Unison i-XD iPod dock [Mac] full review
Australian electronics firm Cygnett offers the high-end i-X5 speaker and dock system for the iPod, now the company has released the dock used in that solution as a separate product, the i-XD.
First impressions count and this product’s nicely packaged: there are two boxes, one for the power supply and cable, the other opening out in two halves containing the remote and the dock. Packaging doesn’t mean much, but underlines the manufacturer’s attempt to deliver a high-quality experience.
For the money, you get the dock (we tested the black model, but this is also available in white), a remote control, 2m power adaptor, a selection of iPod inserts for different media player models and all the cables you need: USB, 3.5mm to RCA, and an S-video cable (all 1.5m long). We’ve looked at so many docks which offer video output support, this one stands out because the manufacturer has been thoughtful enough to include an S-video cable.
All components seem well-constructed – there’s no poorly extruded clip-on plastic parts or shoddy workmanship. You also get a one-year manufacturer’s guarantee. This dock’s slightly larger than an Apple-made iPod dock. Dimensions are 9.5 x 6.9 x 2.5cms, so it’s small and lightweight enough to carry with you when you are travelling.
At its front there’s a receiver for the infrared remote control. Up top (in front of the iPod dock) there are two buttons for raising and lowering the volume. At its rear the dock hosts three outputs and one input. These are for a USB cable, a 3.5mm line-out port to connect the system to a stereo or powered speakers, and S-video out. The input is for the power adaptor.
What’s up, dock
Connecting this docking system to your choice of home entertainment set-up is a dawdle. The USB connection lets you use the dock to sync your player(s), while the other connectors are clearly marked. Putting it all together takes a few seconds. And you don’t need to head to the shops to buy any extra cables, because these are all supplied.
If you’re using the dock to connect your iPod to a television set in order to watch video on a larger screen, you must remember to change the Video Settings to TV Out, and the right video format (PAL in the UK), or the system won’t work. Picture quality is as good as you can expect from video held at 640 x 480 pixels – it’s just as good as any VHS video when played back on a TV screen, with the added advantage that the movie won’t deteriorate over time, though your computer’s hard drive might, so do back your media up frequently.
What really raises the quality of this product is its built-in remote control. This silver-fronted plastic device measures 8.4 x 4cms and is just 5mm deep, so it’s small enough to lose down the back of the sofa.
There are 13 buttons offering all the basics (play, pause, skip forward, skip back, volume up and down) and more. You also get a mute button, control over your iPod’s screen brightness, repeat and shuffle controls. It also offers complete control of your iPod menu, so you can shift between playlists to select the correct song(s) or video you want.
The remote’s buttons are clearly marked and do exactly what they promise to do so it is easy to use. All such remote systems for iPods suffer from one thing, though – unless you are up close to your media player you can’t actually see what track you have selected or which playlist you are in. This means the remote’s 12-metre operating range is of limited use.
Despite that criticism, as an overall package this dock does everything most users are likely to require – use it to sync your iPod with iTunes, or use it to play music through your speakers or stereo, and connect it to a television for video playback.
The well-featured remote and the inclusion of all the cables you are likely to need means this is a competitive offering.
How’s it sound? Audio playback is perfectly acceptable – it’s effectively the same as plugging your iPod into your music system directly, with the added advantage that audio is sucked through the Dock connector rather than the headphone cable, which makes for slightly richer sound output.
Saying that, there are other remote control docks available that add digital sound reinforcement to the equation. This product could benefit from the addition of a bass and treble control, to kick those wavelengths up a little, though those on your playback system should adjust these levels.