common with its Orbit portable speaker but has a deeper enclosure and a slightly more powerful amp, which helps improve the sound quality.

As for that sound, as you might expect from a speaker this small, it's not great, but it does play bigger than it looks and offers just enough bass to keep it from sounding too thin. In other words, for casual listening and background music in a bedroom or dorm room, it's just fine. (We ended up listening to a lot of Pandora radio and it's certainly well suited to lower-bit-rate music because it doesn't accentuate its flaws like some higher-end speakers do).

All in all, we really like the whole concept of the Octiv Mini. It's very compact, so it takes up little room on a nightstand or wherever you put it; is attractively designed; and puts out half decent sound considering its tiny chassis. Yes, we wish its list price of $59.99 was little cheaper, but hopefully we'll see this selling in the $40 to $45 range, where it would be an excellent buy.


Altec Lansing Octiv Mini M102

Score Breakdown

Design 9Features 6Performance 7