If you're an iPod owner searching for a way to share tunes, there's no shortage of iPod speakers from which to choose. The problem is distinguishing them from one another, and one of the easiest ways is to look for something with a unique or innovative design. Creative Labs manages to do both with the TravelSound i80 for iPod Nano, an ultracompact speaker that sells for $80 and gets surprisingly loud. It's only compatible with the third-generation iPod Nanos and it doesn't sound great, but it's cute and travel-friendly, so it's still a solid choice for frequent-fliers with an eye for design.
Clearly, the standout is the TravelSound i80's design. The bulk of the unit is composed of high-gloss white plastic. The front features an integrated iPod dock, and two clear, plastic rails serve to cradle the Nano in place. The backside is wrapped in a brushed silver speaker grille made from anodized aluminum. Minimal controls consisting of a volume knob and power switch as well as a standard mini USB port for charging line the right edge of the speaker. The entire thing is about the size of a Zen Vision:M, measuring 4 inches high by 2.5 inches wide by 1 inch deep. Creative also includes a stand for propping up the speaker during use, as well as a USB power adapter and a simple black pouch for transport.
Performance for the TravelSound i80 is mixed. On the one hand, it gets shockingly loud for a speaker of this size. Also, the rated battery life of 15 hours is plenty adequate, and the fact that it charges the Nano while plugged in is nice. However, sound quality isn't very good. We noticed a background hiss, and music overall suffered from the hollow, tinny effect often heard in speakers this size. As one might expect, bass does not thump, but it isn't entirely absent, which is surprising--in a good way. Also, music sounded clear in general, not muffled at all, although there is distortion at the highest volume. Finally, don't expect any stereo separation here, because you won't get it.