The "killer feature" of the Fidelio 7700 is portability, and it delivers that in spades. Weighing in at around 750g, it feels almost too light to be a "real" speaker. By comparison, the Fidelio 8500 weighs over 2.5kg — quite a significant difference.
But you do pay a price for that portability, and we don't just mean the AU$270+ you shell out to take one home. If you're expecting the Fidelio 7700 to match the sound quality of the Fidelio 8500 series with its full-range speakers and SoundCurve enhancement, you'll be disappointed. However, if you expect the Fidelio 7700 to sound like other speakers of this size, then you'll be pleasantly surprised.
The Fidelio makes up for its smaller size with a bit of electronic fiddling via Dynamic Bass Boost (DBB). DBB essentially compensates for the poor bass performance of speakers this size at low volumes by artificially upping the bass. As you might expect, this works better with some types of music than it does with others.
One area where it works quite well is in gaming. As well as the standard 30-pin dock connector, the Fidelio 7700 can connect to your iPad via Bluetooth, so you can use it to boost the iPad's anaemic little built-in speaker when playing games. Headphones are better for first-person shooters and the like, but for any game that you want other people to be able to hear comfortably (multi-player pass-and-play titles, for instance) it's quite an improvement.
As is becoming more the norm with these docks, Philips has an iPad app available for free from the App Store to add functionality. The music player adds little beyond what the native music app does (letting you spam your friends' Facebook and Twitter streams with whatever you're playing, for example) and the weather app pales next to superior offerings, such as Pocket Weather. However, the clock-radio function is a worthy alternative to other similar apps.
The app also adds an equaliser with a number of presets for different styles of music, including Ambient, Rock, Jazz, Reggae and "Classic" (which I took to mean Classical, rather than The Beatles). While you can play music through the 7700 when it's connected with Bluetooth, the equaliser and some other functions of the app work only when it's docked.
The Fidelio 7700 won't charge your iPad while it's plugged in, but that's not really something that you'd look for in a portable device such as this. There's also no USB for syncing with your computer (again, why would you). There is a 3.5mm jack for connecting other devices to play through the 7700 aside from iPads, iPhones and iPods (all of which fit comfortably on the 7700).
It's no doubt obvious from looking at it that the Fidelio 7700 won't dock your iPad in landscape mode, so it isn't suitable for watching videos, unless you like small pictures. It's light enough that you could lie it on its side, we guess, but all the sound would be coming from one side, so we doubt that it would be much of an improvement.
This brings us to the issue of price; the Fidelio 8500, at nearly AU$300, is at the top end of the price range for this type of device, but it has the solid feel and performance to match that. At only AU$20 cheaper (AU$279 RRP), the Fidelio 7700 seems overpriced. Portability is a major advantage, of course, but we feel that the trade-offs in performance warrant a greater discount than that.
The Fidelio 7700 makes sense if what you want is a lightweight, highly portable speaker dock for your iPad, to take anywhere and add some music to your picnic or beach party. If that's the "killer feature" for you, then here's your dock. However, almost everything else it does is done better and/or more cheaply by other products in this category.