JBL is already well known in the portable speaker market, the ones that are spread around in different models, sizes, powers and prices. Little changes from one to the other, but in Link Portable the presence of the Google Assistant listening to you all the time can be an extra nice feature for when she is standing on the shelf. Or when you want to control with your voice what it plays, from a distance.
Is it worth it to put intelligence inside a speaker that already worked well only with Bluetooth? I explain to you in the paragraphs below
Video JBL Link Portable Review
THE Tecnoblog is a technology-independent journalistic vehicle that has helped people make their next purchase decision since 2005. Our product reviews are opinionated and have no advertising intent. For this reason, we always transparently highlight the positive and negative points of each product.
No company, manufacturer or store has paid the Tecnoblog to produce this content. Our reviews are not reviewed or approved by external agents. The JBL Link Portable was provided by JBL on loan and the product will be returned to the company after testing.
Design and connectivity
The first thing I think of when looking at Link Portable is the third generation Echo, the big one that arrived in Brazil recently and is not Studio. The JBL box is covered with a fabric that has no apparent stitching, giving the feeling that this product takes finishing seriously – either by the modern look or the comfortable touch of the hands.
On the front the JBL logo is small, but as it is in a gray square on a black background, it gives a lot of contrast. A premium product like it tries to be could have the most hidden logo, even Google Home does that. At the top are two volume buttons and one in the middle that activates the Google Assistant when pressed.
There are also two microphones that could be more, since its main competitor is precisely the third generation Echo and it has seven microphones. More microphones means greater capacity of the speaker itself to understand you. And in that, JBL Link Portable is not the best when the volume is high.
Closing the look, there are LEDs on the top that are well hidden behind the black fabric and that indicate when Link Portable is thinking about what you asked, when it indicates volume level or when the microphone is off. It can be turned off on the other side, which is where the USB-C port is used to recharge the battery. Here there is also a button to use Bluetooth, which is 4.2 and everything is fine with that.
A smart speaker does not need Bluetooth with low power consumption, or the latest version of the wireless connection as a smartwatch does.
To work with Google Assistant, the box uses a Wi-Fi connection, which can be 2.4 or 5 GHz. The reception is very good and the Wizard’s functions are exactly the same as another speaker has when choosing the solution of the Google for this job.
This same Wi-Fi is for AirPlay 2 and makes a lot of sense for anyone who has an iPhone, iPod Touch, Mac or iPad. If you have an Android or PC, you can use Google Cast which understands Link Portable as a Chromecast Audio and does almost the same thing as AirPlay 2: play music that is controlled by your smartphone or computer on the speaker.
Oh, yes, Link Portable is IPX7 certified and that means if you drop the speaker in the pool, just search and don’t even need to pause the music that was playing. The party continues without any complaints.
Inside, no matter how loud it is, Link Portable only has one speaker and it promises 20 watts of power, in a 49 mm driver that is pointed downwards. It may seem little, but the equalization that JBL put in it makes the audio come out with a good presence of treble and midrange, but with an extra touch in the bass. It is not exaggerated as Beats did in the past, but it is easy to feel that these sounds are preferred when it comes out.
The highest sound quality happens when you don’t exceed 70% of the volume. Passing this level the distortion starts to show, even if in a subtle way and the sound quality drops. It is something expected for a box that wants to have a bass sound present and at the same time needs to treble on the same speaker. There is no magic at this time.
In songs with a serious gift like Art3mis & Parzival of Gunship you can easily feel this desire to distort, but in others like Whiskey in the Jar played by Metallica the balance is more pleasant between the hi-hat sound, the guitar medium and the bass drum.
In even less serious sounds, such as Stairway to Heaven from Led Zeppelin, the sound comes out crystal clear even at high volumes. Kashmir, who starts more strongly and the kick drum works all the time, the hi-hat presence is not overshadowed by the kick drum – which doesn’t even disappear with details of Robert Plant’s high-pitched voice.
All of this plays away from the plug, with the help of an internal battery that can hold music for up to eight hours straight. A base recharges and it’s just a way to hold the box upright when it doesn’t need to travel with you. At that moment, standing on the shelf, she turns into a very expensive smart speaker. It is also possible to charge the battery via the USB-C port, which requires at least 10 watts of the charger to do its job of putting 100% power in less than four hours of power.
Well, the answer whether it is worth it or not will depend on your need and pocket. Link Portable caters well to the public that wants a portable speaker, but goes further and delivers a personal assistant without the need to pick up the phone for that. It gives more convenience and convenience has its price.
I know of other JBL-only Bluetooth speakers that are more powerful, involve more the environment, do not distort like Link Portable and are cheaper as is the case with Charge 4, which still has five times greater autonomy and it goes up to 20 hours of music away from the plug. Portable by portable, I think the idea is just to listen to music and in this scenario I prefer to pay less in a better speaker, to leave the assistant on my cell phone that will already be around to play the music.
Its main competitor is the third generation Echo, which has more microphones and she understands the controls better, has two drivers for the sound and the set makes the audio come out with more quality. The problem is that you abandon the internal battery and exchange Google Assistant for Alexa, which is very competent as well.
If you liked what I just said, it’s worth taking a look at JBL Link Music, which is Portable with an extra bit of bass in the presence of bass, less distortion and without the drums. She does everything the same, just needs a plug and looks nicer to stay on the shelf. In addition to being cheaper, with a suggested price of R $ 1,300, against R $ 1,449 for Link Portable.
And looking at the price, the third generation Echo costs almost half the value of Link Music and is even more elegant on the shelf. So no, at this suggested price for the launch, none of this generation’s JBL Links are worth it. Who knows when they cost between R $ 800 and R $ 900.