Mike is in the midst of an iPad challenge to see if the tablet can serve as his 99% computer. (Read it, here!) The speed of the iPad 3 combined with the depth and breadth of the apps now available in the iTunes App Store make it easier to get to that 99% than ever before. Still, there are certain limitations that enter into life with a tablet that software and speed can simply not overcome.
Limitation number one is the lousy speaker on the iPad. Sure, you can listen to music, carry on a conversation using Line2 and watch, and listen to, movies with ease but, no matter how you slice it the speaker is… meh.
Limitation number two is the keyboard. I like the soft onscreen keyboard but no matter what you do you still lose screen real estate when you use it. Plus, after some time spent typing on the hard glass, your fingers know it. OUCH!
That’s why I was interested in checking out iHome’s iDM5 Bluetooth keyboard speaker system. The rather large accessory offers stereo speakers, a full-size keyboard and a built-in iPad stand in a single, attractively designed unit. It struck me as a perfect accessory to keep and use on my desk at work. After all, there are many days when my iPad is the only “computer” I bring with me. Using this could, potentially, help overcome limitations one and two.
Let’s take a look.
The iDM5 is a Bluetooth keyboard speaker system that lets you comfortably type on your tablet or smartphone while simultaneously streaming your favorite music via a completely wireless Bluetooth connection. You can also play music conveniently through the universal 3.5mm aux line-in jack. The built-in mic lets you use the unit as a speakerphone or for video conferencing. The speakers provide great sound that’s perfect for your music, movies, games or apps. Charge your devices with the included USB charging port.
Coming in at 14.5″ W x 2.3″ H x 7.4″ D, the $160 accessory isn’t small. And at 3.3lbs, it also isn’t exactly light. Add in the fact that it doesn’t have a battery and this is by no means a portable iPad accessory. Then again, it isn’t meant to be. No, this is intended to be a desktop accessory that becomes indispensable in one location or another. It is large certainly makes a statement.
After using it for the last two weeks I can honestly say it is a mixed bag. The aspects that are good are quite good. Sadly, the aspects that are bad are quite bad. Before we go into detail let’s take a quick look at the features.
Full function wireless Bluetooth keyboard makes typing easy for your iPad or other tablet or other Bluetooth-enabled device, includes music control functions
Bluetooth wireless capability: Wirelessly connect your Bluetooth-enabled phone, iPad, PDA or computer
Stereo speakers: Specially designed high-end drivers deliver astounding clarity, depth and power
SoundClear® Voice echo cancellation and Music 3D technology: Echo cancellation for clear Bluetooth speakerphone calls and Music 3D sound enhancement for bigger, bolder sound from Audio Technologies
Sound Enhancement: SRS TruBass sound enhancement
Digital sound processing to give your music extra bass and clarity
USB charging port: Keeps your mobile device charged and ready to go
I like the look of the iDM5 Bluetooth keyboard speaker system. Sure, it is rather big but what you get for the size is impressive and it really needs to be since it has two fairly large speakers and a full-size keyboard.
The speakers are actually the triangular grills on the left and right side of the iDM5. The top is mostly taken up by a clear plastic shield. This protects the keyboard when the iDM5 is not in use and, when flipped up, provides a nice back support for the iPad that allows it to be positioned for easy viewing while typing.
The iDM5 has simple but functional controls on one side of the unit. At the top is the power button. Below that are the volume up button, the play/pause button and the volume down button. Beneath that is the Bluetooth pairing button and the toggle that allows you to switch between a Bluetooth connection and a wired one that uses the 3.5mm Aux in port on the back.
In addition, the keyboard has special music controls that let you play, pause, skip, repeat etc. It makes working on your iPad AND controlling you music simple.
So how DOES the iDM5 hold up when facing the two limitations mentioned at the start of the review.
Limitation number one was the iPad’s anemic sound. With regard to this limitation the iDM5 shines. Sure I wish it offered Bluetooth 3.1 instead of the older, and lower-quality BT 2.1 but it still sounds good, holds the connection well and, thanks to the built-in microphone and A2DP functionality can serve as a decent speakerphone. And as for the speakers? They get loud and sound quite good. And because the left and right speakers are on the sides and you will likely be sitting in front of the unit the stereo affect it quite good. And if you don’t have Bluetooth or choose not to use it for some reason you can still listen to your tunes.
Yes, if you have this on your desk you really don’t need any additional speakers.
Things did not go quite as well when examining limitation number two. Yes, the keyboard is full-size. And yes, it has specialty keys that let you control the music on your iOS device. And yes, while I expected the angle of the keyboard to be a problem I actually found myself- fused wrist and all- typing quite comfortably. Unfortunately the keyboard has a nasty habit of skipping key presses if you are not slow and deliberate. I tried it a few different times and each time it was the same- the text came out with letters missing every few words or so. It was a huge problem and, at least for me and the way I type, means it really doesn’t work as a productivity tool. That’s a bummer because I really like this accessory.
So the bottom line is this- if you want a decent desk stereo system the iDM5 can serve you well. And if you are a hunt and peck typist the iDM5 should work just fine. But if you type more quickly than one letter at a time , then I suspect you will run into the same issues I had.
And when the company releases an update to the iDM5 that has fixed this issue… I’ll be first in line to buy one.
What I Like: Good sound from the speakers; Integrated tablet stand; Keyboard controls for music and side controls when the keyboard shield is in place
What Needs Improvement: Keyboard drops keys far more often than I would like and requires too much post typing correction to be a real timesaver