Altec may have removed charging from the Air, but it more than makes up for it. Firstly not only can the Air stream from any Bluetooth equipped device, it also bundles a wireless USB dongle which can be plugged into any PC or laptop to perform the same function. Pairing via the dongle is automatic and since any sound from your computer will then come through the Air's speakers it is a great way to enhance streaming radio or video and even Skype calls.
Altec takes this functionality a step further too since one dongle can connect simultaneously to two Air speakers making it easy to fill a home with sound. This would be no good if the Air had typically short Bluetooth range, but this has been bolstered with Altec claiming connectivity at up to 330 feet. We found this a bit far fetched, especially once walls were introduced into the equation, but it certainly was no worse than 802.11n WiFi which is a significant improvement.
Another major plus is the Air has an inbuilt lithium ion battery making it truly portable. Again we found the claims of seven hours continuous playback from a single charge to be an exaggeration, but getting in excess of five hours on a mixture of low and high volumes is certainly commendable. I suspect such good stamina comes because the Air doesn't have to simultaneously charge a device, but it is good to see the speaker capitalise on this opportunity.
Meanwhile the Air has numerous clever touches which help win us over. The remote control may not be the best we've ever seen, but it has all the core functionality you'll need and neatly locks into place in the back of the speaker when not being used so it shouldn't go missing. Behind this speaker slot is also a switch to turn off the battery. This means the battery isn't constantly being charged when plugged into the wall which should improve its lifespan and a full charge from flat isn't too long at just over five hours.
So it all comes down to price and at £179.99 the InMotion Air isn't bargain basement (especially considering its $200 US RRP), but at the same time it is good value for something fairly unique. The inclusion of the PC USB dongle is a real vote winner too (it is a £70 extra on the rCube) and for those without the money to spend on a Bose SoundDock Portable or the aforementioned rCube it makes for an excellent, affordable alternative.
As Huey Lewis and the news once sang It's hip to be square and the InMotion Air is as angular as they come and in dropping dock functionality and betting on Bluetooth probably as unfashionable as well. Don't be fooled though, Altec Lansing has performed miracles with the Air's Bluetooth streaming, extended its range, crammed it full of clever functionality, stuffed in a great battery and kept the price down. There are far worse fashion faux pas you'll make this year…