The saying goes that the cloths make the man. Along the same lines one could argue that apps and accessories make the iPad. Think about it… the iPad is a pretty remarkable device in and of itself but the “magical” experience truly takes off when Cupertino’s tablet is used in conjunction with some amazing apps and accessories. One of the key accessories for any iPad enthusiast is the iPad dock. The right dock can make it easier to watch video on the iPad, work on the iPad, charge and sync the iPad and much more.
We’ve already had the opportunity to look at a number of well-designed and useful docks but today we are going to look at one of the most interesting and, to my mind, useful, docks yet- the recently announced. The Octiv Stage has an MSRP of $149.95 and charges your iPad while letting you go hands-free and enjoy the great sound for which Altec Lansing in known.
Let’s take a look at this award winning speaker-dock for the Apple iPad…
From Altec Lansing-
Why hide your iPad in a dull black folder? Let it take a starring role with the Octiv Stage. Available exclusively through Apple and Altec Lansing, the Octive Stage’s dual full-range speakers pump out impressive sound with no distortion even at high volume, for room filling sound. Sit back and enjoy the show!
Use it to:
Show off your iPad to all of your friends in a great sounding, sturdy base that doubles as a charger.
View the day’s news and weather in portrait mode while your busy getting ready in the morning.
Watch your favorite movie at night by flipping it into landscape mode
Stay on the couch with the popcorn while using the fully functional remote to control your iPad.
Give your iPad a solid home while the kids play games.
Stay hands free while you watch “How-To” videos from the kitchen to the garage
When you first unbox the Altec Lansing Octiv Stage iPad Speaker MP450 you may be surprised by the unusual design of the dock. This doesn’t look quite like any iOS-device speaker/dock you have ever before seen. As Altec Lansing explains, the Octiv Stage features-
Powerful, crystal-clear sound
Charges your iPad while docked
Easily accessed Power On/Off and volume controls
Docking stand pivots to portrait or landscape orientation
Multiple viewing angles for optimal comfort
Convenient full-featured remote control
Auxiliary input jack
Where most of the docks I have used for my iPhone and/or iPod touch have focused on charging the device and pumping out sound from it, the Octiv Stage is intended to allow you to watch and/or use the iPad while full rich sound is passed through the dock connector into the speakers. As such the Octiv Stage consists of a base and an iPad cradle that securely holds it in place.
In the box you will find the Octiv Stage, a small remote and the power adapter. That’s it.
The iPad cradle is secured to the base through an arm that pivots up from the base and allows you to adjust the iPad to the best viewing or use angle for the task at hand.
At the point where the cradle and the arm meet is a pivot point that easily lets you switch between landscape and portrait.
It is a bit bulky on the desk but in return for the desk or nightstand real estate you give up you get big, bold sound and the ability to view the iPad’s screen at the perfect angle.
The back of the unit is just about as minimalist as you will find on any speaker/dock. There you will find the input for the power adapter and an Auxiliary-In jack so that you can use the the Octiv Stage with any device that has a 3.5mm port.
To keep the Octiv Stage simple and the focus on the iPad itself the unit has a minimum of buttons on the front. You will simply find the power button and volume up and down buttons that are discretely placed in the band of silver-colored plastic trim along the bottom. When on there is a small power light to the left of the power button that lets you know its status.
For more control you will need to use the included remote. It works but has some limitations attached. It does a fine job when you want to increase or decrease the volume, pause the music or skip forward or back in a given playlist. Unfortunately that is all it does. As the User Guide explains, the MENU buttons and the buttons for moving up and down between levels of the menu screen only works for iPhones and iPods and, even then, not with all models. Translation- these features DO NOT WORK with the iPad. It isn’t a huge issue but it is an annoyance and I cannot help but think that it is a missed opportunity.
As this picture makes clear, the Octiv Stage is designed for use with an iPad that is not held in a case. It works just fine if there is a protective film on the back (as is the case with mine) but that is about it with regard to what can be on the iPad if you want to use this dock since the two clips on the side are rigid and do not allow for any play.
I tried a few different ways to get the iPad into the Octiv Stage and found that the best method was to follow the instructions offered by Altec Lansing. You place the iPad’s connection port over the dock connector and place it down over the connector. You then push the iPad into the brace so that the side clips hold it fast.
The iPad looks great when held in the Octiv Stage in portrait…
… and it looks equally good when it is in landscape. Having used it to watch a number of videos AND do some reading while listening to music, I can tell you that it is an absolute pleasure to use with the iPad held in either orientation.
So how is the sound that comes from the Octiv Stage? I mean, after all, this IS a speaker dock.
The Octiv Stage gets loud and the sound coming from it is more than enjoyable. You won’t get any equalizer functionality beyond what Apple has baked into iOS but, after using it for the last few days, I really can’t complain about the sound it gives off. I’ve listened to a variety of different styles of music and it sounded great with each. In addition, I just finished watching Meet The Press using it and it was a great experience. The iPad was held at a perfect viewing angle and the sound was loud and clear.
Sure, this is a $150 speaker dock so you are not going to get the same sound and power that you might from a component system or even a high-end Bose system but for the investment you can’t beat the ease of use or the sound it provides.
I love this dock but the Octiv Stage does have its share of limitations. The remote is crippled when used with the iPad. The controls on the dock are even more limited. The dock doesn’t offer the option to connect the dock to a computer and sync. And it offers no sound adjustments beyond what Apple offers. Even with all these, however, I really love this design and think it was a good call for it to be awarded a CES 2011 award for Design and Engineering.
There is one more note that is important before closing out this review. The Octiv Stage is designed to work with one specific, unique generation of one specific unique product. Sure you can use the Aux In jack with pretty much any media player but it is INTENDED for use with the first generation iPad, a device that is now over six months old. The next generation iPad rumors are starting and an announcement is not that far off. The new device MIGHT have the same design as the current model… but it might not. That means this dock MIGHT work with the iPad 2 but… it MIGHT NOT.
More and more I have tended toward accessories that are not device-specific. The reason for this is simple- when devices are updated I tend to sell the old model and buy the new one. That means that when there is a design change from one generation to the next, device-specific accessories become useless… or at least limited. The iPhone 3G accessories worked for two years since the iPhone 3GS had the exact same form-factor. When the iPhone 4 was released all best were off and new accessories were needed. The same MAY be the case here. We just don’t know.
That may be a consideration for you when looking at this dock. For me it is not an issue and for a very good reason. When the new iPad is released I will likely get one (okay who am I kidding, I will get one) but, unlike every other device in recent years, I plan to keep my current iPad even after the new one comes out and simply deactivate the date plan on it. If you might be upgrading however it is worthy of your considering what that might mean to you. After all, this isn’t a $20 case.
So all these caveats aside do I like this dock? Oh yes!
To be more direct… if my iPad-loving best friend were to call me up and ask if this is something he should buy my answer would be a resounding “Absolutely!!!”
The Octiv Stage is available from Amazon in the near future.and looks to be
What I Like: Holds iPad in landscape or portrait; Charges through its wall charger; Offers a variety of viewing angles; Sounds good and gets quite loud for its size; Truly enjoyable to use
What Needs Improvement: Remote offers limited functionality; iPad cannot be used in a case; No sound “tweaks” built-in; Designed specifically for a product that is over 6 months old and will soon be refreshed with a design that might, or might not, be the same