JBL link portable review: This sub-£130 smart speaker is a ‘big step forward’ for the brand – The Independent

January 24, 2022 by No Comments

JBL’s solidly built, treble-heavy speakers have long been a hit in the saturated Bluetooth marketplace. Its new link portable, though, is a different beast. It’s a smart speaker with built in Google Assistant to enable streaming from WiFi, and comes with connectivity to Airplay 2 and Chromecast.

First, some bad news. You won’t be able to link it up with another, Bluetooth-only JBL speaker in the range. Instead, JBL are leaning into the Google Home link-up. The idea here is to make the link portable more than just a solid go anywhere, play anything kind of a speaker, which JBL have built their brand in.

In trying to bring together Google Assistant, a room-filling 360-degree sound which doesn’t lack detail, and a sub-£150 pricetag, it’s gunning for Ultimate Ears and its other Bluetooth speaker competitors. It doesn’t just want to be the speaker you grab to play tunes on at a party or for podcasts in the garden; it wants to ensconce itself in your home permanently.

Out of the box you do feel the extra weight that the smart tech inside demands. And the rubberised control panel at the top – volume controls, plus a Google button to stop whatever’s playing, silence alarms and timers, and to manually summon Google Assistant if you hold it down – and the demure fabric covering do make it feel like a premium piece of kit.

How we tested

Over three days we played an array of different music – from classical and jazz to electro and fuzzy post-rock – through the JBL link portable’s speaker. We also tested how the sound of streamed radio and music differed from Bluetooth-paired music. On top of this, we wanted to see how well it sounded in different locations around our home and at different levels of charge.

Read more:

JBL link portable smart speaker: £129.99, Jbl.com

(JBL)

  • 1Speaker: 1 x 49mm 20w driver
  • Weight: 740g
  • Dimensions: 17cm x 8.9cm
  • Connectivity: Bluetooth 4.2, Airplay 2, Google Chromecast
  • Battery life: 8 hours
  • Compatible with: iOS and Android, needs Google Home
  • Rating: 8/10

Design

The look will be familiar if you’ve come across a JBL speaker before. It is a little smaller and stouter than the company’s flip and essential speakers but it isn’t a huge departure. And with its rounded edges, fabric covering and top control panel it looks a little like an Apple HomePod which has been through a mangle.

The neatest little feature is the four LEDs which show you how high the volume is and what mode the link portable is in. They’re invisible when the speaker’s off, but light up out of nowhere when it’s on. The power, microphone off and Bluetooth pairing buttons and USB-C port are stowed out of the way on a back panel, as is the battery level indicator – a single strip of light which gradually fades down. It’s smartly done.

Most of the time when you’re at home it will likely sit in its charging cradle, but after three and a half hours it’s fully charged and will play for eight hours. Be warned though, the extra kit it carries to become a proper smart speaker does make it a …….

Source: https://www.independent.co.uk/extras/indybest/gadgets-tech/audio/jbl-link-portable-smart-speaker-review-b1999243.html

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