We may cover them on a daily basis, but we really don’t geek out on new iPod and iPhone accessories—it’s not often that we see items that are individually awesome, and far less common for us to find a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup combination where two items come together to form something greater than their separate parts.
Behold the iPod and iPhone-compatible mini home theater we just put together. It starts with the BenQ Joybee GP1 Mini Projector for video, then adds the Boston Acoustics i-DS3 Plus for audio—three matching glossy white plastic boxes that are individually optimized to do separate things extremely well, coming together to create a clean-looking, powerful AV experience for a small, dark room. Notably, the i-DS3 Plus is both iPod- and iPhone-compatible, with video-out functionality that supports both devices.
Over the past few days, we’ve been playing with the GP1 projector to figure out what it can and can’t do. As noted in our updated First Look, it has a smaller-than-Mac mini footprint, but pumps out a DVD-quality video image that’s pixel-level crisp, nicely colored, and reasonably bright. In a moderately lit room, it can produce a respectably viewable 6-foot image on a flat wall, improving in brightness as the image shrinks down to a minimum 14” size, or as the room’s ambient lighting decreases. If you’re in a truly dark room, even better. GP1 has some nifty features to dynamically shift its color palette automatically to adjust for wall color, its projecting angle for the angle it’s mounted on, and so on. The integrated speaker’s not too bad, either.
But it’s not going to deliver a theater-quality listening experience. That’s where the i-DS3 Plus comes in. While the main enclosure looks a lot like the i-DS2, it actually contains four speaker drivers – twin 3.5” full-range drivers like the ones in i-DS2, but also two tweeters for superior high-frequency performance. Even without assistance from an additional speaker, the main i-DS3 unit sounds quite good. Add the wireless subwoofer in and the excitement begins: the six-inch speaker inside the sub just gets plugged into the wall wherever you want to place it, and doesn’t need to be tethered to the docking main speaker system. It roars with bass, balanced nicely by the drivers in the main dock, and boasts 100 Watts of total power. Out of the box, with very little hookup work required, i-DS3 and the GP1 together transformed an iPhone 3G into a mini theater for our Dark Knight viewing pleasure. All for just under $1,000.
Could a similar system be put together for less? Yes. Could a different system be put together for a similar price? Again, yes. If you’re looking for a simple 5-driver audio system without the fancy wireless feature, we’ve reviewed a number of options, many of which are now discounted and/or being closed out. Similarly, you could substitute some inexpensive TV for the projector, at least, if you’re willing to accept a much smaller sized image than the GP1 is capable of displaying. Yet there’s something about the elegance of this combination that’s truly exciting to us—it’s a nice “price no object” iPod/iPhone mini home theater solution, with individual pieces that could be the missing puzzle pieces for users who are halfway through similar projects. We’ll have more to say on both of these accessories in the days to come.