Review: Portable Sound Laboratories iMainGo XP
As the latest portable speaker system-slash-case from Portable Sound Laboratories, iMainGo XP ($119) is the company's first iPad-specific product, and is substantially different from its prior iPod- and iPhone-compatible speaker cases. iMainGo XP now packs four speaker drivers rather than two, and uses a fully hard plastic chassis with hinges that flip the speakers open to the left and right of the iPad's screen when viewed in landscape mode. A rechargeable battery pack provides six or more hours of audio playtime -- down somewhat from past iMainGo models -- while the case is designed to be held on an angle when used with an included Amzer plastic stand. iMainGo XP is designed to hold the original iPad inside its soft-lined body, but comes with a fully hard plastic frame that clips onto the iPad 2. A power supply is included in the package, along with an additional headphone port plug; iMainGo XP connects to the top of either iPad rather than the bottom, leaving the Dock Connector port open.
Rather than publishing an extended review of iMainGo XP, we’ve opted to note the following points regarding this speaker system. Though Portable Sound Labs clearly spent a considerable amount of time on the design of this unit, and it actually feels pretty nice thanks to the use of soft touch rubber coating, iMainGo XP does feel somewhat clunky and conceptually unfinished. As probably the largest and heaviest iPad case we’ve yet tested, the overall experience it delivers is pretty underwhelming across the board. The lack of an integrated stand is just one of several big misses, requiring you to tote something extra along wherever you hope to use it, and the dimensions that the iPad or iPad 2 take on once you’ve flipped open the case are almost preposterous. Using the iPad in landscape mode becomes pretty much your only option, and you can forget entirely about putting it in portrait mode on a desk or a lap.
While the weight and size might be somewhat tolerable if the sonic performance was excellent, it’s not. The four small drivers inside iMainGo XP are only decent at average listening levels, without the sort of distributed size and frequency response that might have been engineered into a system with such large panels, and the apparent fidelity depends largely upon how you adjust the iPad’s headphone port volume level—the higher the volume, the better it tends to sound. Most users will be better off putting similar or fewer dollars into separate detachable or fully wireless speakers, though it should be said that these speakers do a good enough job at letting you listen to videos and relatively flat music to be satisfactory. If the idea of an all-in-one speaker and case solution is seriously appealing to you and you’re willing to live with the separate stand, limited orientation, and unusual weight, iMainGo XP is an okay solution; our hope is that Portable Sound Laboratories will use this design as an inspiration for a superior follow-up with better sound and a properly integrated stand.