JBL Link 10 review: Portability is nice, the bass is better

JBL Link 10
  • JBL Link 10
  • JBL Link 10
  • JBL Link 10
  • Expert Rating

    4.00 / 5

Pros

  • Portability
  • Waterproofing

Cons

  • Lack of sleep mode

Bottom Line

With the Link 10 and 20 JBL leverage their strength in the portable speaker space to deliver a product that sounds great and pushes the smart speaker category forward as a whole - even if it trips up on some of the finer details of that push.

Would you buy this?

Performance

Anyone who has directly compared the output of the Google Home to another speaker knows well that - while perfectly listenable - the prodigal smart speaker doesn't quite have the edge when it comes to audio playback. So, it shouldn’t surprise too much that JBL’s Link speaker sounded noticeably better by comparison.

For certain songs, it felt like the regular Home did delivered a surprisingly competitive and punchy bass. However, for the most part, the audio produced by the Link speaker was crisp and lively enough that I’d recommend it over the baseline home about nine times out of ten. For the not-too-significant surcharge, it does provide a genuinely higher quality of sound.

Bands like The Killers’ “Tyson vs Douglas” and songs like Jack Rivers’ “Fools Gold” came through with a brilliant powerful clarity and sense of balance that was a delight to listen to for a dozen dedicated minutes or a few ambient hours.Of course, this is just how the JBL Link fares when it comes to the basics.

[Related Content: Three Smart Speakers We Know Almost Nothing About]

Beyond the above, the biggest new perk that the JBL Link brings to the table comes in the form of portability. Unlike pretty much every other smart speaker out, the JBL Link 10 and 20 boast their own dedicated battery units. This means that you can take them out and about with you. At face value, this is a really cool development. However, in reality, the restrictions and limitations involved quickly work to inhibit the value of that portability.

You’ll still need some source of internet in order to access the Assistant - which means that you’ll need to either burn mobile data via a hotspot or remain close enough to your home Wi-Fi to make use of that. In addition, there’s no support for any sort of sleep mode - meaning you’ll either have to leave it on and burn out the battery faster or repeat the 3-5 minutes boot-up process whenever you want to issue the JBL Link with a question or a command.

Now - Sure, in the situations described above, you could probably just as easily call the Assistant up on your phone or tablet. This might be true of every smart speaker. However, when you consider the emphasis that JBL have put on the mobility aspect of the Link, it’s a bit disappointing to behold. Unfortunately, it serves to render the portability offered by the smart speaker an impressive but somewhat non-practical innovation.

The Bottom Line

In a world where the Sonos One fully lives up to its potential, I’d still probably lean towards recommending it over the JBL 100. However, given that both the One’s Google Assistant support and the limited availability of Amazon Alexa to Australians, JBL’s Link range holds up nicely as the best bet in the meanwhile.

With the Link 10 and 20 JBL leverage their strength in the portable speaker space to deliver a product that sounds great and pushes the smart speaker category forward as a whole - even if it trips up on some of the finer details of that push.


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