One of the main reasons why someone may choose to abandon their desktop computer in favor of a notebook-only experience is the added portability that a laptop can offer. You can take your notebook PC with you everywhere you go, effectively freeing from you from any single location. Naturally, this advantage comes with its disadvantages as well.
While most laptops do come equipped with built-in speakers, these speakers oftentimes leave much to be desired. Just like their desktop counterparts, they can greatly benefit from an upgrade. If you don’t need the surround sound experience of a 5.1 speaker system, you may be perfectly satisfied with a unit like the Hercules XPS 2.1 40 Slim. This is a slight variation on the original XPS 2.1 40, offering for a thinner and more streamlined design.
2.1 Speakers for the Home and Office
There’s no need to install any drivers of any sort to use this speaker system with your computer, because it makes use of a standard 3.5mm stereo connection. You can just plug it into the headphone jack on your laptop and you’re pretty much good to go. There is no shortage of power, since the speaker system needs its own supply from the wall.
In terms of specs, you get a 16W RMS subwoofer to go with a pair of 8W RMS satellite stereo speakers. Combined, they offer a total peak power of 64 watts and each satellite features dual drivers for improved performance. Other highlights include magnetic shielding, an integrated power supply, a black lacquered finish, and a 1.8-meter cable to connect to your audio source.
Naturally, you could just as easily use the Hercules XPS 2.1 40 Slim with any variety of other devices. It can prove to be a decent speaker system for your iPod, Zune, or even your home theater should you so choose. Inside the box, you get the three speakers, a wired remote control, an audio connection cable, a warranty certificate, and a paper manual.
Simplified Connection Options
If you’ve been overwhelmed by other stereo systems, then you can have a sigh of relief here. Everything is in the back of the subwoofer unit and it couldn’t be simpler. The cable for the wired remote is already there. Next to it is the jack for the power supply, above that is the power switch, and above that are the two jacks for the satellites. That’s it. No mess, no worries.
This simplicity can be appreciated by some, but it can also be a sticking point for others. I would have preferred if the cable for the wired remote wasn’t pre-installed. This aids in packing, for starters, but it would also mean that it’d be a lot easier to use our own cables instead.
If you already have a cable that has 3.5mm stereo on one end and dual RCA on the other end, this is much more convenient for hooking up to a game system or television.
In-Line Remote for Volume and More
Speaking of the wired remote, this is definitely a valued feature. There is a simple knob on the top for adjusting the volume, but you’ll also find jacks on either side for added functionality. One of these gives you quick access to a line-in for an alternative audio source, and the other is a headphone jack if you want to keep to yourself.
The remote is relatively simple in its design, which is a plus in my books. As mentioned, it would be nice if the remote (and its cable) were removable, however. There is a second knob on the front of the subwoofer for adjusting the bass.
Ultimately, this is what matters, right? The Hercules XPS 2.1 40 Slim offers a simple yet stylish design, but none of that matters if it sounds like garbage. Thankfully, Hercules has largely been able to impress on this front.
The downward-firing subwoofer offers plenty of thump when you play your favorite club hits or hip hop tracks. It’s good to see that the subwoofer itself is slightly off the ground and I like that the air port is in the front rather than on the back. Most people will place the subwoofer close to a wall, so you want to make sure that it has enough room to breathe. You can really feel the air pumping out of this thing.
The satellite speakers are pretty weak when you turn the subwoofer down all the way. They’re adequate, I suppose, but the sound performance is obviously seriously lacking without the bump of the sub. I did find that certain tracks started to distort when either the volume or bass (or both) were cranked up just a notch.
With a retail price of only $59.99, the Hercules XPS 2.1 40 Slim is certainly a substantial upgrade over something the Speakal iPig. Ironically, the latter costs about $40 more. I guess “cute” comes at a premium.
The overall design of this 2.1 speaker system is good, since you can easily place the satellites on your desk and your subwoofer underneath, but it is not without its faults either. The sound can distort at times, especially at higher volumes, and the inability to remove the wired remote can be a pain. All in all, you get a pretty good value and more than adequate performance, especially given the lower price point.
Overall Rating: 8.0/10