We've seen plenty of iPod speakers at Pocket-lint towers from affordable products like the Memorex PurePlay through to high-end speakers like the B&W Zeppelin Air, but we're gradually starting to see more iPad docks emerging as well. Designed specifically for use with Apple's tablet, the Philips DS7700 can also be used with iPhones and iPods and has been made with portability in mind. But is it any good? We gave it the once-over to find out.
Measuring 310 x 110 x 40mm, the DS7700 isn't exactly tiny, but then it does need to be big enough to comfortably house an iPad without falling over, so a certain amount of mass is required. The design means that the product is kept as compact as possible, with the brushed aluminium finish giving it a distinctly premium finish. The docks weighs 0.76kg so you should be able to slip it into your luggage without pushing your allowance too far. It could also be easily slipped into a work bag for taking to meetings or for use as the office jukebox.
When not in use, the dock has a detachable panel to protect the contacts. In order to get it ready for playback, you simply lift the attachment on the underside (there's a red stripe and a written message to point you in the right direction) until the panel detachs. The flap then acts as a stand for the dock, so that your iDevice will stand up straight (well, slanted backwards slightly) without toppling over. Aside from the contacts and the speaker grille - which makes up the majority of the fascia - the only buttons you'll find on the front are the volume controls and a Bluetooth button. There's also a bright red power switch round the back, while the underside simply features the stand, a rubber non-slip foot, the power socket and a 3.5mm input.
Along with both generations of iPad, the DS7700 also supports all handsets up to and including the iPhone 4, and more or less all versions of the iPod (the only ones that appear to missing from the list are the 1st-gen touch and, unsurprisingly, the shuffle). There's also a 3.5mm cable included in the box so that you can hook up any other compatible music players. The dock also has shielding technology to block pesky mobile phone interference and we didn't have any trouble when listening to music from an iPhone 3GS, so we have to conclude that the technology works. We were also happy to see that the phone fitted neatly into the dock without the need to remove its protective case first.
The dock feels pretty steady when an iPad is introduced, mostly thanks to that rubbery non-slip foot on the bottom of the unit. We did find that trying to move the dock with the iPad in it wasn't a great idea as the tablet tended to overbalance, but to be fair the dock isn't really designed to be moved halfway through playback anyway.
Control and performance
You can control tracks directly from the music library on your iDevice or alternatively make use of the free Fidelio app, as long as you're packing iOS 3.0 or later. The app features masic controls and enables you to navigate around your music library. While the iPhone/iPod version offers a series of screens that can be accessed by swiping left and right, the iPad version has one tablet-sized homescreen which stays put as you select other menus. This shows the time, date and weather for your location and also displays what's playing, complete with any available artwork. Other menus pop up as iPhone-sized screens that can be hidden again by tapping the "back" icon in the top left corner. You can post directly to Facebook and Twitter to let people know what you're listening to and there are also a range of audio options to match what's playing, including Flat, Pop, Rock, Jazz and Classic.
There is a sleep timer and alarm clock function on board, along with a radio mode powered by TuneIn radio which will give you access to over 7,000 stations. You can browse by genre or keyword, making light work of searching for a station.
The dock features Bluetooth connectivity so that can stream music wirelessly over to the player, without the need for your iDevice to be in the dock - you just need to be within a reasonable range. What that means is that you can happily tap away on Angry Birds, while the sound will be amplified through the speakers - a great feature for keen tablet gamers.
The dock packs a relatively modest neodymium 14W speaker which we found to be much better than expected. Considering the compact size of the dock, the audio performance is pretty impressive and certainly good enough to fill a reasonably sized room. The DS7700 also incorporates Dynamic Bass Boost which means that the bass response is meaty and definitely better than you'd expect from your average speaker dock.
While the dock can be powered from the mains, using the supplied power adaptor, it also includes a built-in rechargable battery that offers 10 hours on a full charge - more than enough for most working days or for listening to plenty of tunes while relaxing on your hols.
If you're after a portable dock for your iPad, then you can't go far wrong with the Philips Fidelio DS7700. The removable protective shield for the contacts means that the dock is ideal for carrying round in a bag or suitcase and the fact that the mechanism also doubles up as a stand is great news. Sound quality is impressive, particularly the low-end response, and it takes a fair bit of volume before the clairty starts to suffer. Add to that, the Bluetooth connectivity - ideal for iPad gaming - and you've got yourself one tidy little product. The £179 price tag may seem a little steep to some, but the reassurance offered by the robust build quality should help to soften the blow.