Review: iHome iH8 Dual-Alarm Clock Radio for Your iPod
Last year, iHome debuted a deluxe clock radio called iH7, which as a $150 sequel to its incredibly popular $100 2005 release iH5 offered several innovations: an improved backlight dimmer, twin alarms, three total speakers -- one on a cable that could be placed on the other side of a two-person bed -- a guaranteed remote control in the box, and user-adjustable bass and treble controls. Though more expensive than iH5, iH7 was considerably better, and definitively superior alternatives were hard to find.
Now the company has released iH8 ($100), which like the less-known, same-priced iH6 is a slightly stripped-down version of iH7 at a lower price. Available in three colors—iH8B (shown here) is black, while iH8W is white, and iH8S is silver—all of the unit’s functions and omissions are covered in our prior review of iH7, which we won’t rehash here except to note differences. In short, iH8 isn’t an innovative or exciting new offering, and in fact is growing old from an aesthetic standpoint, but it’s more than competent for the price, and recommendable overall.
For those keeping track of iHome product revisions, the company’s numbering system used to make a bit more sense than it does at the moment. iH5 was its flagship single-alarm clock radio, while less expensive, simpler versions were subsequently released as iH4 and iH3. iH7 was its first three-speaker, dual-alarm clock radio, later followed by the two-speaker, dual-alarm iH6; unlike the iH5, which sometimes included a remote and sometimes didn’t, both H6 and iH7 were guaranteed to include remote controls. Back then, remotes were rarities in sub-$100 iPod speakers; now they’re increasingly common.
iH8 is a modestly changed iH6: it no longer has a dock for the first-generation iPod shuffle on the top, which was found on iH6 and iH7, and now includes the iH7’s dedicated rear port for a third speaker, which was not found on iH6. But it doesn’t include the third speaker itself, and modest cosmetic adjustments have been made to its included remote control and its casing. iH8 uses a faux brushed metal texture rather than a glossy finish for part of its top, and its remote has color-matched rather than contrasting buttons.
These differences are trivial, and belie the major similarities that iH8 has with most of its predecessors. From the outside, you could barely tell the difference between the iH8, the iH5, iH6, and iH7: they all have similar blue-backlit clock radio screens with dimmers, a unified metal grille with two total speaker drivers inside, dials and buttons on the top, and buttons and switches on the back. Aside from its remote, iH8 includes a non-detachable rear FM antenna, detachable AM antenna, power supply, Dock Adapters for both 5G iPods and iPod nanos, and an auxiliary audio cable for attachment to iPod shuffles.
Put next to one another, iH8 and iH7 sound the same, work exactly the same but for the omission of the optional third speaker and the shuffle dock, and have the same limitations. On a positive note, that makes iH8 a solidly equipped alarm clock for its $100 asking price, just as iH6 was at the time of its release. iHome’s dual alarms are independently set and activated with simple top-mounted buttons, and radio presets are easy to call up with four top-mounted, dedicated buttons. Bass and treble controls provide modest user adjustment of the unit’s default settings, and the rear buttons and switches provide straightforward if not streamlined ways to adjust iH8’s time and date.
However, competitors such as XtremeMac and Philips have recently been improving the sound quality, aesthetics and alarm features of their twin-speaker alarm clocks, while iHome has sat comparatively still. Consequently, the brand new iH8 felt somewhat old on arrival, and possessed of too many buttons, dials, and switches to handle comparatively fewer features than, say, XtremeMac’s Luna, which unlike iH8 lets you set each of the alarms to whatever source and volume you desire, provides better dimmer and display options, and has other benefits, albeit at a higher price. In our view, though iH8 is a good clock radio for the dollar, every quality competitor makes an update to the standard iH-series body increasingly necessary; tweaks to its screen, body shape, and controls would increase its appeal in light of newer alternative designs.