Review: Logitech S315i
August 25, 2009 by Beatweek
New in iProng Labs: a hands-on review of the Rechargeable Speaker S315i for iPhone and iPod from Logitech, priced at $129…
review by Bill Palmer
We’ve reviewed dockable iPod and iPhone speaker systems whose price has ranged from a few dozen dollars to several hundred dollars and everything in between, and we’ve found that the only fair way to rate such products is to put them head to head with similarly priced competing speaker systems and see how they stack up. In the case of its new Portable Speaker S315i, Logitech’s primary competition is itself, as the company’s own Pure-Fi Anywhere 2 is a product that we’ve long pointed to as the best portable system on the market in the roughly $125-$150 price range (see June’s “iProng 50” awards and last December’s “Best of 2008” awards).
First, the good news: the S315i comes with the same built-in rechargeable ten hour battery, and now includes technology that allows you to optionally double the battery life. The S315i isn’t quite as wide as the Anywhere 2, which was its only dimension that seemed oversized. And despite being twenty dollars cheaper, the S315i sounds arguably a little better, having more substantial bass output than the Anywhere 2, if not quite having the same expansiveness in sound.
But getting there means that some corners have been cut. The first thing you’ll notice is that there’s no remote control in the box. And the iPod/iPhone dock has been reduced to a spring-loaded mechanism. You slide your device down onto the protruding dock connector, allow it to lean back against a rubber stopper, and the spring-loaded dock connector reclines along with your device. It’s clever and it works but it feels cheap; for instance, moving the S315i around while your device is docked will work just fine unless you allow the unit to tilt forward more than about twenty degrees, at which point your iPhone or iPod will fall forward on its spring-loaded base. It won’t actually fall out of the unit, but it’s enough to make you momentarily panic.
My own enthusiasm for this product was lessened further when I realized that the switch for doubling the battery life from ten to twenty hours is really just an audio quality reducer, making the bass sound either weak or non-existent depending on what kind of music I tested it with. To me this feels like trying to gain extra credit in a class where you’ve already got an A+, as the Anywhere’s ten hour rechargeable battery has always been one of its best features, particularly in comparison to similarly priced products whose built-in battery only lasts three to five hours, or even worse, operate on AA batteries. I can think of any number of scenarios in which ten hours of life is superior to three or five, but in how many instances would you need twenty instead of ten? And in how many of those instances would you not be able to just plug it into a wall socket using the included power cable once you got there?
And not to pile on, but while the slightly curvier design of the S315i gives it more personality than the Anywhere 2, those curves mean that the volume buttons can’t be on top, so they’ve been moved to the back. A pair of visual guides on the right edge of the front face tell you where they are so you can find them with your fingers without having to actually look at the back of the unit first, but it still feels like a bad trade-off. As does, frankly, far too much of the product overall.
Part of the problem in evaluating the S315i is that the Anywhere 2 already set the bar too high. In fact this is a category that Logitech has dominated for several years, previously with the original Anywhere, and even the mm50 before that. While this is arguably the best-sounding of the four, and sound quality is inarguably the most important single feature for a speaker system, there are a number of other factors that go into a purchasing decision, depending on each user’s needs.
It’s tough to peg a new version with slightly improved audio quality and an option for greatly improved battery life as being a step backwards, but that’s what the S315i feels like. It’s not exactly a tragic misstep. And not even an unrecommendable product, as the lack of a remote, cheap-feeling dock, and buttons on the back may not matter to you.
But at the end of the day, I’d have to recommend buying Logitech’s own Pure-Fi Anywhere 2 instead, even though it is last year’s model and priced twenty bucks higher. And for that matter, Amazon is currently offering both the S315i and the Anywhere 2 for the same $129 price.
Then again, if you were to pretend that the Anywhere 2 never existed, then the S315i would be more recommendable, despite its various issues. Hence the “it’s alright, I just can’t vouch for it emphatically” rating of 3.5 stars. Give Logitech credit for trying some bold things here; there’s just not enough payoff for the tradeoffs.