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Ever since iHome put out its popular--and growing--line of affordable iPod clock radios, other companies have followed suit and introduced their own competing models. Logitech has been a little slow in bringing out its take on this emerging category, but the wait is mostly worth it. The Pure-Fi Dream is a solid--and stylish--little audio system that gives the competition a serious run for its money.
The Pure-Fi Dream is actually pretty compact, measuring about 12 inches long, just less than 5 inches tall, and 5 inches deep--but it's also got a nice heft to it, weighing in at 5.75 pounds. Unlike the Logitech's larger Pure-Fi Elite, which sounds fuller and is more of a "table" system, this model is really designed to sit on a night stand by the side of your bed. It has a curvy, modern design with glowing orange buttons on top and a glossy black finish (aside from the nonremovable cloth speaker grilles). Unfortunately, it shares the Elite's gigantic power supply--not quite as large as that of the Xbox 360, but still a 2.7-pound behemoth.
One thing we weren't terribly thrilled about was the size of the LCD display on the front of the system; it's a little on the small side. Yes, you can read the time from about 8 feet away but it may be harder for some folks to read numbers from across the room. It's also worth noting that in both iPod and FM radio mode, title and artist info scrolls across the screen (as long as the station supports RDS text-streaming capabilities), but that's pretty hard to read unless you're standing--or lying--near the Dream.
The controls are pretty straightforward and we appreciated that almost all the buttons are duplicated on both the remote and on the unit itself. Logitech went a little minimalist--perhaps too minimalist--with the Pure-Fi Elite and left off some buttons on the unit so you were forced to use the remote to access certain features, such as the presets for the radio. That becomes a problem if you misplace the remote. However, with the Dream, you can use the remote, which has backlit buttons (a rarity for the iPod speaker category), or opt to control things via the buttons on the unit. Unfortunately, the remote only offers limited control over your iPod from afar. As for presets, there are a total of six for AM and 12 for FM. The sleep timer has a range from 5 to 180 minutes, with plenty of increments in between.
Like all these types of products, the Dream ships with "sleeves" or dock adapters that make all dockable iPods--as well as all iPhones--fit snugly and securely in the cradle. When your iPod or iPhone is in the dock and the Dream is plugged in, your iPod will draw power from the clock radio and recharge. You choose songs, playlists, or podcasts with the iPod's scroll wheel as usual, but hear the audio through the Dream's speakers. In case you want to connect other audio devices, including iPod models that aren't dockable, there's a line-in connection on the back of the unit. It's also worth mentioning that this model is properly shielded from cell phone interference, so you can listen to your iPhone without having to toggle it into airplane mode.
We found setting the dual alarms easy enough (you can choose to wake up to your iPod, the radio, or a buzzer). Unlike with the latest iHome clock radios, you can't choose to set an alarm to go off only on weekdays or weekends, but you can choose to wake to a particular AM or FM station preset, or even an iPod playlist (you can assign the preset buttons to up to six playlists). Also, you can customize the volume for the alarm, so you're not jolted out of your bed by a viciously loud alarm. A single 9-volt battery keeps the alarm and radio presets intact during power outages.
Logitech touts some interesting motion-sensing and automatic-dimming features on the Dream, and they're actually kind of cool. First off, when the alarm goes off, instead of hitting a button on the system, you can just wave your hand over the top of it to put it into temporary-snooze mode. When it goes off again, you can wave your hand again to make it snooze. However, at some point you do have to hit the alarm button on the unit or the remote to shut off the alarm. The display and backlit buttons dim according to the room's ambient light, and you can set the controls to go completely dark until they're awakened by yet another wave over the topside. (If you require complete darkness at night, you can toggle the LCD screen off, too.)
Sound quality was quite decent for a little system. While you can't remove the speaker grilles, Logitech says there's a 0.75-inch soft-dome tweeter and 3-inch woofer behind each one. With a touch of a button, you engage Logitech's StereoXL sound-expansion digital circuitry, which helps widen the sound stage a bit. Commonly, little systems that have speakers close together offer little in the way of stereo separation and these types of sound expansion modes help offset that--a little. Bass and treble adjustments can be made by the listener, as well.
As we said earlier, the sound doesn't measure up to that of the Pure-Fi Elite--and it just can't play as loud or fill up a small room like the Elite can. However, it sounds a lot bigger--and better--than your typical clock radio. Don't expect huge bass, but it packs enough to make you think boom box, albeit a small one. For example, The Chemical Brothers' "Galvanize" (of Budweiser-commercial fame) sounded more subdued than usual, but when we kicked up the volume there was taste of oomph in the bass line. Things sound significantly fuller and richer at close range (a few feet away), but that's to be expected.
In the final analysis, the Dream gives Logitech a strong entry into the iPod clock-radio market. At $200 list, it's a little pricey, but Logitech products tend to street for less--sometimes far less. If you see it for less than $150, it's strongly worth considering. The bottom line is that it sports a better build, cooler look, and superior sound compared with the iHome clock radios. And so long as you're not on a tight budget, it's probably worth the extra bucks.
Editors' Note: This review has been modified to correctly show that the Logitech Pure-Fi Dream is fully iPhone compatible.