By Chris Scott Barr
I can think of few devices that have spawned quite as many accessories as the iPod. Seriously, I could devote my entire life to talking about nothing more than iPod stuff, and I’d still only scratch the surface. Since I like a bit of variety in my life, I won’t be bringing you new iPod accessories every single day, but I do have a couple of docks that I recently got in for review. Today I’ll share my thoughts of the iPanda. Those with an eagle-eye and a keen memory might recall it’s big brother, the iPig, which Evan saw at CES earlier this year.
Cute isn’t a word that I generally use to describe my tech toys. Unfortunately after spending several hours consulting a thesaurus and an English professor, I was unable to find a better word to describe the iPanda. Yes my friends, it is cute. Okay, so it’s got enough appeal to grab you when you’re walking down the isle, but when you finally get it home and plug in your iPod, will your feelings change? Read on for my thoughts.
So what exactly does this cute little panda have to offer the iPod owner? Well, it will work with all iPods that use a universal dock connector, (as for the iPhone, I’ll get to that in a bit) not to mention any other audio device that uses a standard 3.5mm audio jack. It packs 5 speakers, including a 15W sub for a total of 25 Watts of output.
Specs are nice, but how does it perform? Honestly, I was a bit surprised by the sound that came out of the iPanda. The audio was strong, with nice deep bass and clear highs. A good portion of this can be attributed to the decision to add in a large sub underneath, and two tweeters up top (just underneath the ears). There are also controls for manually adjusting the bass and treble, which was a nice surprise on something that looks like it’s meant to be used by kids.
I have to say that I was a little disappointed by the controls on the iPanda, or the lack thereof. The volume controls are pretty obvious, and well-implemented. Just tap the right ear to turn it up, and the left ear turns it down the glowing mouth will blink to let you know that the tap has registered. However, if you want to skip a song, pause or put the gadget into standby, you’ll need the remote (there is a big switch in the back for powering it off completely). With the touch-sensitive volume controls present on the ears, it just doesn’t make much sense why they wouldn’t include any others on the device.
What the iPanda doesn’t have in on-board controls, it makes up for on the tiny remote. They managed to cram 18 different buttons onto that little thing. Aside from your basic power/play/pause/skip/volume controls, you can also adjust the bass and treble, select your audio input and access/navigate the menus on your iPod.
Something that should definitely be noted is that they chose to use a very strange dock for connecting your iPod. It’s not the usual universal dock that you see on most devices, but a bulkier, somewhat odd-shaped one. It still uses the same connector, but the shape of the dock does make your iPod sit a little lower in the device than I’d normally like.
Since I use my iPhone for all of my portable tunes, I had to see how well these two played with each other. It should be noted that the iPanda doesn’t claim to work with the iPhone, so any lack of functionality can’t really be held against it. With that said, I was pleasantly surprised to find that the iPanda works fairly well with my iPhone. By “fairly well” I mean that the music plays great, the basic controls and iPod menu navigation work and it even recharges the phone to boot. The downside is that you’re going to need to keep it in ‘Airplane Mode’ or risk listening to that wonderful interference that you get with most iPod accessories.
To be honest, I was really surprised by the iPanda. It packs some great sound into a tiny package. The cute panda look is also rather deceiving. Even though it looks like something you’d buy for your kid, the audio quality easily keeps pace with other devices in the same price bracket. Speaking of price, you’ll end up paying around $130 for this cute little dock.
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