We've seen some brilliant custom iPad mod-jobs here at Pocket-lint that made the iPad into a nifty kitchen or bedroom based multimedia machine. But it's taken the manufacturers a while to clue on to the fact that we may want to do more than a Steve Job's style lounging session with our Jesus tablet.
We may want it to become a media hub in the household, and there are very few devices at present that offer this luxury.
One of the first iPad docking systems that has come to market to solve this issue is the Altec Lansing Octiv 450 (which goes by the name of the Octiv Stage over in the US). And we put it through its paces to see if it's up to the job.
The first thing it's worth pointing out about the Octiv 450 is that it's a fairly basic affair - there's not really much to see. What you've got is a couple of front facing speakers (2-inch neodymium drivers) covered by some stretched black cloth with just three silver plastic click buttons underneath - power, volume up and volume down. Around the back you're only going to find an auxiliary-input (as well as the power connection) and the remote is the basic iPod docking model that often gets bundled, so it's hardly a complicated device.
But within the 450's basic setup lies its strength. After all, with the multitude of media apps in the App Store likely to be nestled on your iPad's homescreens, you don't really need extra functions on the dock to make it useful.
Above the speaker is the dock itself, which sits on a tilting, swivelling iPad holder which has a couple of felt-like covered gripping claws to hold your 10-incher in place. It's a doddle to clip your iPad into the correct position, and the arm feels smooth when moving it around to the desired location. It'll also hold your iPod or iPhone but these both look a bit silly on there to be honest.
The beauty of the multi-directional arm is that you can have your iPad in pretty much any direction that you want. Obviously, portrait and landscape in an upright position are likely to dominate - but you may wish to go wonky for a party, or have the iPad laying fairly flat if you're planning on doing a bit of typing.
The sound quality of the Octiv 450 is powered by Altec Lansing's Audio Alignment technology which is “designed to significantly enhance centre channel voicing for dialogue”. Basically, this means it’s optimised for video watching rather than music - and this is evident.
That's not to say that listening to music on the 450 is bad, because it isn't, but you wouldn't want this to be your main music centre. But, for a bedroom or a kitchen it is ideal. The bass is a bit thin, and the volume doesn't go too high (and when it does it struggles a bit) but at a reasonable level the sound is fairly crisp, although it is obvious that it is coming from one place.
But where the sound really does excel is when watching movies, TV or other video clips. We tested it out with a couple of movies using the VLC app and it really did enhance the iPad movie watching experience, and it's also great to watch the news (we used the BBC news app) with the 450 sitting on the kitchen counter. iPad owners will be aware that the speakers aren't its greatest feature, and this dock really makes the most out of the device's strength - its high-quality 10-inch display. With improved sound complimenting the crisp pictures, it's a winning combination.
Plus, as the Octiv 450 is capable of juicing-up your iPad as well, it makes it a handy charging station.
The Altec Lansing Octiv 450 is the (video) docking station that the iPad was crying out for. Sure, it may not have the best speakers on board, so it's unlikely to impress audiophiles with its sound-output, but it's a very handy device if you're looking to utilise your tablet as more than a browsing machine.
It looks great sat on the kitchen counter and it really does enhance the video playback features of the iPad. And, with the multi-directional arm on board, you're guaranteed to be able to get the angle you want.
Don't buy the 450 if you're looking to turn your iPad into the music hub of your home - because you'll be disappointed. Buy it if you're looking to get more out of the video aspects of your tablet. For us, the simplicity of the Octiv 450 is its strongest point.