A simple set of 2.1 speakers, Logitech's $100 Z-3i connects directly to your computer, CD player, MP3 player, or game console. Unfortunately, these speakers are too expensive to qualify as a utilitarian audio solution and not good enough to justify their price tag. And with no auxiliary inputs, you'll have to unplug the cable when you want to switch to your iPod or Xbox, as the cables are hardwired to the satellites.
With a frequency response of 35Hz to 20KHz, the Z-3i delivers the same range of frequencies as the more expensive Logitech Z-2300, a THX-certified 2.1-speaker set. Aside from the fact that the Z-3is are not THX certified, the main difference between the two is power: the Z-2300s knock your socks off with 40 watts per channel, while the Z-3is offer a paltry 17 watts total, or 8.5 watts per channel. The subwoofer features an 8-inch pressure driver that offers 23 watts of power through its manageable 9-by-9-by-9.375-inch frame.
In the box you'll also find a video game console adapter and a remote--with a headphone jack--that's wired to the subwoofer. Despite its direct connection to the subwoofer, we were disappointed to find that the remote doesn't include bass control. In order to change the subwoofer's volume, you'll have to reach down on the floor and turn the knob on the backside of the frame.
For our first test, we listened to Interpol's MP3 "Slow Hands." We started by setting the master and subwoofer volumes to 50 percent. At this moderate level, the speakers sounded fairly clear, and the subwoofer did a nice job with the kick drum, but the bass seemed lost. With the master volume at maximum and the sub still at half, the low end was murky and accompanied by occasional distortion on both the low and high frequencies.
We then checked out chapter 22 of the X-Men DVD with similarly disappointing results. We heard distortion at higher volumes and a lack of clarity in the high-to-middle frequencies, which made spoken dialogue sound horrible. The subwoofer also seemed to have trouble handling the low-end rumble, regardless of whether we set it at half or maximum volume. At max, there were distortion issues; at half, the sound was more unpleasantly resonant than it was full of rumble or throttle. Our experiences with gaming, (we played Escape Velocity: Nova) were pretty much identical. The same distortion and clarity issues came up frequently, particularly at high volumes.
To judge by its subpar DVD and gaming performance, the Logitech Z-3is are aimed at those most interested in playing MP3s from a computer--which makes the speakers' unimpressive musical performance all the more disappointing. For $50 more, you can purchase the Logitech Z-2300, a superlative 2.1 setup that will work wonderfully at any volume with music, games, or DVDs. We recommend spending a little extra for the higher-end set instead of settling for the Logitech Z-3is. Otherwise, you're headed for disappointment.