The iHome iDM5 Executive Space Saver System was a big hit at last year’s Consumer Electronics Show (CES), where it won a Best in Show award.
It’s a Bluetooth keyboard, a back rest for your iPad or iPhone, has two onboard speakers, a built-in microphone so you can use it as a speakerphone and you can charge up to two USB devices at a time. It’s not specifically designed for the iPad, and will work well with iPhones, although frankly, I only ever thought of testing it with my iPad because I use my iPhone for quick e-mails or texting, rather than thinking of it as something I’d incorporate into my office environment on my desk.
The only wire you have to use with the iDM5 is the one connected to the adapter that plugs into a wall socket. There’s also a 3.5mm aux line-in jack you can plug non-Bluetooth gear into.
The iDM5 isn’t designed as a portable device that you can take on the road with you to make your iPad, in particular, more functional. It must be plugged in to work, and it’s relatively bulky at 7.5” deep, 2.25” tall and 15” wide. When you open the keyboard cover to make the stand for the iPad, it adds about 6” more height. It’s made of black matte plastic with a translucent black keyboard cover/stand.
Where the iDM5 really shines is on your desk, where it makes your iPad more convenient to use as you might a computer. It doesn’t by any means turn the iPad into a full-fledged computer, but anyone who has ever tried to produce a large document on the iPad keypad will appreciate being able to type on an actual keyboard. And as far as typing anything of any length on an iPhone – forget about it. The iDM5 makes this possible! I can’t remember how many times I’ve sent a partially completed e-mail or text message from my iPhone because my big fat old fingers missed their target and ended up sending the message. This certainly solves that particular problem for me.
The only complaint here is that the keyboard response is a bit slower than I can type, so I found myself having to slow down a bit. Even that is a good thing, because when I get going my copy looks like a monkey has typed it. Sometimes I go over it afterwards and I can’t figure out what the words are. Having to slow down a little bit have made my first versions a lot better.
I like being able to charge my iPad while it’s on the iDM5 and also charge my iPhone via the two USB ports. Like everyone who has multiple devices, the challenge is to find enough plug-ins if you don’t have some sort of multi-charger option. The iDM5 provides that option and still gives me easy access to my devices and I find that very convenient on a crowded desk.
The iDM5 connects to your iPad via Bluetooth, which takes about a minute to set up, and it works flawlessly.
The two speakers on either side of the iDM5 have metallic grilles, and use the SRS TruBass optimization found on most iHome systems, and they offer surprisingly good sound – certainly a lot better than those on the iPad itself. The TruBass optimization makes for a nice mid-toned and bassy sound that is comfortable to listen to for extended periods of time. I never listen to my iPad through the onboard speaker and this is a lot more convenient than having to use special speakers to listen to music on my iPad without earphones – it’s all about decent quality of sound and desk real estate!
Power, volume up and down, play and pause and Bluetooth buttons are all on the right hand side of the iDM5, and the Bluetooth and power buttons are illuminated. There’s a switch under the Bluetooth button that allows users to toggle between the aux-in port on the rear of the iDM5 and Bluetooth for audio input. The microphone is also on the right side of the iDM5 and is labeled “mic” and is designed to allow users to have a speakerphone. iPhones will support the microphone for calls, and other iOS devices support it for FaceTime calls. I made several calls via the iDM5 mic. and the folks at the other end told me that the sound was such that they thought I was on my iPhone, so the noise cancellation works pretty well.
Although you can simultaneously charge two iOS devices on the iDM5, you can’t actually have two connections at the same time. So, even though I can charge my iPhone and use my iPad, I can’t handle any phone calls I’d like to make or receive through the iPhone without connecting my iPhone to the iDM5 with a 3.5mm audio jack and flipping the switch from Bluetooth to aux-in. Not a big deal, but I sometimes forget.
All told, the iDM5 is a terrific addition to a desktop for multi iOS users. It cuts clutter, offers decent sound, allows users to make speakerphone calls and provides a nice keyboard. The suggested retail is $150USD, and it’s worth the inventment if you use an iPhone and iPad at the office.
PROS: It’s very convenient to be able to use a decent Bluetooth keyboard; the speakers definitely add good quality sound, and it’s really handy to be able to charge two USB devices.
CONS: It’d be nice if the iDM5 was wireless, with rechargeable batteries; while iHome products are widely available in Canada, the iDM5 can be a bit tough to find; not being able to pair with more than one Bluetooth device at once.