This flat-panel Bluetooth stereo speaker doubles up as a very useful handsfree phone system. Is it a new desktop essential?
Admit it, nine times out of ten when you're on the phone at home or in the office, you're playing Minesweeper at the same time. The only problem is that troubling your high score is impossible because you're handicapped by having to hold the phone. Unless you have Altec Lansing's iMT525 SoundBlade.
This one-inch thick Bluetooth stereo speaker is one of the smartest bits of desktop kit we've seen in a while and, once you become accustomed to its presence, one of the most essential too.
At its most basic, the SoundBlade is a very agreeable flat-panel stereo speaker. It can be powered by mains or battery, and is ideal not just for laptop-wielders but anyone who has a limited amount of desk space.
Okay, its grey face isn't the most inspiring piece of gadget design, but the performance is far more impressive. Forget trailing wires between two speakers and a sub – this waif provides plenty of punch for music and gaming yet takes up less room than a photo frame.
The clever bit, though, is that it can also pair up via Bluetooth with your laptop, phone and MP3 player simultaneously. The music controls mounted on top give you the usual pause, play and quickly-skip-past-that-embarrassing-James-Blunt-track buttons, and sound quality is perfectly reasonable.
Look, no hands
But this is merely a warm-up for the main act. Make or receive a call on your mobile and the music will stop as the SoundBlade reverts to its role as a speakerphone. The microphone is crystal clear and echo-free, and a press of the call button activates voice-recognition dialling.
The only caveat is that the speaker is clearly balanced for music playback, so a heavy-handedness on the bass frequencies means calls can be a bit distorted if the line isn't perfect. But that's all worth putting up with if you need a desktop speaker system that lets you carry on playing that Penguin game when your phone rings.
Altec Lansing iMT525 SoundBlade review
An impressive desktop speaker that loves an impromptu Bluetooth party and proves that speakerphones aren't just for suits