M-Audio AV40's or Audioengine D2's will be better than both of those options in that price range. Since getting into powered monitors, I have vowed never to go back to computer, "multimedia" speakers.
If you are thinking "but seekadds, your suggestions don't come with a sub," consider this: The "subs" in those 2.1-in-a-box systems are not really big enough to be classified as true subs anyway. i.e. They are typically 6", so they can't reach as low as a normal 8" or 10" subwoofer.
I'd use them in a 20 square meters room and I need them to be powerful, so that two people couldn't hear each other talking.
If you know any other speakers that are better and under $220, let me know!
In addition to seekkadds' reply, if you can compromise on using a pair of larger monitors, I have the Swan D1080MkII 08 (around $160 if you can find it, but there are other products like it). I can play house music from a 1v output off a D-Zero at around 1:00 on the speakers' volume knob and I can hear the bass pounding away taking a shower in the bathroom with the door about 4 meters across the hall; a bit more gain and I can hear it pounding away while I'm deep-frying pork belly in the kitchen downstairs. If I'm in my room with the speakers doing that I can't even hear myself think. If anything, maybe the wood in the house conducts the bass while (maybe?) the concrete outer walls keep as much of it inside, but my older Wharfedale Pacific Pi10 powered by a NAD304 couldn't do that.
BTW I have a cheaper 2.1 Logitech lying around and the crap small sub can't get close to what these Swans are doing.
So, if one (me/I) were to obtain the Soundsticks III for $100 total, what is a better alternative? (For equal or lower price.)
The only thing I could think of is a pair of Dayton bookshelf speakers and a class T amp, but I haven't heard them. (Very cheap, and great reviews concerning their price to performance ratio.)
I'd still go for the Dayton, they're fine for desktop listening and AFAIK can still get loud enough. However if you can stretch your budget for active monitors with at least 3x the power (per driver or per side) over the TA2024 T-amps it will still be a good idea given what you want to do with the speakers. Of course the drivers' sensitivity can affect that, but the thing is I don't think the chances of an active desktop (standmount/bookshelf-size) monitor having significantly less efficient drivers isn't common enough to worry about.
You know, I really would like to try some Swan speakers as they are constantly recommended on headfi, but it's much more costly to buy and return speakers than it is to buy and return headphones (Which I did ~5 times before landing on my first $150 pair.) While I could have spent $200 (having that much disposable income at this time), I decided not to, and that if I didn't find something that worked well for me around $100, I'd be happy without it. Fortunately, I am happy with the sound of the Harman Kardon system I got, and since I don't need much bass, the tiny 6" sub is plenty for just a tiny amount of punch.
I might post back with further impressions since this is only the second day, but the two worst things so far are how directional the satellites are to get the full amount of treble, and the fact that I don't have a terribly good place to put the woofer. Other than that, when in the sweet spot the speakers disappear into the soundstage, and female vocals have a wonderful airy quality, (though not as refined and a bit more metallic sounding than my AD900.)
Also, and interesting Frequency Response graph I found after a lot of searching online:
Also, here is a video I put on youtube. It's a sound test, and the only one I know of that uses a decent microphone:
The subwoofer is as high as it will go, (thus the overall muddy sound, which is compounded by the position of the woofer... Not that I really use it that way, but anyway... maybe I'll try to make a more balanced sound test later.) See what you guys think. Any song recommendations for auditioning it? Maybe I'll put the woofer on half way next time; make it a bit more realistic for my use case.