It’s Bluetooth everywhere. Be it smartphones, tablets, laptops or desktops, and now even some televisions — every new gizmo, it seems, has the technology on board. What the arrival of this pervasive wireless technology means is that you can easily add external speakers to the device without the trouble of coping with lengthy wires or stumbling on them. And, with the advent of NFC — or near field communication — all you do is tap your NFC-enabled device, and the speaker gets paired with the device. If your device does not have NFC, it can pair with the speaker the old-fashioned Bluetooth way. Some can even work as hands-free sets for your cellphone. Let’s take a look some of these.
Bose SoundLink Mini
@ Rs 16,200
Bose is known for great acoustics. Their SoundLink Mobile speaker was hugely successful, so naturally there had to be a variant. The Mini is slightly smaller, and much more portable than the original SoundLink. It delivers full natural sound, while fitting in the palm of your hand. The Bose quality comes through. Even at low volumes, the Mini manages to fill a moderate room with its sound. The speaker comes in a grey-and-black finish, with optional covers in blue, green and orange (at additional cost). The interface is simple, with buttons on top for power-on, volume up/down, mute, Bluetooth and an auxiliary port (when you want to connect a device via 3.5-mm pin and cable) The speaker body is rugged and durable, and weighs about 600 grams. The battery lasts about 8 hours. To charge it, you put it on its charging dock.
Jabra Solemate Mini
@ Rs 4,999
The Solemate Mini is the new avatar of Jabra’s SoleMate. The speaker has feet shaped like shoe soles (which lends stability when it is placed anywhere), hence the name. The speaker is the smallest in our lineup , and yet produces quite good sound. The audio quality is a bit mixed though, but it did live up to the claimed 8-hour battery life. Sound is good for a small room, and also seemed to do well in an open-air setting. The speaker has all-round rubber protection, lending durability and protection from scratches to the device. It comes in four colours — red, blue, black and yellow — and also has NFC. But it cannot handle calls. In a neat touch, the 3.5 mm cable is stored at the bottom of the speaker.
Creative Airwave™ HD
@ Rs 12,999
Heavier than the Bose Mini at 980 grams, the Airwave is also portable and come in a handy size for the desk. It has NFC, so if your smart device is enabled for NFC, all you do is tap to connect. The speaker can manage loud volumes, and also has an auxiliary input port, and the triangular shape makes it stand out. The Airwave can also handle phone calls with a built-in speakerphone and a concealed microphone. The call and microphone quality are good. There are four colours --- black, blue, red and green, and the battery lasted about 9 hours in our tests, though Creative claims a 12-hour battery life.
HMDX JAM Plus
@ Rs 3,990
The Jam Plus is a mono speaker unlike the others in this review. However, you can add one more speaker to the first one (via Bluetooth), and the pair offers full stereo sound. Battery life is about six hours, but the Jam Plus does not have NFC or call-answering capability. On the other hand, you can put one speaker in one room and a second in another and fill your home with music, or bring them together in the same room for full stereo effect. The Jam Plus is available in 4 neon colours and a subtle black. It shows up as Jam2 in Bluetooth search. The downside: the buttons were the most difficult to operate among the four we tested.
The Bose SoundLink Mini is the best in class in terms of sound. We also loved its charging dock and the additional coloured covers, but budget-wise, the Creative Airwave goes one-up as it can also answer calls. The Jam Plus has interesting possibilities if you buy two speakers, while the Jabra’s pocketable design and rubberised tough finish were strong points.