iHome DL100 review: Speaker dock charges three devices, but falls short as an alarm clock
At a Glance
iHome’s $150 DL100 (which the company describes as a “Triple Charging Stereo FM Clock Radio with Two Lightning Docks and USB Charge/Play for iPad/iPhone and iPod”) is cooler in concept than in practice. It’s a fine clock, a fine charging station, and a decent speaker. But it’s a lackluster alarm clock, and alarm-clock features have always been what makes iHome’s products stand out from the crowd.
The DL100’s standout feature is the capability to charge three devices simultaneously. The top surface hosts two Lightning-connector docks—one for an iPhone or iPod, and the other, with a sturdy back support, for an iPad (full size or mini). On the back of the DL100 is a USB port for charging a third device. You can use the DL100’s speakers to listen to an iOS device connected to any of the three connectors.
The clock display offers half a dozen brightness settings, though I wish it had one that’s brighter than the essentially “off” mode, but dimmer than the last visible step. On the back of the DL100, besides that USB port, you’ll find an auxiliary-input audio jack and the connector for the included universal AC adapter. The system weighs just shy of three pounds, and measures 10.3 inches wide, 5.2 inches tall, and 5.9 inches deep.
The Lightning connectors on top pivot a bit to make it easier to connect your devices. However, while I can place my iPhone 5S onto the phone dock easily, docking my iPad mini takes a little effort and concentration—centering the larger iPad takes some precision. On the other hand, I appreciate that I can leave my iPad mini’s Smart Cover on without it affecting my ability to dock the tablet.
Once you dock your devices, charging is a bit odd. For example, if I have my iPhone docked and I then dock my iPad, the iPhone stops charging for a moment and then starts again. In terms of charging, this pause is a minor issue, but keep in mind that whenever pausing stops and then starts again, the phone plays its “I’m charging now!” sound—or, in silent mode, vibrates. I was annoyed enough by the double sets of alerts when docking my iPad that I disabled silent-mode vibration on my iPhone. Your annoyance level may vary.
The USB port is a little odd, too. It charges iOS devices without issue, and it also charges my various smart watches normally. But when I connect my Mophie Juice Pack Plus to the USB port to charge it, the DL100 repeatedly starts and stops charging all three connections—USB and both Lightning connectors—each time. (A Mophie representative told Macworld that the company has tested this issue, and it seems to be isolated to Mophie battery cases.)
While I’ve tested a number of solid iPhone-dock alarm clocks from iHome, the top of the DL100 is loaded with too many buttons: volume up and down, power, mode, bedtime, clock, EQ, Dock 1 play/pause, Dock 2 play/pause, USB play/pause, wake up, tuning, snooze/dimmer, Alarm 1, and Alarm 2.
Similarly, setting either of the dual alarms involves pressing a too-long sequence of buttons. Though you might still want to do this if you have two people using the alarm features, or if you want to take advantage of the system’s “7–5–2” feature (which lets you set different alarm times for different days), I found that it was easier to just use my iPhone’s built-in Clock app—or one of many excellent third-party alarm clock apps—and have its alarm play through the DL100’s speakers. (iHome does offer its own iHome Sleep app for configuring the system, but I preferred using the iOS Clock app’s Siri-driven alarms.) As with most recent docking alarm clocks, you can set the time on the DL100’s clock by simply docking an iOS device.
The DL100 also includes an FM radio. Reception using the included wire antenna was fine in my house, and it’s easy enough to cycle through the six station presets by pressing the preset button repeatedly.
In terms of sound quality, the DL100 performs like a decent clock radio. In other words, it’s good enough for bedroom listening, and you can manually adjust bass and treble levels, but given the nightstand-friendly size, you shouldn’t expect impressive bass, noticeable stereo separation, or room-shaking audio levels. During my testing, it was fine for listening to music during the morning routine.
I like the DL100, and despite a few quirks with its charging features, I appreciate the system’s capability to power three devices at the same time—I’ve been using it nightly to charge my gear. Sound quality is in keeping with reasonable expectations for a clock at this size and price. However, the plethora of buttons on the device is confusing, and setting the alarm is needlessly complicated.