Aluratek’s Brick is an iPhone/iPod-docking clock radio that packs big sound for its size, but leaves much to be desired when it comes to the overall experience.
The black Brick is aptly named—it’s a dense block weighing four pounds and measuring 9.6 inches wide, 3 inches tall, and 6 inches deep at its deepest point. Though the Brick’s not perfectly brick-shaped, its footprint is small. It sits on four rubber feet, though two of those feet fell off review unit shortly after I removed the Brick from its box.
The top of the Brick displays a large “The Brick” logo and hosts a dock cradle, using Apple’s Universal design, for iPods and iPhones. Included is a cradle adapter for use with the iPod nano (all versions, according to Aluratek). Docking and removing my iPhone was painless.
The front of the Brick sports a small, blue-backlit LCD clock. The backlighting shuts off after a minute, but touching any button on the unit or its remote illuminates the display again. Directly below the clock face are four very tiny and identically shaped, round buttons: Volume Up, Volume Down, Source, and Standby. That last button functions as a power button, though there’s also a hardware power switch on the back of the system that shuts off the entire unit—including the time display.
Also on the back, directly underneath that power switch, is the port for the Brick’s included AC adapter. On the opposite side of the back are three ports: an 1/8-inch (3.5mm) stereo line-in jack for connecting an alternate audio source, a 1/8-inch (3.5mm) video-output jack for watching iPod- or iPhone-hosted video on a TV, and an FM-antenna port for connecting the included antenna wire. Each of these three jacks is covered with a small rubber cover that didn’t strike me as being very sturdy—I wouldn’t be surprised if one or more eventually came loose.
The included infrared remote sports a grid of buttons, including Volume Up, Volume Down, Mute Play/Pause, Back, and Forward, along with iPod/iPhone menu-navigation controls. A Source button (which mirrors the Source button on the front of the Brick) lets you cycle through the three possible sources: FM radio, the iPod/iPhone dock, and the auxiliary input. Finally, there’s a quartet of buttons devoted to setting the clock, setting the alarm, snoozing, and changing the alarm tone. Yes, this means that if you lose the remote, you can never set the clock or use the alarm again.
Setting the alarm itself is painless with the remote in hand: Once you’ve hit the Alarm button, you use the volume controls to adjust your wake-up time. The alarm feature is barebones, though—you can set just a single alarm, and the Brick doesn’t support weekend modes or other fancy alarm features.
FM reception in my home seemed fine, as stations came in clear. You can store up to 20 presets using the remote, though, again, you must use the remote to recall any of those stations. Annoyingly, you can’t navigate directly to a given preset; instead, you’re forced to scroll up and down through your saved stations.
During my initial evaluation of the Brick, focusing on features and design, I came away unimpressed thanks to the rubber feet that fell off; the tiny, identical buttons; the limitation of being able to use the clock only via the remote. Then I tested the system’s audio performance. Packed into the Brick’s case are left and right 21mm tweeters and 34mm midrange drivers, powered by 4 Watts per channel, along with a downward-firing, 88mm “subwoofer” on the bottom with a 15-Watt amp of its own. The sound produced by this array hits you—forgive me—like a ton of bricks. It’s not just capable of getting very loud with minimal distortion. The audio it generates is impressively clear and rich. For the Brick’s price and size, the audio it generates is simply amazing.
Macworld’s Buying Advice
Reviewing the Brick was tricky. I can’t give the product my full endorsement, since I came away disappointed with multiple tangible issues. But if audio is your primary concern, and you’re looking for a swell-sounding, reasonably priced iPod/iPhone dock, the Brick certainly satisfies the ears. Just be aware of its design flaws.