Tradition dictates that there are two kinds of iPod speaker dock you can buy. You could get a set like the Bowers & Wilkins Zeppelin which will look fantastic sound great and is definitely not portable by any stretch of the imagination. Conversely you can pick up something like the Bose SoundDock Portable which, as the name betrays, can be carried around where-so-ever you might roam.
There is a potential problem with this: if you happen to need both types of speaker then you're stuck either compromising and settling for just the one or buying one of each type. Neither of those options is optimal, you'll probably end up with a sub-standard example of each type, or have to settle for just one or the other.
What's needed, then, is for someone to come up with a system that solves both problems; a system that combines the quality of a fixed speaker solution with the convenience of a portable device. Okay, I'll stop dropping hints and come clean - that's exactly what the Gear4 Duo is. A speaker system that's able to transition between a portable, battery-powered and a static mains powered speaker dock.
When out of its box and assembled, the Duo looks like any other 2.1-channel speaker system. As might be expected for a product with an MSRP of £250 lower, it isn't in the B&W Zeppelin's league and it arguably doesn't even look like it's worth the £150-odd Gear4 is asking. The aesthetics aren't bad by any means, just slightly uninspired.
Oddly when detached the portable section of the speaker looks much better, due in a large part to being far thinner. This segment (if you will) is held in place in a recess at the sub unit's front by a couple of tabs at the bottom and magnets at the top. Frustratingly this mechanism isn't particularly secure and could do with some stronger magnets.
Unfolding the iPod dock section at the front can't be achieved one-handed as this causes the Duo's portable section to fall onto whatever surface the speaker is sitting on. The problem arises, as mentioned, due to the use of very weak magnets as a retention mechanism. It's not really that much of an annoyance, but it doesn't help inspire confidence in the quality of the rest of the system.
The foldout leg at the rear of the portable speaker dispels that feeling, though, locking in place with a resounding ‘click' and holding the unit at what one might refer to as a jaunty angle - if you were a pretentious pillock that is.