Philips Fidelio AS851 Review

Sections

Pros

  • Decent sound quality
  • Versatile

Cons

  • Slightly fiddly to use
  • Uses lossy Bluetooth
  • A bit expensive

Key Specifications

  • Review Price: £189.99
  • A2DP Bluetooth streaming
  • Android smartphone charging
  • 30W power
  • Custom app available
  • 2 x 3in drivers

iPhone users wanting accessories are spoilt for choice. There are
thousands of the things, from speaker docks to miniature arcade
cabinets. Android users aren’t so lucky, in spite of the tens of
millions of Android owners, many with wallets brimming full of notes
willing to be spent on such stuff. Part of the problem is how different
all the phones are, but the Philip Fidelio AS851 speaker dock attempts
to get around this. It’s a dock designed for Android phones, with a
flexible charge stand that can cope wherever your microUSB may be.

Android
phones have charging slots in all sorts of places, but they are at
least almost all microUSB. It’s this that makes the Fidelio AS851 a
viable product, rather than a solution to a problem that doesn’t exist.
However, its approach is rather different to most of the Fidelio range’s
iOS docks, such as the excellent DS9.

Philips dock review 2

Sound
isn’t transmitted from your Android phone through the microUSB slot –
the socket on the AS851 is used just for charging. Music is instead
transmitted wirelessly over Bluetooth, as it is in the series sibling DS7700
– which is primarily intended for use with iOS devices. There have been
plenty of Bluetooth speakers in the past, including cracking ones like
the Creative D200, but the importance of this new Fidelio model is that its hardware is fully tailored for Android.

But
how do you cater for a microUSB slot that might be on a phone’s bottom,
its side, or just about anywhere? While the socket of the AS851 appears
to be arranged much like the 30-pin connector of an iPhone dock, it can
be moved. It sits on a thick rubber band – a conveyor belt of sorts –
that can be pulled to the left or right. And the microUSB connector can
be turned around by 180 degrees, to avoid you having to leave the phone
resting to one side or, much worse, with the screen facing the speaker
grill.

Philips dock review 3

It’s a decent stab at Android docking, but it’s a pity there’s no
way to lock it in place once you’ve found your optimum position. There’s
a little bit of give to the mechanism thanks to the use of rubber,
making the AS851 slightly less well-built than the closest iOS
alternative from Philips, the DS8550, but ultimately given the need for
flexibility it’s easy to forgive. Crucially, it works and every Android
phone we tested was accommodated with ease. Philips doesn’t recommend
shoving an Android tablet on there, but as long as the socket is
centrally placed on one of the sides, it shouldn’t create any problems.

Top
models in the Fidelio range are constructed using top-quality
materials, like real wood and brushed metal. Resting somewhat lower down
the scale, the AS851 isn’t quite so lucky. The front is dominated by a
stylishly-curved grill made of coated metal. It doesn’t flex and feels
very strong, winning the dock back some build quality points. However,
the back of the dock is rounded glossy black plastic – nothing too fancy
and unlikely to impress many onlookers, but in most setups this part of
the dock won’t be fully visible.

Philips dock review 1

Also
hidden from view, the Philips AS851 has a USB port and an auxiliary
3.5mm input, on its back in-between the dual bass ports. The USB socket
doesn’t let you plug in a memory stick to play back your MP3s, but it
will supply power for another device – perhaps something not served by
the front microUSB. Unlike some smaller members of the Fidelio family,
there’s no battery compartment or built-in lithium power supply. You’re
tied to the AC adaptor here. It’s no surprise given how the dock sounds,
though – more on that later.

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