Bose has a reputation for producing easy-to-use speaker systems that sound good — at a premium price. The Bose SoundLInk Mini fits the profile perfectly. While it lacks the extras that other $200 portable Bluetooth speakers offer — like a speakerphone or waterproofing — it produces an encompassing audio experience and booming bass that eclipse comparably priced models.
The SoundLink Mini looks rather traditional from the outside, opting for a rectangle instead of the cylindrical shapes used by other portable Bluetooth speakers such as the UE Boom and JBL Pulse. However, you can wrap the sturdy aluminum case in one of seven soft covers to spice up its appearance. We tested the green case; other options include pink, mint, orange, gray, blue and red.
Though just 7.1 x 2.3 x 2.0 inches in size, the SoundLink Mini has heft to it, weighing 1.5 pounds — noticeably heavier than Fugoo Style’s 1.1 pounds. But despite its weight, the Bose doesn’t feature any of the ruggedness that the Fugoo does. It’s not waterproof or dustproof, for example. The SoundLink Mini is more at home on a desk rather than by the pool.
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As opposed to newer models such as the Fugoo, which has few buttons, Bose put an array of buttons on top of the SoundLink Mini, including power, volume up and down, and mute. The Bluetooth button also gets prominent placement, which is surprising, since you shouldn’t need to use it too often; the SoundLink Mini automatically reconnects with a previously paired device when it is in range.
Setup and Use
The SoundLink Mini paired quickly and easily with both iOS and Android devices. Put the speaker into discovery mode by pressing the Bluetooth button on its top until the indicator turns blue and blinks. On an Android device, you just have to go to Settings and look for the speaker listed in Available Devices (you may need to touch Search For Devices). In iOS, go to Settings > Bluetooth, where the SoundLink Mini should appear under Devices.
Bose says the Bluetooth connection is good for up to 30 feet, though we found that at about 20 feet the signal began to break up, especially if we didn’t have a clear line of sight to the speaker. The SoundLink Mini also features a 3.5mm auxiliary input for connecting directly to your device's headphone jack.
Bose is well-known for its high-quality audio at a premium price, and the SoundLink Mini lives up to that reputation. The speaker creates a wide field of sound, making it seem as if the audio is coming from a much bigger speaker. That makes it perfect for areas where you don’t have the space to dedicate to a large device.
Additionally, the SoundLink Mini boasts extremely potent bass, an area where many portable Bluetooth speakers struggle. The emphasis on low end makes a song such as Lorde’s bass-drum-heavy “Team” particularly powerful. The Bose also added resonance to subtle orchestral pieces like Felix Mendelssohn’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” Overture.
However, that bass can overwhelm the treble and midrange tones. On a song such as The War on Drugs’ “An Ocean in Between the Waves,” the bass washes out the vocals, resulting in muddy sound. Compare this to the Fugoo, which delivers brighter treble tones and more balanced bass, and boosts the vocals on the same track so that they become the focus of the mix. We preferred the cleaner audio of the Fugoo, but if you like your bass to rumble, the SoundLink Mini would be a better choice.
If you’re listening in a large room, the SoundLink Mini gets loud without distortion — an impressive feat from such a small speaker. Other portable Bluetooth speakers we tested tend to distort after you get above half volume.
Battery Life and Charging
Bose’s website claims 7 hours of battery life for the SoundLink Mini, while the manual claims it can play up to 12 hours. We found the latter to be more accurate. After 7 hours of listening over the course of several days, the battery indicator showed yellow, which represents “20 to 70 percent of full charge.” However, that’s still less than the $200 UE Boom’s 15 hours and much less than the Fugoo’s 40 hours.
The integrated battery recharges through a wall plug, or you can set it on the included charging cradle — just set the speaker on top of the pad and it will begin to charge. You can find the power cord connector on the right side of the unit. However, unlike most portable Bluetooth speakers, the SoundLink Mini doesn’t use a microUSB port for charging, which means you’ll need to bring the Bose-specific charger with you when you travel.
The $199 Bose SoundLink Mini is a very good choice for those looking for excellent audio quality in a small, if heavy, Bluetooth speaker. If you plan to listen indoors, it creates the illusion that the sound is coming from a much bigger speaker. However, the Fugoo Style offers excellent sound.