Cheatsheet: The Top Rated Portable Electronics Of 2011

Here is our list of the top rated portable electronics of 2011. The review sources we consulted were: CNET, PC Magazine, Trusted Reviews, Consumer Reports, Digital Photography Review and Amazon reviewers.

The Top Rated Portable Electronics Of 2011

Earbuds / Earphones

Headphones

MP3 Players and Video Players

Speakers

Digital Cameras and Video Cameras

Chargers and Batteries

Flashlights

E-Readers and Tablet Computers

Portable Computer Gear

Bike Gear

Vers iPod Dock: Handcrafted In The U.S.

Vers is a company in Maine that makes handcrafted iPod docks from Walnut and Bamboo. Their latest dock for iPods and iPhones incorporates an AM/FM radio and an alarm clock.

I’ve owned a Vers dock for about three years, I’m pleased with the sound of the speakers. The reproduction is clear, and the sound certainly fills a room. Vers says the thick wooden enclosure allows to the dock produce a richer sound than a dock constructed with plastic.

Vers also aims to be an environmentally responsible manufacturer — they are a Carbon Free partner,  Energy Star partner, and participate in the e-Stewart recycling program. You can read about the company’s mission here.

All Vers sound systems carry a one year warranty against defects relating to materials and workmanship.

The Vers iPod dock is available from Amazon for about $200.

The Top Rated Outdoor Speakers

We’ve surveyed reviews on TestFreaks, Gear Patrol, Home Entertainment Magazine, Amazon, TigerDirect.com and Newegg.com to find the top rated wireless outdoor speakers:

Soundcast OutCast ($849)

The Best Wireless Outdoor Speakers

Top Review Sources:

  • TestFreaks: 9/10 “The OutCast is just simply an amazing product that you’ve got to see and hear to believe”
  • Gear Patrol: “The Outcast was the best outdoor wireless speaker solution we’ve ever encountered”
  • Home Entertainment Magazine: “Its price tag accurately reflects its performance”

You’ll have a good idea of what you are getting yourself into upon receiving the large and heavy Soundcast OutCast box. Inside you’ll find the OutCast speaker itself—an 11-inch cylinder standing over two feet high and weighing close to 26 pounds—and the iCast transmitter, which wirelessly broadcasts music from an iPod or other device. The OutCast has a row of buttons on its top for volume, play, pause, seek, and its blue external mood light. While all these buttons are enabled when an iPod is hooked up, if you want to use another MP3 player, computer, or television, only the volume and light functions will work.

The OutCast is powered either by the included AC adapter or 10-hour rechargeable battery pack. The iCast transmitter accepts an iPod via its top-loading dock, and it also accepts any audio device with a 3.5mm output. The iCast broadcasts in 2.4 GHz, has a stated range of up to 350 feet, and runs on AC power. You can also plug a 3.5mm source directly into the OutCast itself. The high price tag is backed up by sound quality and quantity that blows away most reviewers. The OutCast consistently delivers strong bass and sharp treble. It is built to withstand any bad weather that may suddenly descend upon your outdoor gathering.

The OutCast is available from Amazon.

 

Brookstone Wireless Outdoor Speaker ($150)

Brookstone Wireless Outdoor Speaker

Top Review Sources:

  • Amazon: 4.0/5.0 (50+ reviews)
  • Epinions: 4.0/5.0 (4 reviews)
  • ExpertReviews.co.uk: 3.0/5.0 “The bass is incredibly strong”

Consider the Brookstone Wireless Outdoor Speaker if you need a compact, well-built speaker than is easy to move and can connect to a variety of devices. The Brookstone Wireless Outdoor Speaker receives positive reviews for its sound reproduction, though there are some complaints that the treble can’t keep up with the bass at high volumes. The unit is weather-resistant and can receive signals from its wireless dock up to 150 feet away. The wireless dock will connect to any MP3 player or stereo system. The dock can be powered either by the included AC adapter or by six AA batteries. The speaker runs from either AC power or eight D batteries. On-speaker controls include volume, bass boost, and blue ambient light switch. The Brookstone Wireless Outdoor Speaker operates on the 900MHz band.

Purchase the Brookstone Wireless Outdoor Speaker from Amazon.

Jawbone JAMBOX ($180)

Aliph JAMBOX

Top Review Sources:

  • Pocket Lint: 4 out of 5 stars
  • Amazon: 4 out of 5 stars (120+ user reviews)
  • Trusted Reviews: 7 out of 10

Another in the portable speaker mold, the Jawbone Jambox is small, but packs a punch when it comes to sound quality. Its attractive design has made it a hit with many reviewers, yet they have been quick to point out that it matches this with sound quality and power. By connecting via Bluetooth to any enabled music device, it can also be used as a speaker phone. With impressive low end capabilities the Jambox provides good sound quality in any environment, and does not distort at loud volumes. What has been noted as it’s only con by reviewers is its price; falling a little too high for a product of its type.

The Jawbone Jambox is available from Amazon.

Audiovox Acoustic Research AW825 ($90)

Audiovox Acoustic Research

Top Review Sources:

  • Zimbio: “a great product for extending the party outside”
  • Amazon: 4 out of 5 stars (100+ user reviews)
  • Green Home Best Buy: 4 out of 5 stars

The Audiovox Acoustic’s main attraction is that it doesn’t look like a speaker. With its design, it is a more natural choice for one’s garden than other speakers, and does not stand out of place. While the sound quality is reportedly adequate, it is not going to match that of a $600 or $700 speaker system. The Audiovox’s range, at approximately 100 to 150ft, is impressive and suggests a product with a quality build. This is reiterated by its durability; both waterproof and solid, this speaker is more than able to survive the weather of the outdoors. While there are few expert reviews of this speaker, the numerous user reviews are all incredibly enthusiastic, and almost entirely positive.

The Audiovox Acoustic is available from Amazon.

The Top Rated Bluetooth Speakers Of 2011

Bluetooth technology allows you to wirelessly connect your digital music player, mobile phone, laptop, or tablet to external speakers, giving a big boost to the sound quality and volume of your device. Bluetooth speakers will also work with desktop computers and some home A/V equipment, but they are primarily designed with portability in mind.

Some will fit in your pocket and have batteries that last all day. Once you complete a simple pairing process, any of our recommended Bluetooth speakers is ready to go. By consulting sites such as Macworld, CNET, The New York Times, iLounge, and Phone Arena, we’ve come up with this list of the top rated bluetooth speakers of 2011:

Soundfreaq Sound Platform ($180)

Currently, the Sound Platform by Soundfreaq is the top rated Bluetooth speaker dock, getting good reviews from CNET, iLounge, Pocket Lint and MacLife. CNET gives it a overall rating of “Very Good”, saying:

You’ll have a hard time finding a more stylish and feature-packed speaker choice in this price range. The inclusion of Bluetooth support makes it an attractive buy for iPad and smartphone owners.

Amazon reviewers also liked the  Sound Platform, it received an average rating of 4.7 out of 5 stars, from over 100 reviewers.

Sound Platform by Soundfreaq is available on Amazon for $180.

 

Soundmatters FoxL v2 Bluetooth ($200)

Top Review Sources:

  • Macworld: 4.0/5.0 “The FoxL’s sound is jaw-droppingly big, in dramatic inverse proportion to its size”
  • CNET: 4.0/5.0 “The fidelity and build quality make it a worthwhile purchase for serious audiophiles on the run”
  • New York Times: “This fascinating, coat-pocketable metal speaker oozes quality”

The Soundmatters FoxL v2 Bluetooth shocks reviewers by generating robust sound despite its small size. This candy bar-shaped wireless speaker includes technology to improve its wireless range and signal quality (two issues that particularly affect Bluetooth speakers), plus a built-in speakerphone for teleconferencing. The FoxL v2’s bass can be forceful enough to overpower its small frame, resulting in the device vibrating its way across a table if you don’t use the included rubber mat. Also available to stabilize the unit are a kickstand and rubber feet. The physical buttons are limited: an on/off switch and volume control. You’ll rely on your music player to switch tracks or pause playback. The FoxL v2 includes a rechargeable battery, AC adapter, mini-USB port (for slower, computer-based charging), and a 3.5mm line-in port. Battery life is estimated at five hours.

The Soundmatters FoxL v2 Bluetooth is available on Amazon.

Altec Lansing InMotion SoundBlade ($190)

Altec Lansing InMotion SoundBlade

Altec Lansing InMotion SoundBlade

Top Review Sources:

  • Macworld: 4.0/5.0 “There’s none of the tinniness found in many speakers of this size”
  • Amazon: 4.0/5.0 (90+ reviews)
  • LAPTOP Magazine: 3.5/5.0 “The SoundBlade’s strongest asset is its sound separation”

The tablet-like Altec Lansing InMotion SoundBlade is on the larger side of Bluetooth speakers, but it makes the most of its size with expansive sound. Bass response is excellent for a Bluetooth speaker. Aside from its top-notch sound quality, the SoundBlade impresses with great ergonomics: the black buttons on the top edge are clearly labeled and include all the necessary functions (volume, play, pause, seek, and accept call). When not plugged in, the SoundBlade can operate for 24 continuous hours on six AA batteries. There is also a 3.5mm jack for wired sources, plus a pop-out stand in the back.

The Altec Lansing InMotion SoundBlade is available on Amazon.

Creative D100 ($65)

Creative D100

Creative D100

Top Review Sources:

  • CNET: 4.0/5.0 “Impressive low-end range…[makes] it a worthwhile addition to your next outdoor get-together”
  • iLounge: B+ (Recommended) “Sonically, the D100 is surprisingly robust for its price”
  • Amazon: 4.0/5.0 (70+ reviews)

The Creative D100 is a compelling value. It is capable of filling a room with undistorted music at high volume, delivering sound quality that is a few notches above what reviewers expect at this price point. The D100 operates on AC power or on four AA batteries for up to 25 hours. The D100 matches the wireless range of much more expensive models, and its pairing procedure is among the easiest out there. There is a 3.5mm auxiliary port for wired connections. While more expensive models offer smaller and sturdier housings, the D100 is tough enough to move around frequently and comes in your choice of four color schemes: black/black, green/white, blue/white, and pink/white.

You can purchase Creative’s D100 on Amazon.

SuperTooth Disco ($122)

SuperTooth Disco

SuperTooth Disco

Top Review Sources:

  • CNET: 4.0/5.0 “A solid alternative to the classic three-piece computer speaker set”
  • Amazon: 4.5/5.0 (20+ reviews)
  • Phone Arena: “We’re actually surprised to hear such rich tones being pumped out…but even more [surprised] when it’s able to powerfully echo throughout a room”

Reviewers like the SuperTooth Disco because its sound quality, battery life, and design make it seem like a bargain for its relatively low price. At a foot long and about 2.5 pounds, the Disco is less portable than many other Bluetooth speakers, yet its responsive bass and room-filling volume make listeners forget about its form factor. Reviewers also appreciate the rechargeable battery, which allows the Disco anywhere between three and ten hours of continuous playback (depending on volume). Like all the speakers reviewed here, the Disco includes a 3.5mm jack for wired inputs, plus a selection of physical buttons you can use to control playback directly from the speaker. Pairing is straightforward, though keep in mind that you can’t use the Disco as a speakerphone.

The SuperTooth Disco is available on Amazon.

The Top Rated Portable iPod Speakers Of 2011

Logitech S715i Rechargeable Speaker for iPod and iPhone

The Logitech S715i is a portable speaker system that incorporates a rechargeable lithium-ion battery into its design. It’s approved by Apple, and will run for about eight hours on a charge.

CNET rates the Logitech S715i as “Excellent” and awards this product their Editor’s Choice, saying “The Logitech S715i portable speaker for iPhone and iPod uses eight drivers to deliver audio performance that is far beyond its price range.” Reviewers on Amazon agree, rating the product an average of 4.5 out of 5 stars in 635 reviews.

The Logitech S715i Rechargeable Speaker for iPod and iPhone is available from Amazon for about $100.

 

JBL On Stage Micro Speakers

JBL On Stage Micro

The JBL On Stage Micro provides solid sound quality with a tiny footprint. It features an iPod dock in the center as well as a 3.5mm plug for connecting other inputs, plus a clever touch button system and a remote control that make track selection and volume adjustments easy. Aluminum transducers driven by neodymium magnets are paired with digital amplifiers to provide rich sound while extending battery life. Four AAA batteries provide 24 hours of play. The On Stage Micro is compatible with rechargeable NiMH and lithium cells, and it features a low battery indicator LED. Plus, the On Stage Micro speaker system comes in a range of color options to match your iPod: white, black, blue, green, and red.

The JBL On Stage Micro is available at Amazon. Prices start at $72.50, depending on color.

iHome iHM77 Portable Multimedia Speakers


These rubberized mini speakers from iHome each measure just 2” x 2” x 2” when collapsed for transport, then pop open when in use with a clever accordion design. Vacuum bass design enhances low frequency tones, and the iHome speakers magnetically attach to one another to form a super-portable capsule. Power comes from internal lithium-ion batteries that can be recharged using the included USB cord, and a carry case and cord wrap are included with the speakers.

The iHome iHM77 Portable Multimedia Speakers are available in black, silver, and red from Amazon, starting at $46.80.

 

Harmon/Kardon Go + Play

The Go + Play from Harmon/Kardon may not be the smallest or cheapest option for a portable speaker system, but it delivers serious sound quality thanks to its 30-watt tweeters and 30-watt Atlas woofers. Its 9” x 9.5” x 20” dimensions are substantial, but a stainless steel carry handle and battery power keep it portable. It features the universal iPod dock system that is compatible with most dockable iPods (see note below) plus a 3.5mm jack for other connections. The Go + Play comes with an AC power adapter for indoor use, and a full-featured RF remote with a 20-foot range. And although eight D batteries add bulk to the system, they provide approximately 20 hours of power.

You can find the Harmon/Kardon Go + Play at Amazon for $216.90.

 

Bose SoundDock Portable

Bose SoundDock Portable

Bose SoundDock Portable

Would you be willing to sacrifice compact size to literally bring your home stereo system with you wherever you go? If so, check out the Bose SoundDock Portable. This mobile variation of their popular SoundDock system features a carry handle, a rechargeable lithium-ion battery, and a retractable iPod connection/charging dock (in addition to a 3.5mm plug for other devices). The SoundDock is over 12” wide and weighs over five pounds, so it’s not as compact or portable as some of its competitors, and it doesn’t come cheap – but it offers legendary Bose sound quality and an iPod-specific design. Battery life is roughly three hours at maximum volume (longer at lower levels); an AC adapter is included for battery charging and using the SoundDock at home, and a remote control gives added convenience.

You can find the Bose SoundDock Portable in black or white for $399 at Amazon, as well as a SoundDock travel bag for $40.19.