iHome iDM5 Bluetooth keyboard and speaker review

Provides: Bluetooth keyboard, speakers, USB chargingDeveloper: iHomeSystem Requirements: Tablet or smartphone with BluetoothReview Device: iPadPrice: $ 149.99Availability: Out now

The iHome iDM5 attempts to fill an unusual niche: turning the iPad into a desktop computer. It’s a full-size keyboard and stand combined with a nice set of speakers that connects to your device via Bluetooth (so it can be used with an iPhone or any smartphone/tablet with Bluetooth). It reminds me of the Powerbook Duo Dock, another device designed to make an ultraportable feel more comfortable to use at a desk. the strange, official name (“Executive Space Saver” which sounds like something out of a Skymall catalog) tells us more about its purpose: you’re not supposed to think of it as adding to the space the iPad takes up, but as replacing the space an iMac would take up.

In comparison to other Bluetooth keyboards designed for the iPad, I wouldn’t exactly call the iDM5 (and what an awkward name that is) “portable.” It’s certainly light enough to tote around, and would easily fit in a carryon suitcase or standard backpack. But it has no internal battery, and is many times larger than an iPad.

It’s designed around a full-size keyboard, complete with function keys (F1-F12, though the F5 key is used as a toggle for the virtual iPad keyboard), volume and play/pause controls for music, a backspace and delete key, and a microphone for making calls or videoconferencing. the keyboard has a Function (fn), Control, Alt/Option, and Command key on the left hand side, but only a Command and Alt/Option on the right (next to the arrow keys). the keys are flat but responsive, though there is some “wiggle” while typing, and while writing this review on my iPad I had no problem getting a quick, accurate response.

The speakers (placed facing out on either side of the iDM5) are impressive, especially if you’re used to the sound you typically get on a laptop. the space that the keyboard does take up was used wisely for great stereo output with good bass support. It wasn’t until I turned the speakers on that I realized the iDM5 could pull double duty in turning the iPad into a mini-home entertainment center, letting you watch videos while reclined on the couch, rather than leaning forward to catch more of the sound.

The function keys are configured to control music much like they are on a Macbook keyboard, but the keyboard also has three dedicated buttons on the side for volume up/down and play/pause. in addition to playing music via Bluetooth, the iDM5 also features an Aux-In port (1/4″) for an external source (and a toggle switch to control which audio source is used).

There are two USB ports on the side for charging devices, and these work as expected. the iPad is supported by a translucent, flip-up screen that regrettably only has two positions: open an closed. As such, unlike a laptop, you can’t easily adjust the screen (that is, the iPad) based on light or reflections.

As I say, the iDM5 is light enough to tote around easily, but the lack of internal battery and collapsibility will limit its portability. It’s really for people who want to use the iPad as a writing machine in an office setting, where they go out and carry the tablet as an ultraportable, then come back and do a lot of typing on a full-sized keyboard. And for that, it’s perfect. I got so used to using it while typing that I frequently reached over to find my mouse when I needed to move the cursor, only to realize that, oh yes, I need to touch the screen. the ideal user for this product is someone who wants to ditch his laptop for a tablet, but has a lot of typing to do at the end of the day.

And for that, the iDM5 is great. the keyboard itself is a notch below a MacBook Pro keyboard—more on par with my 2007 MacBook version, but definitely up to the task. And the speaker system is very good; iHome brought a lot of their knowledge from their audio devision to good use here.

If the need to do a lot of typing is what’s holding you back from ditching your desktop computer, the iDM5 may be the solution you’ve been looking for.

Appletell Rating:Buy the iHome iDM5 Executive Space Save

Via [AppleTell » iPhone]