The second battle has begun! (Well, technically it already happened and we are just catching you up.) Regardless!
Today we have two $129 challengers, the Altec Lansing inMotion iM3 and the Grffin Journi. They are both portable units, meant to pack up at a moments notice to provide melodies as you jet to lunch in Paris or dinner in McDonald's.
So who wins the battle? It's a close competition, but we're handing this round to the inMotion iM3.
Both companies really considered the consumer in the design here. Think of it as a gentleman's match.
inMotion iM3: The iM3 takes the cake for being the smaller of the two units, by about 30% if I had to guess. It uses a pull and flip-out design, snapping into standup position like an LD transformer (we mean that in a good way).
Journi: This unit takes a completely different approach. Instead of just including a carrying case, the leather padding is fully attached to the unit, making it feel a lot like an oversized journal in your hand. Unwrap the dock, and the case folds to support Journi upright. Rubber buttons built into the sides gives the unit a rugged feel, and make the unit near waterproof as they are the only extrusions not covered by the case. And last, a spot for the remote is built right into the speakers.
Features/More on Design:
inMotion: As a portable unit, you don't get much in terms of extras. But we appreciated that the power plug comes with multiple country adapters. It's a classy move that makes you feel like James Bond or something better...like David Hasselhoff touring when he was big in Europe. Yeah, we freakin' love adapters.
Journi: There's a built-in lithium ion battery, and that's huge in a portable anything. Plus, you can charge this 10-hour battery and/or power the unit through a standard iPod cable that's included with the unit (along with USB powerbrick). The iM3 has a similar port, but it doesn't come with a cable, nor can that plug power the speakers (only charge your iPod).
For testing the sound, we emo'd out to Sufjan Stevens' Casimir Pulaski Day, which offers a wide range of instrumentation, from acoustic guitar to flute to organ to banjo. And lyrics about a dead girl.
Without even listening, we could have predicted exactly how the iM3 would sound. All the small speaker stereotypes were in full form: good highs, passable to mediocre mids and completely nonexistent lows...which are all exaggerated when the volume goes up. That being said, the sound was especially crisp, with the flute and banjo coming through with valid presence. Sufjan's voice also shined, but as soon as the frequencies reached standard acoustic range, we were already hearing the system's limitations. Overall, a buyer would be pleased if they had reasonable expectations for $129 speakers of this size.
Unfortunately, the larger Journi sounded fuller but not better. The trumpets, especially, had a few nice moments during Casimir Pulaski Day. But everything that came out of the Journi, even during other test tracks, was riddled with faint gravel in the lower midrange. If the distortion were louder, ew'd think there was something wrong with the speakers. A built-in equalizer might rid listeners of the annoyance, but we could do nothing to eliminate it within the iPod itself.
WINNER: Altec Lansing inMotion iM3
Griffin has some fantastic ideas going on in their Journi—and a number of those ideas will be reason enough for plenty to consider this product. But especially given the unit's thicker figure, we just can't excuse the sound glitch that we heard.
Besides, the iM3 is no slouch. The dock is small, reproduces sharp, clean audio and folds flat for easy packing. But Altec Lansing, take a lesson from Griffin and throw a battery in the mix. Then, let us run the unit with our iPod connectors—so maybe next time this battle won't be so close.