First off, I want to say that I like almost everything about this alarm clock and that I went to a Best Buy first and tested it (music and all) right next to its bigger Sony sibling (the one with the CD player, called Sony ICFCD3iP CD Clock Radio for iPod and iPhone) as well as the iHomes and Logitech and other competitors. Essentially this one came out the winner in every way IF what you're looking for is an ALARM CLOCK. This is not a speaker system by any stretch (it's not even stereophonic, one speaker), it's not designed to party to or have it produce massive bass sounds. I know this is obvious to most of you but there's always some imbecile who doesn't seem to realize that a little alarm clock barely bigger than your iPhone can't possibly be a stereo system.
As an alarm clock, I loved this little system precisely because it does so much and takes up so little space. The LED lights are not too bright when you go to the lowest setting, the sound is definitely loud enough for you to hear even if you're in the next room at high volume, the iPhone dock is easy to use and can be used with a case on your iPhone. It also looks good and it's nice that the dock cradle slides in, overall it looks A+.
Since I also compared this one in person to the Sony ICFCD3iP CD Clock Radio and tested them both simultaneously, I can offer you these observations if it's helpful to you. I ruled out the iHomes, by the way, because all systems that make you stick your iPhone on top like that are horrible looking, maybe that was cool in 2007 if you thought having an iPhone is cool and you want it brandished like it's a trophy, but that now looks tacky, dated and cluttered. This comparison is between this Sony product vs the one with the CD player:
--Size: I liked the CD player one more because I actually thought this one looks a bit too small. This is purely personal preference, if smaller is better for you then go for this one.
--Layout: I call this a draw. One thing that's better on the CD player one is that since it's bigger, there was room to put the tuner and the preset switches on the sides of the device rather than on the back which is not as convenient. You probably won't use these two switches much though so this probably doesn't matter much. One thing I liked better on this one is that hitting the snooze as you're groggy is pretty safe, but on the CD one, since the opening for the CD player is right in front of the snooze button, you can very well accidentally open the CD tray violently if you hit the snooze and aren't careful.
--Speaker, sound: Basically a draw for me. The Sony descriptions on Amazon, and indeed even on the boxes of the two products, tell you nothing about power. I had to look under the devices themselves (which got me bad looks from the salespeople) to find out that this alarm clock's speaker is rated at 10 watts. The CD player's speaker rated at 16 watts. Normally I'd say this means the CD player clock is better, but oddly at similar volumes in the store, I actually found this alarm clock's speaker to be better defined than the bigger one from the other Sony, and almost as loud. The bass was slightly better on the other one though. But since this is an ALARM CLOCK and not a speaker system by any stretch, I frankly didn't care either way, they're both plenty loud to wake up to music or the radio to and close enough in quality despite the different wattage.
--iPhone dock: here I expected them both to be the same, but I was surprised that the iPhone dock trays are not designed the same, and that this Sony's design of the tray was actually better than the CD player's. The CD player's tray hangs in the air, in that when it opens up there is space under. So when you put your iPhone in you kind of have to grab the tray or else the whole thing tilts, it's not a good setup. The tray that comes out of this clock, on the other hand, has the end of it flush with the clock's bottom and whatever table it's on. So it's much more secure and you can just dock your iPod on it with one hand and not worry about a thing. So the clear loser is the CD alarm, as this one is better designed. Both can fit an iPhone with the case on by the way, just don't use the tray inserts that come with this.
--LED illumination: here too this Sony beats out the CD Sony. Both clocks have three light settings. I put them side by side and tested them both. The upshot is that the bigger one has much brighter LED lights. When I compared both at the lowest setting, the bigger clock was still pretty bright and would be annoying in the dark (unless you're scared of monsters at night and want a night light). At its lowest setting, this Sony here was still just a bit brighter than I would have liked, but not nearly as annoying as the CD player's light. This is a big reason why you see good reviews of this Sony here while the CD player's reviews are generally bad with lots of complaints about the light level.
I did buy this alarm clock and all in all, I really wanted to love it, but over the past two weeks it has infuriated me with one BIG design flaw that is making me return it because it is fatal. It simply can't reliably stay tuned to a radio station so as to wake you up to it.
Now if you don't care at all about waking up to radio, consider this a 5-star review and move on. But I like to wake up to NPR, a strong FM station in my area. I've had an 9-year-old CD player alarm clock beside me before this Sony, and not once did it fail to wake me up to a strong NPR signal when the alarm was set. This brand new Sony, on the other hand, comes in and out! You can test it before going to sleep and the sound is 100% clear, and yet when it comes on in the morning it sounds like it is barely tuned to the station unless you play with the ugly and unsightly antenna cable that sticks out of the back of it. Even if you didn't touch that unsightly cable all night.
Even WORSE, when it comes on like that in the morning, if it is not receiving the FM station well, you don't even get static noise (which at least would still wake you up), you get nothing but a very faint buzzing that doesn't wake anyone up! I've already been late to work three times on account of this clock's failure to maintain a lock on a station. I've even tried testing the position of the ugly antenna before going to bed and having the volume very high, yet still for no apparent reason at all it sometimes fails to lock on in the morning and you sleep peacefully to 8:30 am to a very low audio buzzing sound that seems to lull you into an even deeper sleep.
The culprit is that Sony really cheaped out on the FM receiver.
How they can make such a colossal design flaw on a product that costs more than competitors like iHome that are larger and with better speakers is inexplicable. I really wanted to love this, but it's an ALARM CLOCK and if it simply loses connection to a station in the morning despite the ugly antenna cable and can't wake you up, what good is it? Shame on Sony for having such a design flaw by cheaping out on internal components. Whoever was in charge of approving that is incompetent and should be fired because he doesn't understand retail products, this is not a $20 alarm clock on which you can use cheap transistors to save 50 cents. This is an alarm clock aimed at a slightly higher market and there is an expectation that at the very least it can be reliably counted on to wake us up in the morning.
REVISED REVIEW FROM HERE ON OUT
I am revising my review, going from two to four stars, because as time as gone by the radio reception seems to have improved (but only after careful placement of the antenna cord and making sure it's never moved), and I decided that all the positives and the lack of a good competitor warrants better than two stars. It's still the most compact, efficient and best looking alarm clock out there... I just wish they used better components for the radio receiver.