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TUAW's Holiday Gift Guide: Docks that rock


Welcome to the TUAW Holiday Gift Guide! We've sorted the treasure from the junk and are serving up suggestions to make your holiday gift-giving a little easier.

There's an entire world of docks out there -- "Hickory Dickory Dock," "Sittin' on the Dock of the Bay," our very own Doc Rock, and the green light at the end of Daisy's dock in The Great Gatsby -- but the docks that make Apple fans the happiest are those that hold and charge iPhones, iPods, and iPads. There are some that act as big speakers for your iDevice, others that fill in for that old clock radio that you finally threw out the bedroom window, and some that charge more than one device at a time.

Our dock recommendations come in an assortment of types as well: basic docks that just charge or sync your iPhone, iPad, or iPod, speaker docks for blasting out your tunes, and docks for helping you get to sleep at night or wake up in the morning. All of the prices that are quoted are in US dollars.

This is just a sampling of the huge number of docks that are made for Apple devices. Be sure to check out TUAW coverage of many of the docks that are available.

Basic Docks

Basic docks are those that just do two things: hold the device in place and charge it. Apple used to supply docks with early iPods, but later got into the habit of just packing a cable into the box and selling docks separately. (Note: there is absolutely no truth to the rumor that this is how Apple has amassed its $51 billion in cash.) These basic docks are great stocking stuffers; they're inexpensive and fulfill a basic need.

Apple Universal Dock ($49) -- For charging your iPhone or iPod (with Dock Connector port), this is a relatively inexpensive solution. It can be used with audio or video cables (not included) to pump music or movies to speakers or a TV, has a USB port for charging or syncing, and includes an Apple remote so you can sit back and enjoy your media experience.

Apple iPhone 4 Dock ($29) -- If all you need to do is keep your iPhone 4 charged and vertical on your desk, then this is the perfect basic dock. You do have to supply your own USB to Dock Connector cable, as well as your own Apple USB Power Adapter, but it's a great way to do speakerphone calls with your iPhone 4.

Apple iPad Dock ($29) -- Have an iPad and a Bluetooth keyboard? Here's a great way to hold your iPad in a "locked and upright position" so you can type. Of course, it is only designed to work in portrait orientation. You can charge your iPad, use audio cables to jack into your speakers, use a Dock Connector to VGA adapter to connect to a monitor, or add a Composite or Component AV cable to pipe video to your TV. Cables are not included, of course.

Apple iPad Keyboard Dock ($69) -- It's an iPad Dock! No, it's a keyboard. Wait, it's both! This dock merges the iPad dock with an Apple keyboard. It does everything the regular iPad Dock does, plus you can use it to type into your iPad. At $69, it's less expensive than buying the iPad Dock and a Bluetooth keyboard.

Kensington Charge and Sync Dock ($29.99) -- It works with all iPhones and most iPod touch models, through a set of plastic inserts that cradle the various models correctly.

Kensington Nightstand Charging Dock ($39.99, see below) -- For most Dock Connector models of iPhones and iPods, this dock comes with an iPhone app that turns your device into a bedside clock and weather center. Unlike the iPhone 4, this comes in black and white.

Griffin Simplifi Dock ($29 through Amazon) -- Want to do a bit more with your dock, like have it not only work as a charge / sync dock but also as a media card reader and USB hub? Look no further than this aluminum dock that can mount most standard media cards and act as a powered USB hub, all while it's keeping your iPhone or iPod touch happy.

iHome iB969 Charger for iPad, iPhone, and iPod ($50, see below) -- Apple fans with every type of device will love the iB969. It can recharge up to four devices at once. There is a pair of iPod / iPhone docks on the charger, with a slot in the back where you can drop an iPad and hook it up to power with your own USB to Dock Connector cable. There are also Mini and Micro USB cables that can be connected to a fourth port for charging a non-Apple device. Note that you won't be able to sync through this charger, though.

Speaker Docks

Sometimes you want to dock your iPhone, iPad, or iPod and listen to your music or a movie soundtrack with a little bit of amplification. Speaker docks are just what you want to buy for that music lover who'd love to blast his tunes.

Altec Lansing Octiv Duo ($99) -- We did a review of the Octiv Duo back in October and loved it. This speaker dock has two iPod / iPhone docks, two speakers, and a little round remote control that fits into a spot on the back of the dock. Altec Lansing provides two free apps with the Octiv Duo: Alarm Rock and Music Mix. The latter app allows shuffling of music between two iPods or iPhones.

iLuv Audio Cube iMM747 iPad Dock ($149.99, see below) -- Want a way to get that music out of your iPad and into the room? The new iLuv Audio Cube iPad dock has two incredible speakers, and there's even a way to hook it up to your Mac or PC for syncing. TUAW will be reviewing this dock in the near future. Until that review is posted, let's just say that if you're in the mood for watching movies on the iPad, this is the sound system you want.

Bose SoundDock 10 ($599.95, see below) -- If money is no object and you're a fan of Bose gear, the Bose SoundDock 10 is an excellent looking and loud speaker dock. For a mere $150 more, you can add a Bluetooth adapter and beam your music to the SoundDock 10 from up to 30 feet away (or, for a mere $100 more, you can get an AirPort Express plus a 3.5 mm audio jack and use AirPlay instead --ed).

Altec Lansing IMT800 MIX BoomBox ($299.95, see below) -- Do you have a hankering for an 80's-style boom box that you can carry around the 'hood on your shoulder? The IMT800 has four front-facing speakers, a 5.25" subwoofer, an integrated FM radio, and a remote with a belt clip. Put some DJ apps on your iPhone or iPod touch, and you've got an instant party.

Jensen Rocker JiPS-250i ($100, see below) -- While Jensen is better known for their huge line of Hello Kitty electronics, they've also been sneaking in some low-priced and fairly well-designed Apple accessories. The Rocker is actually designed for the iPad and is useful for listening to movies through the two large side speakers, although you can play and charge just about any other Apple iDevice with a Dock Connector. But wait, there's more -- Jensen has a free app download that gives you an enhanced alarm clock, weather, voice messages, a calendar, nature sounds, EQ settings, internet radio, and so on. It's a heck of a bargain for $100.

Clock Docks

Docks that are clocks rock! A replacement for traditional clock radios, iPod docks with clocks and radios built in have made their way into hotels and bedrooms worldwide.

iHome iP86 ($130, see below) -- iHome makes a vast array of iPhone dock clock radios, but one of the most popular is the iP86. It's great for the iPhone-owning couple, since it will charge up two iPhones, let you wake up to the device or the AM/FM radio, and has an easily readable clock on the front.

Cambridge SoundWorks i525 ($149.99) -- For sheer sound quality and volume, the Cambridge SoundWorks i525 has been touted as one of the best iPhone / iPod clock radios around. It features an AM/FM radio, dual alarms that can be set to radio, iPod, or a buzzer, and also comes with a remote.

Sony ICF-C7IP Clock Radio for iPhone ($69.99, see below) -- A nice iPhone dock and clock radio that is at home in an office or dorm room, the Sony ICF-C7IP includes an AM/FM tuner, a hidden sliding dock tray that disappears, and has a bit of the old wind-up alarm clock charm. It's also one of the least expensive models we looked at during the creation of this holiday gift guide.

iLuv iMM178 ($99.99, see below) -- Sometimes you need more than just music or a buzzer to wake you up in the morning, so the iLuv iMM178 iPhone dock comes with Vibe Plus, a bed speaker / shaker that you put under a pillow to act as a pseudo-earthquake. It has a built-in FM radio, 7-5-2 alarms (special alarms can be set for weekdays or weekends), and some of the most obnoxious alarm sounds I've ever heard. Want to be awakened by the sound of a train horn and have your bed shaking to complete the scene? This clock radio dock is for you.

Those are some of our favorite docks for the iPhone, iPod, and iPad. Be sure to let your fellow TUAW readers know about your favorites that aren't listed here by leaving a comment below.

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