Let’s take a breather from all the iPad reviews, accessories, etc… and talk about a product that may not have all the bells and whistles of the iPad but it is also a pretty good multimedia unit for on the go, and especially for those long roadtrips with the kids. The iLuv i1166 is a multimedia player that plays both DVDs as well as media from your iPod Touch or iPhone. It’s a perfect companion if you are traveling with a lot of people as it has multiple headphones jacks, comes with a car charger, and a 8.9″ display big enough for everyone to share.
The iLuv i1166 debuted way back at CES 2009, but only till recently did it officially launch and become available for sale. The i1166 packaging is simple and comes with an AC Adapter, Car Charger, Remote, iPod dock adapters, and manual. The device itself is colored a high gloss black and it has a nice compact design with a built-in stand that flips out so it can easily sit on your desk – which is certainly a nice touch. In order to insert your iPod Touch/iPhone or DVD you have to lift up the front of the i1166 and once done reveals a DVD area and a dock for your iPhone/iPod. The i1166 supports the iPod Touch 1st and 2nd generation, iPod Nano 4th and 3rd generation, iPod Classic, and iPod with video.
Once we inserted both our iPhone and a DVD movie, it was time to see just how portable and fun this device was. When you turn the device on, the iLuv logo comes on and then a menu screen appears that you can navigate using a cross hair pad located on the face of the unit, or alternatively you can navigate the menu system using the included remote control. I was disappointed to see that the very impressive renderings originally shown off for the device’s menu system at CES 2009, are completely different now. Instead, a very watered down menu screen gives you options to choose to play media from your iPod, DVD, SD Card, or USB Flash Drive.
We chose to play a movie first – the Godfather. The display was crisp and clear and played well on the 8.9 inch screen (sadly though it’s not a touchscreen). However the viewing angles are a bit disappointing. Since this device is very practical for sharing, if you have people sitting to the right or left of you, they will see mostly shadows, while the person directly viewing in front will get the best viewing experience. There are ways to tilt it that make it less of an issue, but that can get frustrating. Another gripe that we have is that the highest the volume goes is to 15. The DVD I played didn’t sound very loud when jacked up that high. The audio experience is definitely better when listening to the device via headphones. Also, if you want to skip scenes or fast forward or rewind, you will need the remote as the control pads on the i1166 doesn’t operate when in DVD mode, so you really can’t afford to lose the remote. I also tried to re-enact what a typical car trip would be like – you know, the device ends up getting rocked around on bumpy roads. So I tried shaking the device, the result was that the DVD stuttered, but didn’t completely stop and it then resumed right where the interruption happened.
Moving on to the iPod/iPhone feature of the device. Just dock your iPod/iPhone and the i1166 will pick it right away, and you can choose to play either videos, songs, playlists, etc… You can select to play songs in shuffle mode, one by one or as a playlist in its entirety. If you decide to play songs or videos one at a time, you will have to keep hitting the ‘Menu’ button which also doubles a back button to get back to the song list to play another song after the current one is done playing. Navigation takes a bit of getting used too, but once you do, it’s pretty simple to operate. Again, sound quality was tinny sounding playing out of the built-in speakers, but sounded incredibly better and louder with a pair of good headphones. On a single charge I was able to squeeze out 4 hours of playing time on the i1166 before it went dead.
Back in 2009, the iLuv i1166 was a trendsetting device that was ahead of its time. But a lot has changed since then, and the device can’t help but fall into the shadow of the iPad and other touchscreen tablets with their slick interfaces. We also can’t help but feel like this is a poor man’s iPad. After all, it essentially transforms your iPod Touch or iPhone into a giant one. But for those who already have an iPod, and are looking to purchase a portable DVD player, it doesn’t make sense to buy anything but the i1166 since it lets you play both DVDs and your iPod on a bigger screen. The fact that it has multiple headphone jacks for sharing, supports many media types, and has additional media inputs is a huge plus. However the poor viewing angles do dampen the experience. You can pick up the iLuv i1166 for as low as $230 on Amazon.
The Good: Easy portability with compact sleek design. Decent battery life. Large screen. Great for road trips. Liked that they include a car charger. It plays iPod movies and it’s a DVD player!
The Bad: Poor viewing angles. Low quality speakers. Menu system is almost antiquated. Would have liked a touchscreen interface for the price.