- Review Price: £199.95
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.
Particularly noteworthy is the remote control supplied with the X80iP. It’s pretty small and unimposing, with the usual array of volume, power, track, play mode, and equalizer toggles present. What’s special is that where other remotes that purport to offer iPod control utterly fail to work with an iPod touch or iPhone, this one does.
Whether from a docked iPod or any device hooked up via the rear-placed aux jack, there’s nothing particularly special about the X80iP’s output. There’s okay clarity, and a reasonable bass presence but the mid range, in particular, can sound a little incoherent at times. Fiddling with equalizer doesn’t help, but simply distorts the sound unpleasantly.
As the price would lead you to expect, the audio produced by the X80iP is hardly in Philips DS9000 or Zeppelin territory. Actually better comparison comes from the significantly cheaper (though battery-less) Klipsch iGroove SXT and Altec Lansing inMotion Max. The latter and the X80iP certainly look eerily similar.
If you’re after a portable system, the iGroove SXT is obviously ruled out, but otherwise it’s inarguably the better choice. Especially considering how much cheaper it is. The inMotion Max is certainly no competitor to the X80iP, which sounds better in every respect – even if that’s not the hardest accolade to achieve.
The X80iP iPod and iPhone dock has a number of flourishes to recommend it, such as the iPhone-controlling remote, the funky retractable dock and the large rechargeable battery. However, if you’re more interested in audio quality these features will likely prove superfluous and even if not, this is a very expensive dock.
Score in detail
Unlike other sites, we thoroughly test every product we review. We use industry standard tests in order to compare features properly. We’ll always tell you what we find. We never, ever accept money to review a product. Tell us what you think - send your emails to the Editor.