- Two Lightning docks
- Decent FM reception
- Solid design
- Short Lightning docks
- Just FM, no AM or HD
The migration to the Apple 30-pin dock cable wasn't well received initially back in 2003, but it opened the floodgates for a series of accessories customized to the iPod ecosystem. To fulfill the drive for thinner devices, the first Lightning-equipped devices shipped last fall, but with somewhat less-than-outstanding peripheral support. An early adopter of the technology, iHome, has embraced the concept that users have more than one device that may need charging simultaneously. Displayed at the Consumer Electronics Show in January, Electronista was given the chance to live with the iHome iDL100G dual Lightning clock radio and alarm clock for a month in-home.
The iDL100G is a dual-alarm clock radio. Two slightly hinged Lightning docks allow for a pair of devices with the new connector to be charged -- a third device can be charged with a USB port on the back of the device that exists only for device charging purposes. The unit is 10.3 inches wide, 5.2 inches high, and 5.9 inches deep, with no device on the dock for charging. An auto-sync feature sets the clock time to the same time on a docked iOS device, and two separate alarms can be set on the clock itself.
Radio reception is as expected for FM radio, and only FM can be tuned. All the caveats of terrestrial radio apply. The antenna is nothing special -- just a hanging wire, but very serviceable for what it is. The device isn't a digital radio receiver, which for the price would have been nice.
The primary draw of devices like these are multiple charging avenues on a single AC plug. The IDL100G does in fact charge Lightning devices. While iHome never promises full 2.4A charging on the device, the iPad-specific port approximates it at about 1.9A. The smaller iPhone and iPod port seems to be limited to somewhat less than 1A. Both of the charging ports are acceptable for uncased devices, and that's where the main problem with this product lies.
Manufacturer and designer iHome is limited by Apple requirements for the "Made for i" program, and one of the main restrictions is length of the Lightning plug. If you don't use a case, or have a case that can be easily removed, then the restrictions aren't a problem. In our experience, most users have a case that they remove very rarely, so the very short Lightning plugs are a very real problem.
Sound quality is as expected for a device in this class and this size. Don't expect boutique audio, but we were fairly pleased with the bass and treble range delivered by the hardware. We had a nasty harmonic vibration develop in the case plastics at a volume setting of 44-46, with notable distortion at 50. As an alarm clock or for casual listening, 40 is loud in a furnished 18-foot by 12-foot room, and 30 is extremely loud for alarm clock use, so the limitations of the small speakers in the IDL100G aren't a major issue given its intended use.
iHome has been making iOS and iPod device docks since the beginning of the dock connector. The new model is designed very well, and demonstrates the company's history with and commitment to the platform -- but suffers greatly from Apple restrictions on Lightning connector length. We understand Apple is concerned about snapping off the connector and lodging bits inside the iPad or iPhone, but proper user education and some lateral device support would prevent breakage of a longer-than-Apple-approved Lightning connector, and allow docks like this to be used with cases.
We like the iHome IDL100G for what it is, an inexpensive multiple-device charging radio and speaker set, but have to deal with the device's primary limitation not because of an iHome design flaw, but because of an Apple licensing requirement. Our score of three out of five is an average -- if you use cases for your iOS devices, the score is 2.5 out of five. No case? 3.5 out of five.