The rise of the all-powerful iPod has seen the birth of a totally new category that didn't exist 10 years ago - iPod docks. While there's a a huge selection to choose from including high-end models such as Philips' Fedelio DS9000, there are also plenty of more affordable models such as the Griffin Travel Speaker. There are more portable iPod speakers around than you can shake a USB stick at, but many of them lack the audio quality of their more firmly grounded siblings. Can Memorex's new portable model measure up? We took a closer look to find out.
The compact PurePlay unit measures 222 x 90 x 45mm, so it is certainly small enough to be able to fit into a suitcase or slip into your hand luggage without taking up too much room. Overall, the product feels extremely durable, so we can completely forgive the lack of a storage case to keep it in. On the right-hand edge of the product you'll find the power socket for hooking it up to the mains, along with a line in for using with any non-iPod inputs. The product sports a hinged, plastic lid that feels reasonably robust, while the bottom half of the unit features a non-slip rubberised finish that lends the product a premium feel. The base of the product also reveals a battery compartment which houses four AAA batteries (not supplied) in case you want genuine portability, rather than being limited by the availability of a plug point.
Opening up the PurePlay reveals a speaker that covers the inside of the "lid", while the iPod docking point itself sits on the middle of the base. The product carries the official Made for iPod and Made for iPhone badges, and is supplied with a couple of plastic adaptors to cater for all models. To the right of the dock you'll find the power button along with a disappointingly flimsy volume dial. The control works well enough, although it moves around too much in the casing, almost like a multi-directional button, rather than a dial. When rotating the slightly clunky control, it's hard to tell whether it's actually moving unless you're watching the volume graphic on the iPod screen, and as there are no markings on the dial it's hard to get a purchase on it. As a result, you don't know how loud it's going to be when you switch it on - something that our eardrums can attest to.
To the left of the dock itself, you'll find a basic selection of rudimentary function buttons including play/pause and backwards and forwards skip. Using these doesn't really give you much advantage over controlling the music directly from the iDevice itself, but it's nice to have the option of "hard" buttons. There are also controls for looping, shuffle mode and for selecting the line in for when you're hooking up a non-Apple device.
We tested the PurePlay out with an iPod touch to see how it would fare. The audio is surprisingly punchy and clear with the PurePlay offering up a surprisingly "big" sound for such a tiny product. Turning the device up loud enough to hear throughout a reasonably sized room produces good results. If you push the volume control too far then you'll inevitably end up with a slightly harsh, tinny sound, but it would be unfair to expect anything else from a product of this size and price range. The bass performance isn't bad at all, especially considering the relatively small size of the speakers, however the PurePlay does struggle a little on very bass-heavy tracks.
You will be able to find cheaper portable iPod speakers around, but they will be unlikely to sport the durable, hinged design boasted by the PurePlay. We were a little disappointed by the flimsy volume control and perhaps it might have been nice to include a small remote control. However, the product fulfils its primary purpose and passes our test with flying colours thanks to its slick design and decent audio performance. If you're after a reasonably priced set of portable speakers for your iPod that are likely to survive being stuffed into a bag or suitcase then the PurePlay is a good choice.