Review: iHome iP27 Portable System for iPhone + iPod
While we can hardly blame iHome for wanting to iPhone-retrofit as many of its past iPod alarm clocks as possible, we do wonder whether consumers are going to be able to keep its past and present models separate, or whether they're going to accidentally buy an old one when trying to locate a newer one. Case in point: iP27 ($120), a portable alarm clock speaker that is literally identical to the iH27 we reviewed in February of this year, but for a few tweaks. The new model is $20 more expensive, iPhone-compatible, and lacks an auxiliary audio input. Need we say more?
Perhaps. Though we’ll point you to the prior review for all of the details, it’s worth noting that the iP27 is iHome’s option for iPhone users who need a simple alarm and speaker set for travel purposes. Though there’s no radio functionality here—a feature found in most of iHome’s alarm clocks, budget and otherwise, you do get an easy to activate single alarm, with time setting, volume, play/pause and power buttons, a power supply that’s less outlet-crowding than before, and a black fabric carrying case. Due to the omission of the auxiliary input, the new version doesn’t come with an audio cable. But it does come with an Infrared remote control, which we noted in our iH27 review was previously only available when you purchased that system at certain stores. The remote has 10 buttons and matches the system; it’s easy to understand and use.
Not surprisingly, the iP27 retains the four-driver speaker array originally found in iH27, with two active drivers and two passive drivers hidden behind a metal black grille that folds upwards from a flat, travel-friendly position. Consequently, it produces roughly the same good but not stellar sound, more distinctive for its bass than anything else. A backup battery is included for the clock, while twin compartments for four total AA batteries—not included—are also found on the unit’s bottom.
Apart from adding iPhone compatibility, which we tested and found interference-free both with EDGE and 3G—iH27 exhibits nasty noises when it’s even near an EDGE-dependent iPhone, let alone docked with one—the other changes are minimal. iHome has moved the daylight savings time clock switch found on the old unit’s bottom to the inside of a battery compartment, and replaced the prior SRS WOW audio enhancer with an EXB Expanded Bass feature.
You won’t notice these differences much, particularly as you’ll want to leave the EXB feature permanently on. As with iH27, there are no other equalization or other audio tweaks available in iP27, and the EXB button seems as if it’s there to modestly satisfy a user’s need to play with audio settings. Rather than taking great sound and making it better, it merely restores life to what otherwise appears to be artificially flattened, dull audio; iP27 would have been better with this “feature” as the default audio setting and the button to deactivate it eliminated entirely.
Though it remains a good portable clock radio, iP27 rates a bit lower than iH27 because of its higher price and missing auxiliary feature, both of which give iPod users no reason to prefer the new model over its predecessor. Back when we rated the iPod-only iH27, we noted that Logitech’s then-$150, iPod-only Pure-Fi Anywhere was a better-sounding option at a higher price, but now that Logitech is selling the iPhone- and iPod-ready Pure-Fi Anywhere 2 for $130 and iP27 is selling for $120, the price difference is minimal, and Pure-Fi 2 is clearly the better pick—unless you really need the clock and single alarm found in iP27. In that case, if you’re an iPhone user and willing to compromise on audio quality, go with the iP27 instead. Alternately, if you need the clock and alarm and don’t have or plan to buy an iPhone, seek out the less expensive, better-equipped iH27 as a better alternative for the price.