iHome's clock radio iPod docks continue to evolve. The iP90 is the 2010 iteration of the company's bread-and-butter model that started as the iH5 several years ago. This model has a new design that features a bigger display and what the company describes as "bigger sound."
Like a lot of iHome products, the iP90 has a sort of a retro-modern look, but it eschews the boxy design of its predecessors and opts for a slightly more rounded body that's arguably more attractive. It measures 3.27 inches high by 10.67 wide by 6.15 inches deep, and yes, that bigger display really jumps out at you. The time and date appear in white on a blue background, and the backlight can be dimmed and even completely turned off so that it doesn't bother you at night (alas, the dimming function is manual, not automatic). It's also worth pointing out that the buttons on the unit are backlit, which allows you to see what you're pressing the dark.
Unlike iHome's iA5 (also $99), which interfaces with iHome's free iHome + Sleep iPhone app, the iP90 is not considered an "app-enhanced" device, though you can sync the time on your docked iPod or iPhone with a touch of a button on back of the unit. It's a convenient, common-sense feature that works well.
Though you can use the alarm features on the iHome app just fine, some features will not work (with the iA5, the app, for instance, will automatically track your sleep and wake-up times). We're not sure why iHome didn't make this an "app-enhanced" model, but it does offer more base features, including an AM/FM radio with six presets and dual alarms. It also comes with a remote control that allows you to control your iPhone's or iPod's basic functions. You can adjust bass and treble levels from the unit itself.
iHome also equipped the iP90 with the standard set of features we've come to expect from this line: the option to set separate alarms for weekends and weekdays, programmable snooze times, and Gradual Wake and Gradual Sleep that slowly increase or decrease the volume as you wake up or go to sleep. This model is shielded for use with the iPhone and it has a line input for connecting other audio devices.
We fired up a variety of songs when testing the iP90's audio chops. The test music we played--everything from Elvis Costello to Dan Auerbach to Coldplay and Tiesto--sounded fine for casual listening and the little system actually plays pretty loud. We're not going to get too nitpicky, but like a lot of these small systems, you just don't get a ton of bass and little in the way of stereo separation (you get the best sound sitting about three feet from the speakers). That said, it's a good idea to stick with low to mid volumes, because things can start to sound a little shrill when you crank your tunes. Still, at the end of the day, the iP90 does sound slightly better than its predecessor, the iP97, and--presumably because of its larger size--it also sounds better than the iA5.
All in all, we liked the iP90 and think it's probably a better choice for most people than the iA5, which also retails for right around $90 online. The iP90 feels like a more substantial unit and it sounds better, too. We also don't think you lose much from it not being "app-enhanced," though it would have been nice for iHome to have included that feature.