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iHome iH12 review: iHome iH12

iHome iH12

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

SDI Technologies makes several affordable iPod-compatible clock radio/speaker systems with a variety of designs, which it sells under the iHome (and Timex) brand. The iHome iH12 happens to look more like a traditional clock radio than many of the company's other models. While it has a couple of rounded edges, the iH12 is your basic cube with an iPod dock integrated into the top of the unit. It's hard to get too excited about the style, but there's something enticing about its simplicity and relatively compact size. It retails for $80 or less.


iHome iH12

The Good

Affordable, attractive cube clock radio with dual alarms and integrated iPod dock; alarm clock functionality lets you wake to iPod songs, AM/FM radio, or buzzer; iPod charges while in dock; line-in/line out; remote included.

The Bad

Only four presets for radio stations; can't navigate your iPod's menu system using the included remote.

The Bottom Line

While its sound isn't so impressive, the iHome iH12's simple and attractive design gives it an appeal as a budget iPod clock radio.

Measuring 5.25 inches tall by 5.25 inches wide by 5.25 inches deep, the iH12 comes in a glossy black (iH12BR) or pink (iH12PR) finish to appeal to a range of buyers. The button array on top of the unit is completely rubberized and feels nice to the touch, but it has a couple of downsides. The snooze/dimmer button is fairly small, which may irk those who prefer large snooze bars that you can easily find when you're half asleep. Also, dust particles and little fibers adhere to the rubber and make it harder to keep clean (you can't just wipe it clean like you can with smooth plastic).

As for features, the iH12BR isn't loaded, but at least it has most of the key stuff covered, including dual alarms, an AM/FM radio, and a line input in case you want to attach any other portable AV devices. The product ships with dock adapters that make all iPods fit snugly and securely in the cradle. When your iPod is in the dock and the iH12BR is plugged in, your iPod will draw power from the system and recharge. You choose songs, playlists, or podcasts with the iPod's scroll wheel as usual, but hear the audio through the iH12BR's speakers.

An auxiliary input lets the iH12 act as a speaker for non-iPod audio sources.

We found setting the alarm easy enough (you can wake up to your iPod, the radio, or a buzzer), and while the display isn't huge, it's easy enough to read from 5 or 6 feet away, and can be dimmed. If you're comparing alarm functionality, this model only allows you to set the alarm to go off daily, whereas the iH9 gives you the option of setting it to go off only on weekdays, weekends, or every day. It's also worth mentioning that you only get four presets for radio stations; we prefer at least six.

An included AC adapter powers the unit and two AAA batteries provide backup power for the clock and alarm in the event of a power failure. However, the batteries will not power the radio, your iPod, or the speakers.

The iH12 doesn't have any bass or treble controls, but you can engage the "3D sound-enhancement" circuitry with a press of a button on the small remote (which is easy to misplace). We've seen similar modes on other iPod audio systems, and they're designed through a bit of processing magic to expand the sound stage (when you have two speakers spaced only a few inches apart you get very little in the way of stereo separation). While it doesn't make much of an impact, the 3D mode on the iH12BR does improve the sound a touch and you'll want to keep it on once you've engage it.

Considering its size, we didn't expect the iH12BR to sound great--and it doesn't. That said, it's not terrible for a small speaker system. Overall, the sound is on the thin side (there's not a ton of bass), but the little system held together well enough at higher volumes and is able to fill a small room or office with sound. As long as you don't raise the volume too high, it won't make you cringe with bass-heavy material. Remember that you're dealing with a clock radio, not a boom box, and your expectations will more likely be met.

We put the iH12 up against the iH9, which carries a list price of $100 ($20 more than the iH12). The iH9 sounded a bit fuller and richer, but the difference wasn't night and day. We preferred the form factor of the iH12 to the iH9, and ultimately, if you like the cube design and can live with four presets on the radio, the iH12 should work out just fine for you.


iHome iH12

Score Breakdown

Design 7Features 6Performance 6