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A Word on Batteries - What to do if Your Unit Stops Holding Charge - And a Couple of Other Things
on September 8, 2011
First let me say that, overall, I'm happy with this unit. Once I forget how much I paid for it, I think that I will enjoy it for some time to come. The sound quality is acceptable to good, and sometimes very good, which I will address further below.
This unit comes with one replaceable pre-installed NiMH (Nickel Hydride) battery pack. To access it, reference the included instructions, on a secondary piece of paper in the box, for how to remove the backplate. Once you remove the screws, play with the plate from the top. Its sticky due to two plastic tabs at the bottom, but it will detach once the two screws are removed. If your unit stops working due to perceived battery issues, then it is essential to know that you can replace the battery pack. The pack is comprised of 3 NIMH AA batteries sealed in plastic with a connector. You can currently buy a replacement pack from the Logitech "Parts Shop" for $5. Or you can hunt around. But currently the best option seems to be to buy from the logitech store, especially due to the low price.
***The one thing that you have to know, to ensure the longest life and maximum continued capacity for your batteries in this unit, is that the type of battery used in it requires full discharge and full charge cycles. That is, if you don't fully discharge the battery and fully charge it every time that you decide to charge it, you will shorten the life of the battery and perhaps even its capacity. This is specific to NIMH batteries.***
Now, a critique on the common sense of using NiMH batteries in this speaker unit, which is designed for small apple devices. Apple devices all use Li-Ion batteries. Across the board, Li-Ion rechargeable batteries offer superior practicality and performance to NiMH rechargeable batteries.
The primary advantages of Li-Ion batteries:
1.For one, they can be recharged and discharged many more times than can NiMH batteries. NiMH batteries are said to average just 150 charges, under the best of care and conditions, before death. Most will not reach that number of cycles. Li-Ion batteries can be charged/discharged up to twice as much. Why this is relevant: Most people who buy this unit will not read this review and will not realize that the battery can be replaced. They will simply discard the unit when the battery dies. The average teenager or grandma reading this won't even realize that there is a backplate, as it is blends in well on the back of the unit, and removal instructions aren't listed on the primary instructions but rather on a smaller piece of irrelevant looking paper in the box. The fact that battery death equals unit death, for most people, is evident here with some of the reviews where people have said as much. Therefore, failure of low max charge/discharge NiMH batteries equals unit death for most people.
2. Li-Ion batteries have a lower self-discharge rate. The batteries will hold their charge when you aren't using them. Aren't you happy when you haven't used your Ipod in a month, and you come back and the battery is still full? NiMH batteries discharge up to 50% per month. Li-Ions average discharge at a rate of 1-3% per month in a worst case scenario. This is especially important to people who may be traveling away from the modern convenience of a wall outlet for extended periods. Li-Ion batteries are just more practical for true portable use.
3. The necessity to fully discharge and charge these NIMH batteries to preserve their longevity and function, versus the ability to charge and discharge Li-Ion batteries to the degree desired without effecting their function. These batteries simply require more thought and strategy into maintaining them. I would much preserve Li-Ion batteries that do not require me to strategize for their use and recharging cycles. For example: a situation when I know that I am going camping but I also know that the battery pack on this unit is half full. What do I do? Play the device to wear down the battery before I charge it? Leave with the battery half charged? Or, perhaps, I charge it with the battery already half full, knowing that I am likely reducing the function of the battery in doing so. All three are sub-optimal solutions and require some type of thought or sacrifice. It may sound like I'm nitpicking but, seriously, Logitech using better batteries would allow for more carefree use of their product as well as a longer lifespan of the product for most users.
4. Being that this is a portable unit, which many people will use on extended trips like hotel stays, camping, etc..., and its designed for use with the ipod and iphone, would it not make sense to use the same batteries as the devices that it was designed for? The reason for this logic is that you don't have to also haul around multiple types of portable recharging units. Small portable recharging units can be expensive and relatively bulky. It helps to just have to just one that is able to recharge all of the devices that have to do with your small communications and entertainment media use, and on similar time tables. If this device is meant to be truly compatible with the iphone/ipod, then it should use the same battery. Even if the battery could be recharged from the same portable recharging unit, the difference in capacity and charging times makes the use of NiMH inconvenient when used alongside the rechargeable Li-Ion batteries in the other small devices that this unit was designed to be used with.
Notes: Li-Ion batteries are in use in the Bose version of the same type of portable ipod speaker system. Therefore, Li-Ions are perfectly capable of powering systems like this.
When not in use, NiMH batteries have better shelf life than Li-Ion batteries. 5 years vs 3 years. But most people will use their units and therefore will burn the NiMH batteries out more quickly.
The battery issue isn't a deal breaker, especially once you realize that they can be replaced, but this being a relatively expensive portable speaker unit, I would have hoped that they wouldn't have gone so cheap on the battery pack. It is inconvenient in a lot of practical ways.
Some other small things:
1. Who doesn't keep their Ipod in a case? This unit leaves no room for even a very thin and sleek leather case to be left around the Ipod when plugged into the unit. When I'm using this unit outdoors, the last thing that I want to do is take my ipod out of its protective case. But that is what is required to plug it into this unit, unless you forgo the option of using the remote control and plug the Iphone/ipod directly into the 3.5 jack in the back. At least there is that option, and I will unfortunately likely use it more than directly plugging the Ipod into the pin jack. At a party, outdoors, with kids and pets around, most people would be ill-advised to leave their Ipod unprotected. Even 1/3 of an inch would have helped on either side of the slot where the Ipod goes. Hopefully, with the next version, Logitech will be more practical.
2. I realize that this is a portable unit. However, the size does limit the sound quality. No matter how good the technology, there is a limit to how much sound that you can get out of smaller sized speakers and a small sound chamber. Sometimes, I think that this unit sounds amazingly clear in the mid and upper ranges. Impressively so. The base is great, for the size. No complaints there. However, depending on the track, it can sound tinny. But overall, for the size, the sound is very good. BUT, for the size, I think that it is overpriced. A small unit like this, with the sound quality and battery pack considerations, feels like it should cost $65 at the most. At $65, I would feel like I got my money's worth. At $113, I feel like I got a very satisfactory to very good unit that was overpriced.
3. The remote: Small and cheap for $113. There isn't even an option to scroll through the menu. It's just volume, play, pause, repeat and shuffle. I expect the remote to get lost in due time due to its too-small size.
That's about it. Once I forget what I paid, which will likely be soon, as it always is, I will be happy. Also, having figured out options to deal with the battery issue, I will be fine there as well. I just hope that others do, and the ones that have already discarded their units due to failed batteries either read this review or contact Logitech.