Portable Sound Laboratories iMainGo XP
Though it protects your iPad, don't confuse Portable Sound Laboratories’ $120 iMainGo XP with a traditional iPad case—it protects your iPad when closed, and forms a stand with speakers when open. But thanks to that built-in speaker system, the XP adds two pounds to your tablet, more than doubling its total weight, and your XP-encased iPad bulks up to 10.2 inches tall, 7.6 inches wide, and 1.5 inches thick (when closed). The XP sports a black finish that shows fingerprints a bit too well.
To open the case, you slide two switches, one on each side, unlocking the speakers so that you can fold them out. The original iPad fits in the iMainGo XP without any adapters; the iPad 2 requires a special tray (included). The tray snaps on and off simply enough, though it adds bulk to the iPad 2 so that its dimensions are more akin to the original iPad.
To get your iPad's audio to play through the XP, you connect the XP's audio cable to your iPad's headphone jack. This procedure is a bit of a challenge, as the cord isn’t really long enough to plug into your iPad before you put your iPad in the case, and it’s a tight squeeze with the case on.
When the case is closed, it leaves your iPad’s volume buttons and side switch accessible—though, of course, you can’t see your device’s screen with the iMainGo XP closed. On the top-right edge of the left-speaker section sit three nearly-identical looking ports: One is for the included AC adapter, and the other two are dual headphone jacks. Placing the three so close together makes it difficult to figure out where to plug in your headphones or the adapter. It would also be nice if the headphone jacks were spread out—if two people happen to be listening via headphones at the same time, chances are they won't be sitting on top of each other. Next to these three connectors is an LED that indicates power or charging status, as well as a power switch.
The iMainGo also ships with a tiny stand. The case’s trifold design means that it can stand on a tabletop without further assistance, but this slim stand allows you to angle the iPad back a bit for a better viewing position.
The company says it should take between eight and ten hours to charge the speakers fully, and a full charge should net you eight hours of playback. I didn't test these claims.
Since the iMainGo XP relies on your iPad’s headphone jack, rather than its dock-connector port, for audio, the case sports no volume controls—any volume adjustments are performed using the iPad's own volume buttons. With the volume cranked up all the way, your iPad can sound impressively loud with the iMainGo XP—much louder than the tablet can manage with its tiny, built-in speaker. For music playback, though, the iMainGo XP doesn’t impress. It's audio quality reminded me of SMK-Link's PadDock 10, which is similarly tinny and compressed, with little bass presence.
The iMainGo XP fares better as a speaker for movie watching. When watching The Larry Sanders Show on the Netflix app, I could much better appreciate Hank “Hey Now" Kingsley’s basso profundo. Portable Sound Laboratories suggests the case is also good for gaming, but that will depend on the kinds of games you play. Game audio certainly sounds better through the XP than through the iPad's own speaker, but with the XP's speakers extended, you can't hold your iPad comfortably. Instead, you rotate the speakers all the way around, against the back of the case. This lets you grip the (bulky) system more like you'd hold a bare iPad. The speakers then project away from you, but the audio quality is still an improvement over the iPad alone.
Macworld’s buying advice
The iMainGo XP is a clever concept, but it’s much bulkier than I’d like my case to be, and it’s not acoustically satisfying enough to use as a go-to speaker system. For movie and video watching, however, it's actually a decent option—I found it useful as a modern-day replacement for a portable DVD-playing system.
Portable Sound Laboratories iMainGo XP