As a manly man who’s quite manly, I’m not afraid to admit that I have a soft spot for cute things — in a manly way, of course. And as an avid gamer, I also have a soft spot for Pac-Man and the ghosts that chase him around.
So when I first saw an image Speakal’s iBoo iPod speaker dock on my work computer, I had to resist the strong urge to talk to it the way I would with little babies and puppies. Gotta preserve what’s left of my man card, ya know?
Putting aside the fact that the iBoo bears a strong, albeit unofficial, resemblance to Pac-Man ghosts, the question is: How well does it work as an iPod speaker? Lets chomp on some vitamins and take a closer look, shall we?
It’s cute: So did I mention that this thing is so gosh darn cute? Who’s da cute, little-wittle-booboo-speaker? You are! Uh-huh, uh-huh, uh .... Um, anyway, the thing is quite cute so that’s a plus for folks who like this kind of stuff. Get a blue or white one and you may even get away with giving this to a dude — especially a certain, unnamed manly portable electronics writer who happens to like Pac-Man.
Useful design: Although the look is certainly the first thing you notice about the iBoo, its form doesn’t necessarily sacrifice function. Bottom tips are rubberized to prevent slippage. Smooth, touch sensitive areas also take the place of buttons for controlling volume, playing, pausing and skipping. The bottom lights even blink when it receives commands wirelessly, which lets you know the remote is actually working.
Remote control: Speaking of the remote, the wireless controller has pretty good range and pretty much spans an entire room provided there are no obstacles. You can even use it to go through your iPod menu and playlists when your device is docked on the iBoo. You still have to be close enough to view your iPod screen, though, or you won’t be able to see what you’re shuffling through. Volume control via the iBoo is also separate from the iPod’s own internal volume.
Compatibility with iPod, other players: The iBoo is designed to work with the iPod line, including the Touch. It even comes with adapter slots for various iPod lines. Personally, I tested it with a fat iPod Photo and an iPod Video and it worked well with both of them. It’s also compatible with iPhones up to the 3GS. I personally wasn’t able to try it with an iPhone 4, however.
Also, even though it isn’t marketed for other MP3 players, an included double-tipped headphone jack cable allows you to connect other non-Apple MP3 players as well. Just keep in mind that the remote won’t work with non-Apple device menus.
Charge and play: One neat feature for the iBoo is its ability to charge your iPod devices. During testing, the iBoo was able to charge both an iPod Photo and iPod Video from zero to a little more than half capacity in about 30 minutes.
Good sound: When used with an iPod, the iBoo’s two front speakers and mini subwoofer deliver nice clean sound for it size.
Weak bass: If you like your speakers to have concussion-inducing bass, then you’re going to find the iBoo to be a bit lacking in that department. Also, while you can turn the sound up pretty high, you start to get some pretty noticeable distortion before truly reaching high volume.
Finicky remote: While the remote has pretty good range, it isn’t quite forgiving when it comes to aim. You really have to make sure you aim it just right for it to work well.
Double-jack issues: When using the double-jack to connect a player via the headphone jack, the sound quality suffers a noticeable drop. The double-jack is also susceptible to static distortion simply from moving it.
Adapter fit: Accurately aligning an iPod to the iBoo connector can be challenge depending on your adapter positioning. In some cases, it’s easier to attach the iPod first and then slide in the appropriate adapter. The iPod Photo also was too fat even for the widest adapter so I just had to slide that in adapter-less.
Price: At $79.99, the price is a bit steep, especially when compared to something like the $59.99 Hercules XPS 2.140 Slim, which isn’t exactly cute but has a lot more power and bass. The again, the Hercules doesn’t have the same iPod compatibility as far as being able to charge your device or control it remotely.
The Speakal iBoo is ideal for iPod users who want their speakers to come with extra compatibility and a nice heaping of cute. Folks who use a non-Apple MP3 player may want to look elsewhere. But if you want the ability to just dock an iPod or iPhone without having to worry about running out of juice while also being able to remotely control your player, then the iBoo is certainly worth a look. I can see this being especially suitable for kids, girlfriends or even the occasional manly man who’s secure enough in his masculinity to indulge his appreciation for Pac-Man fever — whoever that man may be.