The Monitor Audio i-deck 100 is a high-end iPod dock aimed at giving you the best audio quality in the smallest package. Retailing for around £300, it's definitely got the premium end of the bargain sorted but what about the rest of the package?
Monitor Audio is well known for creating high-class Hi-Fi speakers so it's no surprise to find the i-deck 100 is a classy-looking and well-built machine. Its overall shape is all too familiar, with it looking distinctly like a cross between the JBL OnBeat and TEAC SR80i Mini Aurb, amongst others. Nonetheless, it manages to maintain a style all of its own - we're particularly fond of the chrome waves that encircle the dock.
As well as looking similar to these two docks, it also matches them for size - with dimensions of 320 x 210 x 245mm - which is to say they're a step down in bulk from the likes of the B&W Zeppelin Air. However, this isn't to suggest this is a weedy alternative. While it doesn't have quite the weight of the larger docks it's still a hefty 2.86Kg machine.
That said, it is a little more plasticky than some in this price range. Glossy black plastic covers the majority of the elegantly curved back, as well as filling the panel behind the dock mechanism. Not only do these parts pick up fingerprints (and probably scratches) easily, they just don't feel quite as sturdy as wood or metal alternatives. It would be pushing it very far to suggest the i-deck isn't well made but the choice of plastic here was certainly not the wisest.
The remote is also just a notch below what we might expect thanks to its use of rather mushy rubber buttons. Its curvaceous design is a little over the top as well - it generally isn't a desirable feature of a remote control that it resembles a Gomboc (an object that always rights itself).
Mushiness of button isn't the only problem with the remote. There's also rather a lack of buttons. You get power, volume, play/pause, forward and back (tap to skip tracks, hold down to scan through tracks) and auxiliary input selection. You don't, however, get any way of fully navigating your music library; i.e. you can't back up a level to select a different album.
The lack of controls also reaffirms that this is a pure iPod dock with no extras such as radio, internet connectivity or alarm clock features. You get one 3.5mm jack on the back as an auxiliary input and that's it.
The quality of one aspect of the Monitor Audio i-deck 100 cannot be faulted - the dock mechanism is superb. It is, a complete copy of that used on the B&W Zeppelin, but we won't complain one jot - just so long as the two companies are happy with each other then all's rosy. The key to its brilliance comes down to three factors.
The first is the sprung dock and rubber back plate combination; when you dock your device the spring gently pushes it against the stalk behind, which has a nice deep and soft rubber finish to keep your device safe. This not only makes for a secure hold but it also leads to the second benefit which is that you don't have need for any dock inserts as on most alternatives - it's completely universal. You can fit everything from an iPod nano to an iPad 2 into it, though you will admittedly have to be a little careful with the latter. The third and final advantage of this system is that the stalk gives you somewhere to rest your fingers to steady your hand, so you can navigate your device, without putting any strain on the dock connector itself.