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iHome iP99 Alarm Clock

June 26th, 2008
An iPod/iPhone alarm clock with decent sound.

iHome's iPhone compatible iP99 jumps into the already saturated iPod clock radio market with new features and improvements. On the top of the list is the lack of speaker interference sounds that occur when an iPhone communicates with a tower. The ease of use aided by simplified controls sets the iP99 apart from the rest, but for a device of this price, the feature set could stand some enrichment.

First Impressions

iHome's iPhone compatible iP99 has a unique form factor for the functionality it provides. The speakers are placed on a horizontal plane, unlike other models that inhabit a smaller footprint. Although the iP99 seems large for a clock radio, the size of the well-manufactured unit is useful. It accommodates magnetically shielded speakers in their signature reson8 speaker chambers, two circular control wheels, and good spacing between the other buttons on the top of the unit. The solid controls provide good feedback. The easy to read and adjust large digital display has eight levels of backlight adjustment. The iPod dock connector is placed in the center of the unit and although the iP99 comes with three dock connector adapters including one for the iPhone, iPod nano 3G, and iPod touch, dock connectors for earlier video iPods are absent. You can purchase these separately for $5.99 each. Using an older iPod without the corresponding adapter is possible, but makes the iPod less stable and increases the chance of damage to the iPod or iP99 if the iPod is inadvertently dislodged from the connector.

A Unique Clock

The clear, comprehensible display makes the iP99 easy to use. A large digital clock inhabits the left half of the front display. The right side is split between indicator symbols for active features on the top and a date function readout on the bottom. It is simple to set the alarm time, but setting the clock might require a look at the user's manual. Seven preset time zones cover the U.S. and territories, which makes adjusting the time easy after the initial setup. The back includes a switch that toggles between daylight saving time and standard. Although it might seem a bit excessive to devote a switch to such a feature, it is convenient, because you only need to set the time once and time adjustments take only a flick of a switch. The back also has a Line-in Jack and an AM antenna socket.

Wake Up With iP99

Never one to trust an alarm for the first time, this reviewer had a backup set incase the iP99 did not perform correctly. It proved an unnecessary measure as the volume and intensity of the buzzer was more than adequate. The options to wake to iPod or playlist are quite useful as long as the iPod is plugged in and configured to play the correct playlist. You can fall asleep to soothing music using the sleep function and set a playlist to wake up to more motivating and faster paced music. Simply create a playlist called iHome and load it with songs wake up songs you like and the iP99 takes care of the rest. The Sure Alarm feature runs off the replaceable AA batteries to ensure in the event of a power outage the alarm will default to buzzer and will wake when expected. The snooze button in the lower left corner of the included is interesting feature. This not only allows you to silence the alarm without rising, but it allows control of the backlight brightness as well.

Included Remote

The remote has a somewhat familiar button configuration that imitates the iPod Click Wheel. A key layout difference is the Enter and Menu buttons are not found where one might expect. The remote doesn’t have a challenging learning curve, but might cause confusion the first few times you use the device. The preset button could use better implementation. It defaults to the first preset, which means you must press the button five times to reach preset number five, even if the iP99 is currently tuned into preset number three.

Sound Clarity

In comparison to other clock radios, the iP99 has surprisingly good quality sound for a unit of its size. The SRS WOW sound processing does elevate the high range frequencies and separate the low and mid-range frequencies making songs livelier than what you expect from a clock radio. For casual listening, it is a great personal companion because it is designed to fill a bedroom with sound, not a living room. Adjustable bass and treble curves and balance add welcome options not typically included in a clock radio. The iP99 has good sound for an alarm, but the higher frequencies overpower the lower and lower middle range frequencies.

Bottom Line

iHome has refined their iP99 clock radio product further with good iPhone compatibility. The shielded speakers make a big difference to many iPhone owners who are familiar with the jarring sounds made by unshielded speakers near an iPhone contacting a tower. Absent features in a product priced at $150 include a full set of dock connector adapters, a lighted remote, better built-in FM reception, and the addition of HD radio found on similarly priced units from other manufacturers such as iLuv. Since the iP99 is designed to attract iPhone users, the price seemed reasonable upon launch, but with the drop of the iPhone 3G price in July, the accessory could use a price reduction. The quality of sound, although impressive for a clock radio, is not up to par with other iPod speaker systems that lack alarm clocks.

Related iHome Reviews:

iH12 Dual Alarm Cube Clock Radio
Elegant look. Good sound. Full featured remote control. iPhone compatible. Easy to set up and use. Charges iPod when in Dock. Cons
Price seems high.Antenna strength for FM radio is barely sufficient. As with other iPod alarm clocks, the Snooze button is close to the dock.