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News

Review: iLuv ArtStation

A rotating speaker dock for iPad 2 has just landed, and it's certainly got the looks.

Company: iLuv
Price: £129.99/$129.99
Compatibility: iPad/iPhone/iPod Touch/iPods (with audio-out cable)
Available from: Argos

With several million iPads now in the hands of consumers and estimates that suggest 20-40 million more (depending on who you ask) being sold this year, it’s understandable that companies are working hard to create docks for Apple’s money-making machine. iLuv is just one of these accessory designers, and they’ve had a lot of hit products in the past here at iCreate.

The ArtStation is compact but powerful speaker dock that works with both your iPad and iPhone, holding both tightly in a rubberized grip and allowing you to rotate your device to view in either mode. The dock is, however, clearly geared towards the iPad user, as the centre of the pivot is located at the central point of an iPad. Placing an iPhone into the holder and rotating it will cause it to sit oddly out to the side of the device rather than in the centre.

The remote we got with the review unit had more buttons than this one,
but the speaker’s good looks remained the same

Still, the dock manages to comfortably fit an iPad 2 between its soft claws and we were comfortable with rotating the arm thanks to the smooth motion and stiff hold. If you have an original iPad you can still use the ArtStation, but you’ll lose the protective grip of the rubber and be stuck with the plastic. It still works well and holds the iPad tightly enough, but we felt more comfortable docking our iPad 2 because of the added padding. The arm that holds the iPad or iPhone can also be pulled up and down from the base of the unit, giving you an upright display for viewing movies and TV shows, or folding flatter to allow for typing. However, we’re not sure how much we’d use the typing angle – while the iPad is held at a good angle for it, it’s still a good few centimetres from your desk, and the speaker gets in the way a little too much for it to be comfortable for long.

The design is actually surprisingly nice, with smooth black plastic and cloth-covered speakers giving a clean look to the dock. The shape is also pleasingly angular; the speakers come to a point at the back, making the bottom of the dock seem tiny but being held by a foot at the back. The controls on the unit itself are simple – a power button and volume controls are all you get here – but that’s what we expected. If you’re close enough to touch the controls on the dock, you’re close enough to touch and control the iPad, so these are really all the ArtStation needed.

The remote for the device is less minimalistic, but avoids the pitfall of many a dock remote by limiting the number of buttons to just 11. Sadly, while it doesn’t look bad by any means, the remote feels cheap thanks to the plastic used around the edges of the casing and the overall lightness of the gadget. Perhaps we’ve been spoiled by the weighty simplicity of Apple’s own remote, but we really couldn’t see ourselves using the remote too often.

The rear of the dock houses two of the coolest features, however – the first is a magnetic system that allows you to clip the remote onto the back of the dock when not in use. Ever since the demise of the iMac G5 we’ve mourned the loss of the magnetic remote-holder, so its inclusion here is welcome, both for keeping your remote safe and for the sheer glee of storing the remote using physics.

Secondly is the ability to sync your device to your Mac while it is sitting in the dock. There is a MiniUSB port on the back of the dock, and while you cannot play songs or charge your iPad while syncing to your machine, it’s nice to know that you won’t have to remove it and plug it in separately to get everything in sync. Sadly, with the dawn of iOS 5 in a few months the need for wired syncing will be gone, but the dock will still be of use as your iPad will automatically sync to your computer when charging in the ArtStation. For now we question whether the dock will be close enough to your Mac to easily use this feature, but it’s nice that it was included.

In terms of sound, the dock performs surprisingly well, managing a fair amount of bass with little distortion. There are two bass-boosting pads on the back of the speakers that manage to create a nice, deep tone, and while it certainly won’t give enough audio power to fill a large room, it’s great if you want to add a little oomph to a movie or even if you’re chilling out at home.

Pros

+ Looks great
+ Sounds as good as you expect
+ Simple to control and adjustable
+ Syncing while docked

Cons

– Isn’t perfect if you want to put an iPhone in the dock
– Cheap feeling remote
– Quite pricey
– You lose the rubberised grips when docking an iPad 1

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