Price (RRP): $249.95
The JBL Link Portable is a mono 360° speaker with Wi-Fi or BT streaming and OK Google. It is portable – an 8-hour battery and a charging stand.
We put the JBL Link Portable through its paces. Spoiler alert – it has the warm and sweet sound signature that JBL is famous for and the charging base makes it easy to move around to the pool, patio or room to room. It is a winner.
JBL Link Portable – Australian review
- Australian website here
- Cost: $249.95
- Warranty: 1-year
- Colours: Black or Charcoal (other colours may be on request)
- Size: 170 (h) x 88mm (round edge square) x 735g
- From JBL Online, JB Hi-Fi, Harvey Norman and everywhere you see the distinctive JBL logo. Shop around
We use the words FAIUL, PASS and EXCEED against test criteria.
What is it?
It would be easy to mistake it for the superseded Link 10 or Link 20 – in fact, the specifications are similar – just upgraded for Wi-Fi 5 AC dual-band and the addition of AirPlay 2.
It is a 360° 20W mono speaker with a maximum volume of about 80dB and a claimed frequency response of 65-20kHz.
Apart from doing anything that OK Google can do it is IPX7 (waterproof to 1m for 30 minutes for around pool use but don’t take it swimming) and can accept Wi-Fi streaming music (Spotify, YouTube or Apple Music for example), BT, Chromecast and AirPlay 2.
It comes with a USB-A to USB-C cable and charge base – no wall charger (which is a little disappointing as you tend to leave it on the charging base most of the time). It needs a 5V/2A charger and will fil the battery from 0-100% in about 3.5 hours. If you do not have a spare 5V/2A charger, it will use any new USB-C PD from 3A, but it does not speed up charging.
Setup – PASS but you must use OK Google
You simply use the Google Home app. It finds it, you allocate it to a room and Wi-Fi network (2.4Ghz is best for a longer distance from a router) and that is it. It is up to you to reject any prompts like voice and calendar matching – we recommend you leave it generic so all can use it.
BUT it requires to set up through the Google Home App before the Bluetooth or AirPlay 2 capability is available.
Wi-Fi Distance – PASS
While Wi-Fi 2.4Ghz can reach up to 90 metres line-of-sight; doors, walls and floors cut that distance substantially.
We tested line-of-sight, and it was good to about 50 metres. We tested at 20m away through three walls, and it was fine. But on the outside of that 20m wall, it would not work. Using our NETGEAR Wi-Fi 6 AX12 router app (or any Wi-Fi signal strength app), we measured signal strength. It tends to drop out at around -75dBm or greater. So, if you want to use it around the pool or in the yard, you may need to buy a range extender.
How does it sound? EXCEED
Remarkably good for an IPX7 speaker. Let me explain. A waterproof speaker has a fixed air volume so it cannot pump the volume of air needed for great bass.
This has dual passive radiators that help mid-bass. One 49mm full-range, down-firing driver, radiates sound in 360°.
Sound quality depends a lot on what you feed it. It supports BT codecs including SBC, HE-AAC, LC-AAC, MP3, Vorbis, WAV, FLAC and OPUS (opensource LDAC). Let’s not carried away – the better the bitrate (and that means you need a strong 5Ghz Wi-Fi signal strength) the sweeter it sounds – but standard SBC and AAC are fine.
Volume (as claimed) was 80dB with remarkably little distortion (THD).
The sound signature was as expected of all JBL speakers – warm and sweet. It claims 65Hz to 20kHz – again correct. You could not ask for any better response from a portable speaker.
Deep Bass: 20-40Hz – none
Middle Bass: 40-100Hz – building steadily
High Bass: 100 to 200Hz – flat – good
Low-mid: 200-400Hz – flat
Mid: 400-1000Hz- flat
High-mid: 1-2kHz – flat
Low-treble: 2-4kHz – flat
Treble:4-6kHz – flat
High Treble: 6-1kHz – slight dip to remove harshness
Dog whistle: 10-20 – flat to 18kHz
Battery – EXCEED
Claimed battery life is up to eight hours. We ran two tests
- 100% volume (80dB) four hours
- 50% volume (65dB) seven and a half hours
Recharge time was 3.5 hours using a 5V/2A charger (not supplied), and you can use any USB-C PD charger although these do not charge faster.
GadgetGuy’s take – The JBL Link Portable is a proud member of the Link family.
There are a few minor issues
- BT pairing via the Google Home app is to a maximum of two devices
- AirPlay 2 requires an iPhone or iPad to connect. We did not try AirPlay, but some reviews have mentioned a larger lag compared to other AirPlay certified speakers.
- No app or EQ
- No charger
This is the durable speaker you can take to the beach. And if you really want OK Google there, you can connect to a smartphone as a Wi-Fi hotspot.