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Philips Fidelio AS851 Docking Speaker for Android review

Kat Orphanides
7 Jan 2012
Our Rating 
Price when reviewed 
185
inc VAT

We like the idea of an Android device dock, but this one's too expensive and too fiddly to use

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There are hundreds of iPod docks around but Philips's Fidelio AS851 is the first dedicated dock for Android devices we've seen. There are a number of practical problems inherent in creating an Android dock, the most obvious of which is that there isn't a standard for streaming digital audio over USB.

Philips Fidelio AS851

To work around this, the AS851 connects to your phone via Bluetooth. It's all handled very smoothly with the free Fidelio app, which you have to install first on your phone. As soon as you connect your phone to the dock, the app and dock find each other and prompt you to pair them. Once that's done, all audio from your phone is sent to the speaker. It's certainly convenient, even though Bluetooth isn't the best option if you're fanatical about audio fidelity.

Philips Fidelio AS851

Most mobile phones only support A2DP Bluetooth audio streaming, a compressed standard which produces less-than-ideal audio quality. We're surprised that Philips hasn't included support for the newer, higher-quality Apt-X Bluetooth audio standard, as it's already supported by some Android phones and media players. Nonetheless, the difference in perceived audio quality isn't very significant on a dock speaker such as this, although we found that A2DP streamed music was subject to occasional clipping on high notes and very rare cut-outs, possibly due to interference from other nearby devices using the 2.4GHz band such as wireless routers and cordless phones. Fortunately, there's a 3.5mm stereo auxiliary input which you can use to connect your phone - or any other audio device - if you'd rather not use Bluetooth.

There are power and volume controls on the dock itself, but most are integrated into the Fidelio app and the remote control which accompanies the dock. Unfortunately, neither of these is very easy to use. Songbird is also automatically installed on your phone to act as the default audio player. It's very flexible when it comes to file formats and provides a range of different ways to list your tracks. However, we had trouble navigating it using the remote control, which doesn't have enough buttons for the job. You have to do all your navigation with left and right buttons, which do different things depending on which menu you're on. The remote control buttons you'd expect to be up and down instead open the Fidelio app's internet radio browser and Songbird respectively, while the centre button opens your clock settings.

Philips Fidelio AS851

This wouldn't be too much of a problem if it were easy to use your phone's touchscreen while it was mounted on the dock, but the microUSB mount is designed to move and swivel. This means that you can connect any microUSB device without the need for dedicated supports or adaptors, but makes your phone wobble around if you try to use it while it's docked.

The AS851 sounds good enough to please most people. It has a surprisingly present bass for a 2.0 stereo dock, thanks to two rear bass ports, but this doesn't overwhelm higher frequencies. Some fine detail of sound is lost on complex tracks, but we'd have no complaints about the dock's audio quality if it were a fixture on our bedside or living room table. Our final - and possibly biggest - issue with the dock is its price. At over £180, we expect a lot more in terms of audio quality and functionality. The AS851 is a good idea in principle and it doesn't sound bad by any means, but it's too frustrating to use. For the price, you can buy the excellent Altec Lansing InMotion Air which supports both A2DP and Apt-X, and simply plug your phone into the mains to charge.

Specifications

Rating**
Speaker configuration2.0
RMS power output30W
Power consumption standby2W
Power consumption on7W
Analogue inputs3.5mm stereo
Digital inputsnone
Dock connectormicroUSB
Headphone outputnone
Satellite cable lengthsnone
Cable typeN/A
Controls locatedmain unit, remote control
Digital processingPhilips Digital Sound Processing
Tone controlsapp
Price£185
Supplierhttp://www.amazon.co.uk
Detailswww.philips.co.uk

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