Audio docks for the all so popular iPod and iPhone range of products have been around long enough. Most of the lifestyle brands are the ones focussing on them.

A bold looking iPod dock from JBL

A bold looking iPod dock from JBL

We’ve already reviewed a few of these docks in the past. Now, there is a new one called the JBL Onbeat that supports all existing devices including the iPad.  

Design and Features

The new JBL Onbeat is a pretty compact dock. The design is attractive with the two drivers peaking from either side of the dock and the JBL branding in the centre. There are chrome painted plastic strips running across each other at the front of the tablet. 

The volume buttons are lined on the right side of the player. The power on button is placed at the back. We would have preferred if these essential controls were placed at the front where they would be easily accessible. The buttons are made of plastic and don’t feel as solid as the rest of the body. The base for example, has strips of rubber that ensure that the dock doesn’t slide around on a glossy table.

An iPad can easily be docked

An iPad can easily be docked

The arm that holds the socket and allows you to attach your iPod or iPad device allows for swivelling. That way, you can rotate your device on its side. It also makes for a somewhat different viewing position – something like an all-in-one desktop. It’s fun to use while you’re browsing but for long periods, it can get a little annoying. There are also two panels that fit onto the centre of the dock and bring stability when you move the iPod or the iPad horizontally.

The bundled remote control is tiny, extremely light and is powered by a button battery. A slightly larger and heavier remote with better feel buttons would be welcomed. 

Basic connectivity options

Basic connectivity options

In terms of connectivity, it works like any other dock works – it lets you connect a device to it, and the dock connects to a desktop or laptop which in synchronize data and charge the device. The JBL Onbeat has a 3.5mm audio jack as well which allows you to connect other audio sources as well. Obviously, the remote control won’t work with those devices. A composite output port is also present to output a low-resolution stream to a TV.

Performance

The JBL Onbeat performs very well for its size. JBL says that the dock has a total power output of 15W. Although not bass heavy, it’s pretty loud and it has a pretty natural sound signature. Sound separation isn’t as clear as separate speakers but JBL has tried to point each driver slightly away from the centre. There is distortion when you raise the volume beyond 70 per cent or so.

An iPhone 4 in place

An iPhone 4 in place

The remote control works well most of the phone with smaller devices but when you plug in a larger device such as an iPad, you really need to get close to the dock for it to work properly. Not all of the controls work flawlessly. Users need to set the Apple device into the audio playback mode for some of these features to work. The JBL Onbeat can output video to a TV using Composite. Video quality is obviously hampered by it. We also noticed some audio synchronisation problems.

Verdict

The JBL Onbeat isn’t a flawless iPod dock. It’s natural sound signature is good to have but the lacking punch in the lower frequency range is bound to be a problem. We wished it wouldn't have distorted at higher volumes. Price wise, it’s not very cheap at Rs. 9,990 but, at the same time, it’s not out of everyone's reach either. If you have an iPad, then this is one of the few options out there and you most definitely should consider this. If you're an iPod or an iPhone, just go ahead and buy one of the alternatives.

Publish date: April 20, 2011 9:32 am| Modified date: December 18, 2013 7:38 pm

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