With iPod and iPhone docks two-a-penny these days, it's hardly surprising to see another from Sony. Although, despite its place in an ever more saturated market, the RDP-X80iP is hardly what you'd call a mass market device. At £200, it's not exactly cheap; although nor is it pushing into the territory occupied by the Bowers & Wilkins Zeppelin Mini, and its ilk of high-end speaker docks.
Design-wise the X80iP doesn't scream "expensive iPod dock." The unit isn't exactly huge, but it's not overly imposing. It's not particularly attractive, but nor is it ugly. The gloss black dock and top strip, contrasting with the matt back, don't make for the worlds most impressive design flourish, but they're not garish. And the touch-sensitive controls up top, which sit in curved recesses, aren't the most usable in the world, but they're not awful.
Pushed to take a guess, it seems most likely that what Sony has somehow done is mined raw bland from the Earth, and refined it into a polycarbonate blend. The resulting plastic has then been used to form the X80iP speaker dock. Now, there's nothing wrong with the understated look; the problem comes when looking so understated as to seem significantly overpriced.
Redeeming this dull outer shell somewhat is the docking cradle. This is spring-loaded, so that it folds inside the X80iP, leaving the outside flush with the speaker grille. Admittedly it's a feature of little use if you never use the X80iP without an iPod docked inside it, but we like to give credit to thoughtful design, where due, nonetheless.
Debateable is the use of a built-in rechargeable battery, which Sony claims will deliver "up to" seven hours of playback - inevitably your mileage will vary. On the plus side, this means you don't have to worry about finding batteries to cram into the X80iP to get it working away from a power source. But the negative corollary of that is that if the battery dies, you can't easily replace it. Though ostensibly removable, the battery unit isn't exactly user-replaceable in any meaningful sense. Still, an iPod will still charge when docked away from power which is useful.