When shopping for a portable Bluetooth speaker, we rightly focus on features, price and sound quality. But how about a little style? For those who want to make a visual statement as well as a sonic one, the Jawbone Mini Jambox catches the eye and the ear. Its svelte shape makes it easy to tote around, but it doesn’t skimp on features. Even better, you can find it for less than $100.
The Mini Jambox impresses visually both with its form and color. Available in red, yellow, blue, green, purple, silver, orange and aqua, the aluminum shell also features a variety of grill patterns such as dots, scales and diamonds. I tested the blue diamond model.
At just 6.1 x 2.3 x 0.96 inches, the Mini Jambox is easily portable, though it doesn’t include any weatherproofing or ship with a case (you can buy one separately for $30). It’s longer and narrower than the 4.4 x 2.6 x 2.4-inch UE Mini Boom, making it easier to slip in a jacket pocket. While the aluminum case may look more prone to scratching than the metal grilles on the 5.9 x 2.5 x 1.2-inch Soundfreaq Pocket Kick, I tried marring the surface with my nail without any lasting effect.
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On the top of the speaker, Jawbone placed the volume buttons and a play button, which controls music playback on your mobile device and also lets you answer calls. If you hold down the play button for a few seconds, it engages voice control (Siri and Google Now) on your mobile device.
On the right side, you’ll find the power button, 3.5-mm auxiliary jack and micro USB port for charging the battery. Below the power button, the Bluetooth button also functions to connect to another Mini Jambox wirelessly, allowing you to mirror sound on both speakers.
Setup and Use
I paired with the Mini Jambox easily on both iOS and Android devices. To place the speaker in pairing mode, you hold the button with two arrows down until you hear “Mini Jambox is in pairing mode.” The power light will also flash red. Find the “MINIJAMBOX” under available devices in your Bluetooth setup menu, and you’ll hear a chirp when the pairing is complete.
Jawbone has a free app for iOS and Android, but it offers few features. You can see the battery level and change what happens when you hold the play button, from voice control to dialing a contact on your phone; in other words, the button becomes a one-touch way to call a number— always the same number until you update it again through the app.
You can also pair more than one mobile device with the speaker at the same time. Only one device can use the speaker at any given moment, but it can be useful if you want to switch who controls the tunes without handing over your smartphone to someone else.
While the size of ultraportable speakers limits their fidelity overall, the Mini Jambox delivers some of the best sound from a speaker this size.
The speaker’s balance emphasizes bass more than competing models such as the UE Mini Boom and Soundfreaq Pocket Kick. That focus helped drive the rhythm on Mark Ronson’s “Uptown Funk” better than the Mini Boom; the horns on that song also sounded crisp on the Jawbone. The bombastic guitar and drums on Led Zeppelin’s “Trampled Under Foot” balanced nicely with Robert Plant’s vocals. The rumbling bass during the break on the Beastie Boy’s “Shake Your Rump” produced vibration on my desk that the Pocket Kick couldn’t.
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The Mini Jambox performed adequately on acoustic music, a tough challenge for ultraportable speakers; the saxophones on Charles Mingus’s “Goodbye Pork Pie Hat” sounded warm, although not as rich as the UE Mini Boom.
The biggest shortcoming of the Mini Jambox is its power: It maxes out at about 80 decibels, but it gets distorted at closer to 70 decibels. By comparison, the UE Mini Boom can reach 90 decibels (though it sounds much better at 80 decibels). Its limited power makes the Mini Jambox more appropriate for personal listening than group settings.
You would expect a speakerphone made by Jawbone to sound good, and the Mini Jambox lived up to expectations.
The voices of people I spoke with came through clear and full, much better than the iPhone’s built-in speaker. The people I spoke with reported good quality on their end as well.
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Battery Life and Charging
The Mini Jambox charges through a micro USB cable on the right side. Jawbone says the unit is capable of 10 hours of playback on a full charge, the same as the UE Mini Boom. I was able to easily get to that number listening at low and moderate levels over several days — and still had about 40 percent left, according to the battery status indicator.
If sound and style matter to you, the Mini Jambox is the ultraportable Bluetooth speaker for you. With plenty of colors and patterns to choose from, you can find one that matches your style. Beyond that, you’ll get good battery life and a useful speakerphone. If you need a louder portable speaker, the UE Mini Boom may be the better option, but the balanced sound and bass of the Mini Jambox really make it stand out from the rest.