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Music is universal - tall, short, fat, thin, black, white and everyone in between, everyone loves music right? So surely you want to enjoy it to its full potential. Well I've got just the thing for you - the Gear4 Halo Alarm Dock. Gear4 are experts in producing top notch iPod/iPhone equipment ranging from docking stations to cases and I'm the proud owner of several Gear4 products which have severed me exceptionally well over the years. Whilst recently on the lookout for a speaker dock for my iPhone, I also wanted an incorporated alarm clock to replace my stand alone alarm clock. I didn't have a huge wish list - first and foremost I wanted it to look good and secondly I didn't want to break the bank, so with a limit of £80 I set about scouring the internet looking to make my purchase. *** Availability *** At £49.99 from Amazon the Gear4 Halo Alarm Dock (which will now on be referred to as the 'Halo'), this isn't going to break the bank, nor is it cheap enough for you to be dubious about its capabilities beyond a week of usage. The Amazon price is the cheapest online price you're likely to find, although Tesco do stock it in their stores for £44.97. *** Setting Up *** There's noting I hate setting up more than alarm clocks - pressing the same button over and over again to reach your desired time before setting the date, month year etc. Fortunately I mustn't be the only one with this sheer hatred of alarm clocks, which I presume is why Gear4 have decided to make it a little bit easier on you. After all, after shelling out almost £50 you should get something in return, right? To set up and use the Halo, you will first need to install an app to your iPhone/iPod Touch. The app 'SmartDock' is a free app which you can download from iTunes or you iPhone/iPod Touch. Once downloaded you're able to set the time on the app, which is extremely quick to do and it will automatically sync with the Halo when the iPhone is plugged in - fancy eh? With the technicalities at bay, you're probably thinking that Gear4 will have you doing extra manual work setting it up to make up for the technological advances. Nope. The Halo comes out of the box in its entirety and all that's required is for you to plug in the mains adapter (there's a UK and EU adapter included in the box) and place the included battery in the remote control and you're away. I can't recall a time where a gadget was so simple to set up. *** Aesthetics *** The Gear4 isn't just a pretty face, as you've just read it also has the brains to back it up, but if you're the shallow type (like me), then you may wish to take a moment to bask in the glory which is the Halo. The black on white makes for a striking design coupled with the beautiful curvaceous design definitely makes this an eye catching gadget *** Sound Quality *** The speaker takes up the majority of the device itself, meaning that the Halo can excel in delivering to you a rich and deep sound quality which works perfectly with any music genre from R&B, dance, rock, hip hop, classical, jazz and blues. Even at the highest volume the speakers remain composed, not allowing the sound to become distorted or muffled. If you're bored of your own music collection, you may decide to switch the radio on, fortunately you won't have to power up a different device to do this as the Halo comes complete with an incorporated radio. This isn't an auto tune radio, unfortunately, therefore you will have to tune it yourself, however, using the skip forward/back button on the interface, the control or your connected iPhone makes this a simple and hassle free process. *** Interface & remote control *** For such an up-to-date and stylish accessory, you may expect it to be over complicated with dozens of buttons which the average Joe Bloggs has no idea what to do with. On the contrary, as the device itself incorporates a mere 9 buttons. The top row being - Power, Mode, Set and Alarm and the bottom being the volume, play/pause and skip buttons (all self explanatory really). The buttons are flush to the device, meaning that when cleaning or dusting, a quick wipe with a dry cloth will suffice. The buttons are easily pressed and don't suffer from sticking, they operate with a simple click, although when pressed at a certain angle you'll hear no noise at all. This makes the Halo, not only a fantastic little sound machine, but also incredibly easy to use and with no negatives so far, things only get better. The remote control included in the box is a welcome little accessory that completes the three methods of using this device (three - we're being spoilt!). Black in colour the control matches the speaker and your iPhone (unless it's white, of course), the buttons are also black, but with the most generic in grey. The control not only controls what you listen to, it can also be used in conjunction with the alarm, to either turn it off or enlist the help of the 'snooze' mode to enable you an extra 5 minutes of sleep. The control is small enough to fit in the palm of your hand and can be used at a range of about 10 metres away from the device provided there's nothing shielding the device or the control. The screen of the speaker follows the simplicity trend to a key here. The screen can either utilise a 12 or 24 hour clock (this can be decided either on your phone or on the device itself) and it's displayed in large numbers for a clear to read display. The screen is very basic and uncluttered, the only other things that will show on screen is the mode (either iPod or radio), the day (displayed by the first two letters of the day) and a little bell on the left hand side to signal whether an alarm is set or not. There is a downside to the screen though, the clarity, although perfectly good at eye level, when you're in bed and looking up at the device is does become nigh on impossible to make out the time and you'll be forced either to sit up or press the back button on your iPhone to check on there (I, of course take the lazier option number two). When plugged into the wall, the screen will be lit up, however, when not in use you do have the option to turn it off (this will not break the charge to your iPhone, did I mention that it charges? Well, you know now), nor will it turn the screen off altogether, merely dim it. This is all well and good, but it can become a bit of a nuisance at night when you're trying to sleep as I'm the sort of person that likes it to be pitch black when I'm trying to sleep and a glaring (dim but deadly as I like to call it) light really doesn't help matters. *** Alarm *** This is of course one of the most important features of the device and luckily Gear4 have come up trumps here. There are several options for the alarm sound, from your iPhone music, the radio (a pre-set station of your choice of course), or a simple inbuilt tone. I generally go for my iPhone music, however, you're unable to choose just one track similar to choosing a ringtone, instead you have to choose a playlist, which you'll first have to make on iTunes and sync to your iPhone. This is only a minor annoyance, but it does make things a bit more testing when setting the alarm. The alarm itself works perfectly though and makes up for any discrepancies which occur beforehand. You're able to set as many alarms as you want either on your iPhone which will automatically sync to the device, or on the device itself (although I recommend the iPhone route). The alarm will sound at the volume you last played something at, something to beware of when you're setting the alarm as if you're having a party one night, you may not want to wake up to the blaring beats of Rihanna the next morning. The alarm always goes off on time and I've never had any issue in regards to turning it on or off. Turning it off is done by pressing any button on the device or control. Your iPhone will not light up during the alarm sounding so this option is the lesser used for me. *** App *** It may come as a bit of a negative to some people to hear that this device can only be used with the SmartDock app, however, how much of an inconvenience is it really? Apart from meaning that your friends can't just plug their iPhones in and play, there's not much of a downside. The app is free and requires a tiny 10.1MB of memory, a little more than the average song. When not plugged into the device, the app only allows you to set alarms and change the interface of the clock, however, immediately after being plugged in, the app comes to life and allows you to select songs to play, create alarms, choose radio stations and of course you can do this all with your own customised interface. There aren't a great deal or interfaces available to you, however, the fact that you can customise them at all shows how advanced this device is. If there's one thing I would like would be for the devices screen to show the name of the artist and the song/radio station you're playing, instead of just showing the time, but that's small fry compared to all the fantastic things this device accomplishes. The best thing about this app is that there is always the possibility of updates, giving this device and the app a longer shelf life than most because it can be updated to reflect the times and the trends. *** Overview *** All in all this is one of the most stylish, sleek, up-to-date and effective music devices I've ever come across and I've no qualms whatsoever about recommending it to you. The device is ideally suited to an iPhone (calls and texts can still be received and heard whilst music is playing), but the device is also compatible with the iPod Touch and Nano. The iPhone 4 isn't forgotten here as the device is made for the entire range of iPhones, - meaning if you're a current 3G or 3GS owner and you decide to upgrade, this device will still be relevant for you and won't start collecting dust in the corner. Gear4 are geared for success. Highly recommended.