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Tuesday
Oct162012

Logitech UE Mobile Boombox Review

There's a new portable wireless speaker in the neighborhood. Until the next best thing soon follows that is. Back when Logitech released its Mini Boombox and then quickly dusting it under the carpet, the small and glossy speaker had its fair share of issues on all fronts. Back from the dead and sporting a much needed redesign from the inside out, meet Logitech UE's new Turbo Bass button-less Mobile Boombox. It's now the smallest speaker ever to be called a boombox and you bet it's portable. That'll help ease the pain busting that small boombox over your head. You can do it one handed it's so small.

The Mobile Boombox features dual audio drivers amongst other things, a whopping 10-hours of battery life and it sounds as good as it looks for the $100 asking price. Is it the Jawbone Jambox assassin or just another pretty little thing with unforeseen mediocrity? Catch our full in-depth review after the break!

The Logitech UE brand is all about being cool and hip, and you can see that in the Jawbone-esque packaging displaying the Mobile Boombox behind a museum-like showcase in a rebellious slanted pose saving you the thrill of your unboxing ritual. This works, because we like that very much. And the best thing about this packaging is that it's easy to open and once you're in, the included accessories are neatly packed inside in a modular fashion. Inside you will find a USB wall charging adapter, and a short USB to micro-USB charging cable along with a tiny user's manual.

Being that the Logitech UE line of audio gear is exclusive to brick and mortar and online Apple stores, there is one very strong persuasive thing that makes us buy something off the shelf of a well stocked Apple store. And that's how good something looks in our eyes. The Mobile Boombox is the sort of gadget that will grab you focus even though you never thought about the likes of a wireless portable speaker.

Design wise, logitech UE's Mobile Speaker is arguably the best looking portable speaker of its stature. Sitting right beside it is notably Jawbone's designer designed Jambox. The two make for an unstoppable power of sexiness. But only one ranks on top. The Mobile Boombox is a simplistic portable speaker yet highly modern in its design. It should have been called the Mobile Boombastic, that would have been fantastic.

The Mobile Boombox is available in a total of 5 colors including a two-tone black/red, black/green, white/blue and solid colors like black and white.

The Mobile Boombox is pretty basic when it comes to controls. It features over-sized integrated volume up and down buttons at the top that are hard to make out in the dark and a dedicated Bluetooth pairing button dead center, flanked by a multi-function Bluetooth pairing button dead center. With the middle multi-function button you can control Bluetooth pairing as well as use it to answer an incoming call or end one too. Unfortunately, there aren't any on-board mute, play/pause and skip track controls on the UE Mobile Boombox. There's also a built-in mic located near the buttons on the top which enables you to use the Mobile Boombox as a wireless speakerphone; and it works extremely well. Our caller on the other end heard us loud and clear even while we were talking from as far as 5-feet away. It picks up voice surprisingly well. So as a speakerphone, the Mobile Boombox is impressively great.

When first powering on the speaker, a welcoming guitar strumming sound will play on startup similar to the Jambox's startup chime. The same guitar strumming chimes are heard for various different statuses the speaker has and it makes for a pleasant user experience. A small ultraviolet LED light hidden just above the front speaker grille will blink and transfer to solid when a connection is made, but will turn off after around a minute or so even when the speaker is on and working. The speaker will automatically go to sleep if its not active and can instantly wake up when it senses audio streaming from your device.

Around the back of the Mobile Boombox is where you will find the wide passive radiator opening for air flow, power switch, micro-USB charging port and a 3.5mm audio input port for use with devices that have no Bluetooth support. Usually when a wireless speaker features a 3.5mm input, it also comes with an audio cable in the box, however, the Mobile Boombox doesn't include one.

Pairing the Mobile Boombox is a quick and effortless. The Mobile Boombox supports A2DP and HFP 1.5 Bluetooth audio streaming and speakerphone profiles. That means you can pair two devices at once or up to 8 different devices which the Mobile Boombox will memorize and will quickly connect to. Also, there's no lag between video and audio playback when paired over Bluetooth so you can watch movies, videos and play games as if you were hardwired.

Battery life has also been terrific nearing the claimed 10-hours of battery life with constant Bluetooth streaming. The built-in rechargeable battery can be recharged on the go over USB using your laptop or even an external battery pack with enough juice or by directly plugging it into a wall socket.

The build quality at first seemed to be very promising. The Mobile Boombox is a rounded block that's weighty and sturdy enough to be called solid with front and back metal speaker grille covers. The body itself is constructed out of plastic and is surrounded by this endless black rubberized layer that not only adds durability and self protection against the occasional drop and tumble, but also provides an ample amount of traction that keeps the speaker in its place even when playing music at the highest sound level. The top of the speaker also provides a nice and safe spot to place your smartphone on when playing music.

Until we noticed the poor manufacturing that immediately brought down the bar for all that was said earlier. Apparently the entire rubber layer surrounding the speaker is held on using glue that's clearly not up to the job holding on to the hard plastic and rubber materials together resulting in separation. After picking up the Mobile Boombox numerous times near the top edges where the rubber overlaps  the metal grille, we started to notice that in some parts the glue is weaker or there isn't enough of it to keep a strong bond with the two materials.

Logitech UE didn't spend enough time researching different types of glue or other techniques of construction which is very disappointing. The Mobile Boombox is cheaply built, something its predecessor suffered from as well.

Size is really not an issue when it comes to portability. The Mobile Boombox is shorter than your average iPhone 5 making it as insanely portable. It measures 4.4 x 2.6 x 2.4-inches (or 11.1 x 6.7 x 6.1-cm) and weighs 1.32 lb (0.6 kg). It isn't terribly small nor a big portable speaker compared to others. Those rounded corners make it seem even more compact.

Like we've said in numerous past reviewed of such small devices, it may be small, but it sure does pack a loud punch. The Mobile Boombox's two 1" "full-range" drivers are powerful enough to fill a small apartment with sound. As much as I'd like to call it immersive, the sound isn't even separated by a stereo sensation which just results in a what you would have thought the sound would sound like coming from it; compact and one directional.

The sound signature of the Mobile Boombox closely resembles that of Jawbone's Jambox in that it sounds very warm with a held back midrange and not so sparkly highs. However, in our testing the Jambox sounded the least appealing against the Mobile Boombox, JBL Flip and JBL Micro 2 and Micro Wireless portable speakers. 

Mids on the Mobile Boombox sound dark and on the recessed side. Where the Mobile Boombox performs best is in the lows and highs. Highs are acceptably clear and defined while the bass tones are surprisingly good and present without having great impact on the rest of the spectrum thanks to the passive radiator in between the two drivers. The sound does not distort at high volumes which is superb considering the tightly packed form factor and small drivers. Details aside, the Mobile Boombox does sound good for the $100 price point and actually beats some of the much pricier portable speakers out there.

With a questionable build quality and lackluster on-board controls, we expected much more coming from a brand that although has had its fair share of quality control mistakes, but many successful offerings as well which we ourselves praised. The Mobile Boombox sits at the tipping point of a very deep and dark abyss. As much as we like the gummy design and the way it performs, the Mobile Boombox is potentially a risky $100 investment and that's a shame because we thought this would otherwise be a nifty little Bluetooth speaker. But at this state, the Mobile Boombox doesn't make the grade.

UE.Logitech.com

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