Pure's clock radio may be one of the best of a dying breed. (August 10th, 2012)
Product Manufacturer: Pure
- Loud, clear sound
- Attractive design
- Easy configuration
- Well-done dual alarms
- Clear, informative LED display remains dark enough at night
- May or may not be compatible with future Apple products
- Switching to "iPod" starts playback automatically
- Remote difficult to use in poor lighting
- May be hard to dock iPads
The days of speaker docks like the Pure Contour 100i are probably numbered, even if they'll continue to be made for a while. In an age of Bluetooth and Wi-Fi, it makes less and less sense to limit people to the devices a specific connector format might support. Still, quality non-wireless docks exist, and they're especially handy for people who want to charge their devices and listen to them at the same time. We'll judge if the 100i is a worthwhile entry into the field.
Narrowing things down a little, the 100i is a clock radio speaker for iOS devices, although you can connect other sources via an aux-in jack. To mount Apple hardware you press a small panel on the front face, which spins the dock out and around. It's a neat trick, if kind of redundant; anyone buying the 100i presumably wants it for Apple gear, so you'll likely see the dock spin out once and then never again, unless perhaps you pack up the speaker when you move.
A more practical problem is that while the dock theoretically fits iPads as well as iPhones and iPods, I had enough trouble fitting a third-generation iPad that I went back to using an iPod touch, which slotted in without any problems. The good news is that in many circumstances you should be able to keep cases on your devices -- so long as they aren't especially thick.
Setting up the speaker is relatively easy. Although you do have to navigate through a series of menus on an LED screen, somehow the layering of them makes it feel intuitive to configure things like date and time, radio presets, alarms, and sleep timers. On that note, the alarms are particularly well done. Not only are there two of them, but each can be set to use different music sources, activate only on weekdays or weekends, and play at a different volume. In testing, for instance, I set my weekend alarm quieter than the one for my work week.
I have a love/hate relationship with the unit's remote, though. It's very compact and all-inclusive, but except for volume, it's hard to control through feel alone. All of the buttons feel the same, which becomes an issue when you're using them in the middle of the night. I do like the buttons on the speaker itself, however. There are just six -- Power, Source, Snooze, Mute, and Volume Up/Down -- but they're large and split across a curved top surface, making them much more amenable to fumbling around in the dark.
Speaking of nighttime, the LED display is worth singling out for how well designed it is. Not only is it clear and easy to read without blinding you in bed, but it also presents information such as which source is playing and which alarms are active. There's even a little icon indicating reception for the built-in antenna, which in some regions can be used to automatically fetch date/time info.
The one real grudge I have with the speaker is that when you switch the source to "iPod," it automatically triggers playback in iOS. For some people this may be a convenience, but only if the last app active is what you wanted to hear audio from -- I've seen it unintentionally resume podcasts, for instance, or an ambient music stream I was listening to when I what I really want is rock. Considering how often I've had to stop something from playing, I would've rather had manual control.
You may have noticed that I haven't talked about sound quality until now, but there's a method to my madness: simply put, there's nothing wrong. Output is loud and crisp. You won't be wowing anyone with bass or treble response, yet that's not what the 100i is aiming for, certainly if you're just listening in a bedroom or from the shower across the hall. There's something to be said for a speaker with sound tailored to an explicit purpose.
Final kudos have to be paid to the unit's looks. They're extremely sleek, and stand out in any room you put the speaker in; gamers, I'm sure, will get a kick out of how much the 100i resembles the radio in Portal. More importantly though, it's impressive that the speaker manages to achieve its looks without compromising the rest of the design.
From me then the product gets a solid recommendation, at least based on its own merits. It has its quirks, but ones that are fairly easily to live with. Perhaps the greater issue is something I hinted at in the intro -- Apple is reportedly switching to a new, smaller dock connector format this fall, one which could make docks like the 100i obsolete. An Apple-made adapter has been rumored, and might even be likely, but I wouldn't count on the 100i supporting anything later than the third-generation iPad. Just know this going in if you're considering a purchase.