The video iPod is a fantastic movie player, but its enjoyment is slightly hampered by the small screen size.
Love them as we do, we love our eyes more and long sessions looking at that screen just aren't fun. The iLuv tablet addresses that problem. It swallows up a whole iPod in a docking bay and then plays back its video content onto a much wider screen. The results are actually pretty effective.
The screen is a tablet-style active matrix TFT LCD screen that's seven inches wide corner to corner. The image quality is surprisingly good - not as clear as an iMac screen or TV screen, but still with a resolution on a par with a video iPod.
It's watchable enough, and will keep the kids happy on long car journeys. Parents will be happy too, as the i1055 comes with a car charger and twin earphone jacks to keep the little darlings quiet.
The power comes from an internal battery that needs to be recharged. There's no disposable battery option. You charge the unit and playback until the battery wanes or you plug in the charging cable. The i1055 automatically charges an iPod whenever one is docked.
The reverse side of the iLuv has a fully enclosed iPod Dock with a bay door that flips out. At the bottom is a Dock connector which links the video clips on your iPod to the screen on front of the i1055. Under the screen is a full-sized DVD bay, which is the second option for playing movies.
To get the iPod signal working, you turn the TV Out option in the iPod's Video Settings. Then you just navigate to the video content on the iPod, press Play and it appears on the i1055's screen. A remote comes in the pack too, but like the buttons on the front of the i1055, this only controls DVD content and not content from the iPod.
So, you have to use your iPod controls to select and play its video - the i1055 only controls the iPod's volume. You can play the iPod's content to a TV too, using the S-video and audio cable ports and cables that come in the box.
This is a bulky unit compared to, say, the portable media players from Arcos. With an iPod docked you're talking 2kg, but the weight isn't the problem - it's the size. It's as thick as a tennis ball in the centre section and as wide as a magazine.
As a DVD player its takes its knocks well, but doesn't have the rock-hard structure we would have liked. It's not terribly well-built and if you shake it enough it will jog. The docking bay door for the iPod rattles. Two speakers on the front of the i1055 face you, but we used headphones and expect you would, too.
Don't drop it
Usefully, you can strap the i1055 in place: on either flank is a belt loop and there's a carrier belt in the box. It takes some effort, but you can fix it to the back of a car chair if you persist. It looks wrong though, like a mobile phone in the mid-80s, so unfortunately you're going to have to hand it to the kids to hold. And no, it doesn't bounce well...
This is the first time we've seen a tablet DVD player that will dock an iPod, and it's not bad. It would be better if the front controls let you browse the iPod, and the unit could do with slimming down. Would we buy one? We might consider it for children.
For personal use it's hard to think of a time when you'd need to watch a video so much that you'd carry this box around. After all, chances are we'd have a Mac laptop on us which can do a better job. Still, it could be useful for long car journeys.