Some people misunderstand what the "Apple revolution" of product design is all about. Some accuse it of being all about style over substance, of convenience over performance. But really, it's a marriage of convenience and performance, within carefully-countrolled boundaries. To be at one with any Apple device, an accessory like the JBL OnBeat dock needs to reach this same point of balance between ease of use and capability. Let's find out if this dock does.
The JBL OnBeat is a small dock, but it can accommodate iPads as well as iPods and iPhones. With Apple's tablet attached, the footprint of the dock isn't that much wider than the iPad itself, but at £150 it needs to perform against some very serious competition. At this price you can nab the Klipsch iGroove or the Philips Fidelio DS7550 instead.
Its closest rival, design-wise, though is the Altec Lansing Octiv 450, one of the first iPad-compatible docks to arrive on the scene back in 2010. The JBL OnBeat is more stylish though, with two silver plastic swooshes cutting through the middle of the dock to give it a very definite sense of design. Although using metal instead of plastic here would have added some class here, build quality is very solid throughout.
The coated metal speaker grille extends seamlessly all the way around the back of the dock, further increasing the cohesion of this little dock's look. The only slightly unattractive bit of the device is the iOS device holder, which sticks out of the centre unceremoniously. It offers a neat feature or two though. It swivels around, letting you use your iPhone or iPod Touch in landscape mode - useful for some alarm clock-style apps. JBL offers its own dedicated OnBeat iOS app too, which offers a music player and alarm clock. It's a free download.
To attach an iPad, you'll need to attach an extra stabilising dock arm, included in the package. This holds onto the bottom edges of the tablet, to make sure it doesn't end up in a head of broken glass on the floor should you give it a knock.
Although this is a fairly simple dock - it doesn't offer a DAB radio, Airplay or any other kind of wireless connectivity - it does have a few features around the back missing from some rivals. There's a USB slot to let you sync up your iOS device, when plugged into a computer, a composite video output and a 3.5mm auxiliary jack input to connect another source.
There are just two controls on the OnBeat dock itself, two volume buttons that sit on the right edge. The rest of playback and navigational commands are delivered using the tiny bundled remote, which also lets you sift through your iPod's library.