Review: Memorex Mi4019 Digital Clock Radio for iPod
Leave it to Memorex to create a new category of accessory: the under-$50 iPod clock radio. Rather than attempting to offer a powerful, awesome-sounding unit with a complex menuing system or a flashy industrial design, Memorex's Mi4019 ($40) strips the clock radio concept down to its core, and succeeds.
Volumetrically, the Mi4019 is probably the smallest iPod clock radio we’ve yet seen. Measuring 6 1/8” wide by 5 3/4” deep and 2” tall, the glossy black unit has gentle curves that bend inwards for the appearance of added thinness, showing plastic vents for separate left and right speakers mounted on its sides. An amber-colored screen with black digits is found on its face, and a flip-up panel on the top opens to reveal an iPod dock and 13 buttons, the largest of which is a silver snooze bar.
What we really like about Mi4019 is that the designers obviously thought about streamlining prior products in generally very smart ways. Though we’re not big fans of amber displays, there are far too many clocks out there with digits that are too small to see from a distance; here, that’s not an issue at all. A four-stage backlight dimmer lets the screen go from brightly orange to almost completely dark, with the widest viewing angle at maximum brightness, and the clock switches to an equally easy to read FM radio tuner with ease. Rather than having rows of separate preset buttons, there’s a single preset button that can be pressed 10 times to cycle through options. While slow and saddled with .1 increment tuning, the radio tuner works to bring in local stations with some but not terrible static, and there’s a scan mode so that you needn’t keep pressing the button to switch stations. Memorex’s approach is clear: Mi4019 doesn’t have creature comforts, but you’re not paying for them.
Remote control? Nope. Battery backup? Supported with two AA batteries, which you can provide yourself. Dual alarms? No; there’s only one, which you can set to iPod, radio, or buzzer mode at your choice of volumes. And sound quality? It’s not great—we’d describe it as objectively “okay,” all midrange and no bass or treble, except for the fact that the unit sells for $40. There are some completely clock and speakerless iPod docks, such as Apple’s, that sell for $40. The speakers here are more powerful than the ones built into iPhones and iPods, but not much clearer. Just bear in mind also that Mi4019 comes with a power supply to keep your iPod charged, and Apple’s plain docks don’t; here, you’re getting budget-priced parts, with an aggressive budget price tag.
One of Memorex’s feature omissions doesn’t bother us much, but appears to represent a disconnect between the product’s packaging and actual features. The box clearly claims that the unit includes AM radio tuning as well, but it looks like the feature never made the cut into the final product: neither the manual or the buttons gave us any sense of how to tune AM stations.
Overall, though we wouldn’t give Mi4019 our high recommendation due to the so-so sound quality and its advertised but missing AM radio feature, we have to say that it rides the very fine edge of that higher rating because of the value it delivers to budget-conscious consumers. It looks very good, takes up little space, sounds fine, and delivers just as much FM radio, iPod audio, and single-alarm functionality as we’d hope for at this asking price. While it’s not an exciting or thrilling new unit, we wouldn’t hesitate to call it a very good buy for those who need the features it offers—another example of good Memorex design.