iLuv i1055 Review

The iLuv is a bulky 10.1 x 6.1 x 2.6in, but feels light at just 2.6lb. Included with the player are an AC adaptor and car adaptor, a strap for installing the iLuv for in-car (back-of-seat) viewing, two AV cables (3.5mm-to-RCA and 3.5mm-to-3.5mm), a remote control, a carrying case and a comfortable set of headphones.

To use it, you insert your video iPod into a nicely-designed, enclosed slot on the back of the unit, similar to the way you would insert an audio cassette into a cassette Walkman in the old days. It’s a tight fit, which is good because the iPod automatically docks – there’s no wiggle room. The slot fits 60GB and 80GB iPods bare; an included plastic adaptor provides a perfect fit for 30GB iPods. DVDs and other discs are inserted by pressing a button to lift the LCD screen, which reveals the slot.

This design allows for dual inputs, but operating an iPod is awkward: you must turn the iLuv around and navigate the iPod’s menus from behind, then flip the iLuv over again to watch. This isn’t a problem if you’re viewing a TV show or movie, but can get tiresome when you want to browse your most recent batch of podcasts.

Screen break
The i1055’s 480 x 234-pixel screen is crisp enough, and its colours are rich and vivid. The screen is also large enough for laptop viewing. The basic controls for the DVD player are to the sides of the screen: pause, forward, and back to the left; and start, stop, and eject to the right. Also on the front are buttons for adjusting the screen’s brightness, contrast, hue and saturation, and two small speakers that provide satisfactory sound.

Other controls are on top, which means you need to tilt the screen toward you if you want to adjust the volume – a real hassle. Other inputs located along the top, such as the power input for charging the unit, two headphone jacks, and video- and audio-out jacks, as well as the system’s power switch, are used less frequently and don’t present a problem.

Stand and deliver
The iLuv includes a plastic, fold-out stand that lets you place the player on a desk or table. Unfortunately, the stand isn’t adjustable, and its viewing angle is puzzlingly near-vertical. This would only come in handy if you wanted to place the player on a flat surface that’s precisely at eye-level. For more-common viewing environments, such as the tray table of an airline seat, the stand is nearly useless.

iLuv claims that the i1055’s built-in, Ni-MH rechargeable battery will last for 2.2 hours before needing a recharge (which takes about four hours). In testing, this was about right for DVD playback; the unit played a two-hour DVD on a single charge with a bit of charge remaining. However, iPod playback time is considerably longer (since your iPod powers itself; the i1055 doesn’t have to power a DVD player). In fact, with our 30GB iPod, which lasts up to 3.5 hours when playing video, the i1055 still has juice after the iPod dies. The included AC power adaptor is lightweight, making it easy to carry; combined with the car adaptor, it’s easy to find a power source when travelling.

More-sophisticated controls for DVD and VCD viewing and listening to CDs and MP3 CDs are accessible only on the iLuv’s remote control, which is poorly designed and almost impossible to use in all but the brightest viewing conditions. The black remote features tightly-packed and only slightly raised buttons. Even worse, the symbols, numbers, and writing on the remote are in a shade of grey that blends almost completely into the black background. If you’re watching a DVD that enables you to, say, change the camera angle, whatever you want to see at that different angle will be over long before you find the correct button.

Overall, although the i1055’s video and audio quality are good, we found the system’s design to be mediocre at best – sometimes confusing, sometimes counter-intuitive, and, in the layout of the controls, wasteful. And connecting the iLuv to a TV requires two cables, a feat that similar players manage to accomplish with only one.

OUR VERDICT

iLuv’s better-than-good functionality is marred by poor design. It’s better for watching full-length movies than flicking between video podcasts due to the fiddly nature of the interface. However, we cannot help but be impressed by the audio and video quality.

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