The iHome iP49 is sort of a hybrid iPod/iPhone audio system. On one level it does a perfectly good job as a compact bedside clock radio that charges your device when docked. But it also has a built-in rechargeable battery and a fold-up design that allows you to take it on the road--or just out to the patio or pool.
The iP49 is relatively small, but its 2.1-pound weight is enough to give it a bit of heft. When closed, the unit looks a little like an overweight portable DVD player with a slightly rounded, bulging top. But swing open the top half of the clamshell and you're suddenly looking at a speaker that props up to an almost 90-degree angle behind a standard iPod dock. A small LCD screen with blue backlighting sits in the right corner of the speaker.
The iP49 is an all-black affair and has a rubberized finish (on the exterior) so it has a nice feel to it when you carry it around in the closed position. Along with a set of buttons on the unit itself (on either side of the dock), you also get a small remote that allows you to control your iPod or iPhone's basic playback features as well as jump to one of the six preset stations on the iHome's built-in FM radio. The alarm can be set to go off on weekdays, every day, or just on weekends. A snooze button, which also doubles as a dimmer for the LCD, is conveniently placed just to the right of your iPhone or iPod as it sits in the dock.
As we said, the iP49 has a built-in lithium ion rechargeable battery. It's rated at 8 hours at moderate volumes, so you should be able to get a full day of operation outside. The only downside is that it doesn't charge your iPhone or iPod unless the AC adapter is connected. (Some portable audio systems will recharge your mobile device from their rechargeable batteries.) On the plus side, the iP49--like all iPhone-certified speakers--is GSM-shielded, so there's no need to switch an iPhone into airplane mode when using it.
Aside from the iHome iP1, the iP49 is currently the company's only other product to bear the "Studio Series" moniker, which features Bongiovi Acoustics DPS (Digital Power Station). Like the iP1, this model has a special "B" button that engages the DPS, which ostensibly augments the audio quality by employing some digital trickery to allegedly make your compressed MP3 music sound fuller and richer. We're not sure why you wouldn't want to have DPS engaged at all times and forgo the need for a button, but then you'd never know just what impact DPS had on your music.
Suffice to say, at least on this iHome system we found that engaging DPS indeed makes your music sound better, and all in all, the iP49 sounds decent for its size, with good clarity and respectable bass. It also plays fairly loud. The portable Logitech S715i offers slightly richer, fuller sound, but that portable unit is a bit larger and doesn't have the clock or FM radio built-in (though you could certainly use the clock or audio streaming on your iPod/iPhone, of course).
In the end, we came away liking the dual nature of the iP49 and appreciated its versatility. In a small room, such as a dorm room, it could serve as your main audio system (again, don't expect the greatest sound in the world, but for its size, it acquits itself well) and it's easy enough to take with you.
Our only reservation is its price. At around $160, the iP49 seems a tad pricey. For those looking for a sub-$100 system, iHome offers a variety of other portable audio solutions, including the IP46 ($100), a basic portable sound bar style system with an integrated rechargeable battery. But that model that doesn't have a built-in clock (LCD), FM radio, or alarm.