The success of the iPod as a portable music player has also led to a healthy market for docks that let you play music from your iPod (or other MP3 player) through speakers in the comfort of your home. But is a portable dock a good idea for regular travellers?
I've long been a believer in taking personal media on the road — when I went on the epic Hand Luggage Only journey in March, I actually had both a Nano and a Touch with me, which effectively meant I'd sacrificed underwear choice for portable music. However, for actually listening to stuff, I settled for simply using earbuds.
Another option for on-the-road types seeking a little in-room entertainment is to play music back directly through your PC speakers. However, while my Portégé has proved an excellent choice in terms of portability, its onboard speakers are necessarily tiny, and the sound quality is infinitely better through headphones.
There are scenarios when not using headphones is handy. If you want music playing while you shave and shower, speakers are definitely the only choice, and even if you're working in front of your machine, not being chained to it by cables is a bonus. So when Logitech offered to send me its recently released Portable Speaker S125i , I figured it might be a good chance to see if a dock was a worthwhile inclusion for longer trips.
The main argument for the S125i is its relative compactness. Its feature set otherwise (dedicated iPod slot, AC or DC power, 3.5mm input to allow non-iPod connections) is fairly typical of the market as a whole, and its $99.95 price tag is also pretty standard for a branded dock.
The compactness is definitely relative. At about 23 by 10 by 10 centimetres, the S125i is smaller than many docks, but still takes up a fair bit of room in the travel bag. The rounded curves, while aesthetically interesting, don't make for particularly effective use of space (I ended up cramming socks next to it when packing it for on-the-road use). The power adaptor takes up still more room — the alternative is to use four AA batteries, which might be more practical for uber-compact travel.
Despite those restrictions, the option of being able to play music while not stuck at a hotel room desk did become appealing pretty quickly. The sound quality isn't room filling, but infinitely better than my PC speakers. Indeed, as well as popping the iPod in, connecting the unit to my PC for watching DVDs was also useful (though it's a pity Logitech doesn't supply the cable to do this as part of the package). My only design complaint is that the recessed dock made it a bit fiddly to access the pause button on the Nano.
Given the size, I don't know that the S125i would qualify for trips where I'm trying to apply the hand-luggage-only principle. But on longer haul journeys, like the one I'm about to make to New Zealand, it definitely would merit inclusion. (As ever, if you've got your own take on why a dock is or isn't a key piece of travel kit, share it in the comments.)
Lifehacker Australia editor Angus Kidman still needs to eliminate the duplicates from his ripped music collection. His Road Worrier column, looking at technology and organising tips for travellers, appears each week on Lifehacker.