Review: I-Dog - Macenstein

Review: I-Dog

Posted by Helper Monkey

It is well known amongst my friends and family that I am a complete and total geek, as well as a Mac lover to boot. When occasions like birthdays and Christmases come around, invariably someone tries to surprise me with the “coolest�? tech gadget they can find, preferably Mac-related. This is no easy feat since I waste almost every spare moment of my life online reading about the latest gadgets and looking for things to review.

This year a friend surprised me with an I-Dog, by Hasbro. “Surprised�? not in the sense that I had never seen this thing (it has been out for quite a few months now) but surprised in the sense of “Oh, you got me an…I-Dog.�?

Writing a review of the I-Dog is a little tricky. On the one hand, it does what it is supposed to do. On the other, there is no reason for it to do what it is supposed to do. So I will write this review with two readers in mind: the first, someone who has seen the I-Dog before and is contemplating purchasing it, and the second, someone who has seen the I-Dog before and can’t understand why anyone would want to purchase it.

If you think you want the I-Dog…

If you think you want the I-Dog, then you probably do. The main selling point of the I-Dog seems to be that it is cute and lights up, and to that end the I-Dog succeeds. It IS cute. My kids love him. And the lights do indeed light up. Bright little circles of joy flash to the music in shades of blue, green, orange red, yellow, and purple. I-Dog will occasionally wag his head from side to side and his ears will occasionally move up and down as well. This, combined with the light show, is what gives I-Dog his “personality�?.

The I-Dog is also somewhat of a “virtual pet�?, sort of like the Tamagotchis of old. You “feed�? I-Dog with music by plugging him into any audio source (although the iPod is clearly the intended source) or you can also place I-Dog near a speaker, and he can listen and react to music that way. I-Dog also likes to be played with, and you can keep him from becoming bored and lonely by petting his head and nose. If you push his nose button twice you can check on his mood, and see how you are doing as a parent. I-Dog will display a light pattern which tells you his mood. Ignore I-Dog for too long and he begins to whine and make other plaintive doggy-like sounds.

But aside from serving as a pet, I-Dog is supposedly first and foremost meant to dazzle us with a sound and light extravaganza. Here is where I-Dog falls a bit short. Firstly, the underpowered mono speaker in I-Dog’s back doesn’t exactly rock the house. There is no volume control, so you need to control that with your iPod. At the iPod’s highest volume the sound is a bit distorted, but certainly loud enough to hear in normal sized room. At any setting the sound is quite tinny, but I found he sounded best at about 70%. The problem with this is that when I-Dog begins to waggle his head, the motor mechanisms are quite loud, and can easily be heard over the music.

To be fair, I-Dog is not intended for your serious audiophiles. He is a passable portable speaker, and definitely meant more as an attention getter. I brought I-Dog to the office today, and scarcely anyone was able to walk by without commenting how cool he was or how cute he was. His light show, while not breathtaking, certainly livens up a dull working environment, and I-Dog is actually well suited to cubicle life as you can mute him and connect your headphones to the splitter cable he ships with. I-Dog will continue to rock out silently (well, except for his churning gears) and provide you with a light show while you listen via your headset.

All in all, I think the average person who has seen I-Dog in action or on TV and thought it was worthy of buying will get what they expect from their purchase. However, there are a few other things to be aware of with I-Dog, and for that I will now focus on why some people will not want to buy the I-Dog any time soon.

If you think you don’t want the I-Dog…

If you think you don’t want the I-Dog then you are probably don’t. First off, I-Dog is completely battery powered. It might have been nice to have him be USB powered, or have an optional AC adapter or something. 2 regular AA alkaline batteries lasted over 16 hours of playtime. This isn’t horrible compared to other portable speakers I’ve tested (although just about all of them sounded better than I-Dog) but changing I-Dog’s batteries suddenly “feels�? much more frequent because of what’s involved. Instead of a regular battery compartment accessed via a tab, in order to change I-Dog’s batteries you need to have a small screwdriver with you to remove his back right leg, which is where the AA’s go. This is actually quite annoying, and while I can understand in children’s toys when companies use this tactic to keep children from swallowing batteries that may pop out of flung toy, but I-Dog, while certainly a crowd pleaser among 3-year-olds, is not a baby toy.

Above: I-Dog’s head and ears swivel when music plays.

In addition to the battery situation, just getting I-Dog to hook up to your iPod is a bit harder than it should be. I-Dog’s audio-in jack is located right next to his back left leg. However, an attached rubber stopper (designed to cover the jack when not in use) opens on the wrong side of the port, which means it gets smooshed between I-Dog’s leg and the audio chord you are trying to connect. It is actually kind of a big deal, and I think will cause some people to eventually bend the audio jack on I-Dog. A better choice would have been to position the tab on the other side of the jack, or lose the tab altogether, and make a white port if seamless looks are the issue. Also, the included audio cable that ships with I-Dog is way too short. At a mere 14 inches, you cannot plug I-Dog into the back of a PowerMac G5 and set him on top of the computer without an additional audio cable. That is pretty short.

I already mentioned that the sound quality of I-Dog is not exactly stellar, and his mechanical whirrings can at times detract from the already less than ideal listening experience he provides. Odds are if you think I-Dog is not for you, these are likely the top two reasons. After all, a speaker should first and foremost play music well. But I-Dog is not first and foremost a speaker, he is first and foremost and attention getter. His iPod-like styling and flashing lights certainly demand attention. Yet it is this light show that I must now take issue with.

Earlier I said I-Dog’s lights flash to the music. That is a bit misleading. His lights flash when music plays, but they hardly pulse to the rhythm. Once, during a techno song, the lights seemed to synch up for a little while, but then lost the beat, so it is possible I-Dog might flash based on something it is hearing in the music, but for the other 100 songs I played he seemed fairly random. Same with his head movements. I have read reviews where they mention that his head “bobs to the music�?. Nope, seems to be completely random. Same with the ears. This is not a big deal really, but I just wanted to point it out in case it was a reason you were contemplating buying I-Dog. I know I expected him to be more “in tune with the tunes�? from the various descriptions I had read.


Well, despite the fact I consider the faults I found with I-Dog to be rather huge, I can definitely see how he would appeal to certain segments of the iPod community. Specifically, those under 12 who do not consider audio quality to be of primary importance and who find I-Dog’s cute looks and flashing lights to be charming. And given I-Dog’s relatively small price tag (under $30) his speakers sound on par with some other portable speakers in that range that DON’T have a robot dog attached to them. And of course, you could always muzzle (mute) I-Dog and use the audio splitter cable he comes with to hook the audio to a more powerful set of speakers and just watch his cute little display. They may even drown out his gear grinding head waggle.

Price: $29.99


As an external speaker system: 4 out of 10
As a cute iPod accessory that demands attention: 8 out of 10

14 Responses to “Review: I-Dog”
  1. BDK says:

    God I could kill Apple over this whole “i” thing. It’s really getting out of hand and very un-original now.

  2. Zac says:

    Just so we’re clear, Apple does not make the iDog. You know that right? You know that not every product with a lowercase ‘i’ in the name is an Apple product right? The iDog is by Sega, iTrip is by Griffin, iSqueeze is by some company, I don’t know, but it is a pretty awesome foot massager.

  3. Richard says:

    This reminds me of a simpler item gotten for me by my wife many years ago.

    It is called a Smack a Mac. It is alittle stuffed item that looks like an early AIO mac ie SE. SE 30,. It was used so that when you got frustrated with your mac instead of throwing you mac against the wall you threw or hot your Smacka Mac.

    A little more useful tham the iDog.

  4. Way Cool Jr. says:

    I-Dog isn’t even a lowercase “i” (although I noticed on they think it is).
    that’s how bad the whole “i” thing has gotten.
    People now assume anything “i” is iPod related.

    This thing seems pretty fun from the review, but I don’t need another excuse for my daughter to want to play with daddy’s iPod.

  5. Renee says:

    Hi Zack just wanted to let you know that the I-Dog is not made by Sega it’s made by Hasbro’s Tiger division.

  6. kenzie says:

    what are you guys talking about i have an i-dog named jake andfim simply in love with him he has a very cute personality from listening to my music

  7. Collin says:

    What happens if you lose the chord? Can you buy it seperately?

  8. J-Z says:

    The toy is totaly a rip- off! I retured it the day after I bought it! I would only recomend it for 3-5 year-olds!

    – J-Z

  9. valerie says:

    Wow this has helped me I didn’t know you can check its mood or pet it or even feed it I got boared of it but know I guess you can say he’s pretty cool I love him thanks for the help

  10. Jed says:

    Is anyone else confused about the light patterns? I “pet” this thing and I dont think it ever gets any happier. But since the drawings are in black and white, I have no idea what “mood” it is in. There are patterns Im pretty sure are not in the book.

  11. bradly says:

    i dogs RULE they are awesome!!!!!
    you should check out the websodes on tiger
    idogs rule!!!!!!!!!

  12. bradly says:

    and the light patterns are in the book near the back

  13. Brittney says:

    Like you should be alot like more totally telling the toally like people out there about how iDog flashes like totally also like mean like its like feeling!!!!


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