Buying me a gift isn’t exactly easy. If you’re like me you probably hear this from your loved ones often too as well. So when my wife surprised me this past Christmas with an iHome iW1Airplay speaker I was super excited. The company’s flagship Airplay speaker was something I’d wanted but never treated myself to. Since setting it up I’ve used it a ton both in and around my home. I love being able to simply tap a few times on my iPhone to have my tunes instantly streaming throughout my house.
When iHome announced further additions to the iW line up at CES 2012 I was pretty psyched too. After you come to rely so heavily on a product hearing that other models are going to be added to the line can only mean more exciting products to check out.
iHome was recently kind enough to send along the newest addition to the iW line, the iW2. The iW2 is best described as the little brother to the iW1. In addition to streaming music from a variety of sources the iW2 can also act as a stand alone charger for your iOS device too.
Read on for my full review.
Let’s first talk about what comes included in the iW2 box. You’ll find the iW2 unit itself along with the power cable, iOS cable, remote control, manual, and quick start guide.
In order to set up the iW2 you’ll need to first download the special iHome Connect iOS application. This application is free and helps you to connect the iW2 to your wireless network.
Once you’ve got the application downloaded and installed you connect your iOS device to the back of the iW2 via the included 30-pin connector cable. Take note, this wired process is only required once, during the initial set up process. After you’ve got the unit set up you’ll be able to use it cable free.
The Connect application essentially walks you through connecting the iW2 to your wireless network and allows you to rename the iW2 speaker if you so desire. If you opt for more than one W2 it’ll make more sense to give each speaker a unique name so as not to confuse them.
If you’d rather not use the iHome iOS app. to set up the iW2 there are other options instead. You can choose to connect the speaker via ethernet to set up or place it into a network setup mode and use your internet browser to configure it on your network. The choice is yours.
The backside of the iW2 features a few ports and controls. You’ll find the power connector, audio in port (used to connect a device that doesn’t support AirPlay), USB port for the 30-pin cable, ethernet port, network status light and the network setup button.
Once the iW2 has been successfully added to your network you’re ready to begin streaming music with Airplay.
If you’ve never used AirPlay it couldn’t be any easier to get music up and wirelessly streaming to the iW2. From an iOS device simply double click the home button to bring up the multi-tasking bar. Then swipe to the right until you see the AirPlay icon. Tap the AirPlay icon to reveal the list of connectable devices. Select the device you wish to stream your music to and then select done.
Just like that you’ll be wirelessly playing your music via the iW2.
In addition to it’s smaller size profile (in the photo above the iW2 is on top and the iW1 on the bottom) the other differences between the two devices are power options. Whereas the iW2 features a built in rechargeable battery the iW2 does not. In order to use the iW2 you’ll need to be constantly connected to a power source. The iW2 measures in at Dimensions: 10.5 in” W x 5.8 in” H x 3 in” D. The larger iW1 at 12.5 in” W x 7.3 in” H x 3.7 in” D. The top of the iW2 features the same glossy, piano black look of the iW1.
The iW2 also features actual buttons whereas the iW1 has a touch screen like interface. I personally prefer the buttons on the iW2 and they let me know when I’ve pressed them. The touch screen controls of the iW1 offer no feedback and sometimes I’m not sure that what I’ve pressed actually took. Thankfully this is not an issue with the iW2.
Airplay isn’t limited to iOS devices either so if you don’t own an iPhone, iPad or iPod touch fear not. Anyone with iTunes can take advantage of the wireless functionality of AirPlay. In iTunes the AirPlay control is located in the lower right hand corner of the main window. And even if you don’t have iTunes or if your WiFi network is down you can connect your iPhone, iPod or iPad directly to the iW2 via the included 30-pin cable and choose to play you music that way instead. The AUX port also allows you to connect other non-Apple audio devices such as a CD player for playback through the iW2.
The buttons on the top of the iW2 illuminate so they’re easy to see. From the top of the speaker you can control volume, fast forward, rewind, play and pause your music. A WiFi icon also lights up to let you know you’re properly connected to your home network. If I had to come up with complaint about the iW2 it would be the fact that it seems to take a longer than normal time to reconnect to WiFi if the unit has been powered off. It does go into a standby like mode when not in use so unless you have to move it this won’t really be an issue, and again I’m just nitpicking.
If you’d rather not venture directly to the iW2 to change your music you can use the included IR remote control. It too allows you to play, pause, skip tracks, rewind and control your volume.
If you’re short on power outlets and have lost one due to having to plug in your iW2 you can use the USB port on the back of the iW2 and the included 30-pin cable to charge your iOS device. This is not only helpful if you’ve lost an outlet but also can insure you don’t run down the battery of your iOS device during playback.
The iHome Set application (also a free download from the iTunes App Store) can be used to update the firmware of your iW2 as well as change various settings.
The iHome iW1 isn’t cheap coming in at $299.99. By offering the iW2 iHome has brought to market perhaps what is the most affordable AirPlay speaker to date. The unit is easy to set up, via a wide array of setup options, light weight and boasts great sound thanks to SRS WOW HD technology. Setting up wireless “things” often times is a challenge but not so with the iW2. The free application makes it a breeze to get it connected to your network and if you’re not a tech. genius you’ll be thankful for not having to deal with what can be a frustrating configuration process. If you’re looking for an affordable AirPlay speaker, which is not only easy on your wallet but easy to set up too, look no further. The iW2 is for you.
PROS: Easy way to wirelessly play music anywhere there’s power, easy set up, lightweight, app supported, real buttons.
CONS: Doesn’t offer rechargeable battery.