All things considered JBL’s Charge, one of the top Bluetooth speaker is very competitively priced at $149. Not only does it connect to your smartdevice via Bluetooth and playback audio wirelessly, but it can charge your 5V device thanks to an onboard 6,000mAh battery and USB port. Many speakers of the same ilk ask for more of your money and offer less in terms of features; most just playback audio wirelessly.
Under the hood are two 41mm full range drivers that are powered by 10 watts of juice. To power up the JBL Charge you simply need to plug it into the wall using a microUSB plug, where upon it will take a little over 2.5 hours to complete a full charge. Included in the box is a carrying bag, where as the JBL Charge itself boasts a power button, volume rocker switch, a USB output, and 3.5mm aux input for non-Bluetooth devices.
In the hand the JBL Charge feels very solid. I’m not crazy about the aesthetics, as it comes in a variety of bright colors, and the buttons feel more akin to a Playskool toy than an adult gadget…poor choice of words, but you get the point. Wrapped around the tips are a set of rubber rings and a bottom with a flat, rubber surface. The JBL Charge is round, so if it falls off its small rubber base, it will begin to roll and possibly fall to the floor. Yes, the JBL Charge is rugged, but how many times it can survive a 2-3 foot floor to the fall has yet to be determined.
To pair the JBL Charge you simply hold down the volume down and power buttons. The LED ring around the power button will flash red and blue when it’s in pairing mode and sound a confirmation tone when things with your device are connected.
Sonically the JBL Charge is very impressive, especially given its somewhat small size. In addition to the dual 41mm drivers there is a bass port. And while it doesn’t produce slamming or thumping lows, it’s respectable given the Charge’s size. Compared to Logitech UE Boombox and Mobile Boombox, it’s some where in between, if not slightly closer to that of the UE Boombox. Compared to Jawbone’s offerings, it most certainly outperforms the original Jambox, though it is larger, and is a slight step below the Big Jambox – again, the JBL Charge is smaller, so rightfully so. That all said, at max volume it’s virtually distortion free, and can fill up a medium-sized room with sound, albeit somewhat in a shrill like manner.
Battery wise I’ve had some mixed results, with most on the negative side. JBL Charge claims a 6,000mAh battery. That should mean I can charge my Nexus 4 at least, at least two times drawing from its battery, right? Unfortunately, I was only able to charge my Nexus 4’s 2100mAh battery to full once before the JBL Charge died. Now, to be candid the JBL Charge had been used previously in the day to playback music, but only for 20 minutes at most. So worst case, the battery should have only been half discharged at this point.
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The JBL Charge is a formidable speaker, but it falls short in battery performance. Its 6,000mAh battery should have charged my Nexus 4 a few times over, but it didn’t. This, to say the least, is very disappointing since many people will buy this speaker not only for its sonic capabilities, which mind you are solid, but its ability to recharge their device on the go.