Speakers featuring virtual assistants such as Alexa and Google Assistant have eclipsed regular old portable Bluetooth speakers as the audio trend of the moment. But not everyone wants to have AI eavesdropping on their lives — though almost all of us want to have a great-sounding portable speaker on hand.
If it's time for you to replace or upgrade your speaker, the $180 UE Megaboom 3 makes a strong case as the one to get. It refines the experience of the excellent Megaboom and has impressive sound, battery life and ruggedness — plus it's cheaper. It's not ideal for everyone — it's too big to go everywhere with you — but for most people, it's the best portable Bluetooth speaker you can buy right now.
The 8.9 x 3.4-inch, 2-pound Megaboom 3 simplifies the cylindrical aesthetics from the previous generation, improving on most aspects of the design.
The new model integrates the large volume buttons on the side into the mesh covering and moves the charge port from the bottom to the side, making that port much more accessible. On top, you'll find small power and Bluetooth-pairing buttons and a large button in the center that UE calls the Magic Button.
The Magic Button can be programmed to launch playlists on Apple Music or Deezer streaming services, but it's more useful for just controlling playback. A single touch pauses or plays the current track; double tap skips to the next song. The Magic Button replaces the Megaboom's touch-sensitive top, and the button works more consistently than the touch top did.
The Megaboom 3 lacks an auxiliary input, so you can't have a wired connection, something that UE removed in the redesign. The company also took away the speakerphone from the new model.
The Megaboom 3 has nicely balanced bass, mid and treble tones. It has slightly more bass than the Megaboom and fuller overall sound than the Fugoo Style-S. UE's speaker plays a variety of music styles well.
The throbbing bass line of Cardi B's "I Like It" rumbled without sounding muddy or overwhelming the vocals. On The 1975's "Love It If We Made It," the bass propelled the song as Matthew Healy's singing was easy to hear. The acoustic guitar on Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper's "Shallow" sounded sharp and realistic, while Gaga's soaring vocals were full and clear.
The throbbing bass line of Cardi B's 'I Like It' rumbled without sounding muddy or overwhelming the vocals.
The Megaboom 3 gets seriously loud. I measured it at almost 100 decibels when turned up to max, but at that volume, the sound gets fairly distorted.
The Megaboom 3 has an IPX67 rating, meaning it's waterproof for up to 30 minutes in 3 feet of water. I left the speaker in a sink full of water for 5 minutes, and it continued to play fine after that.
I left the Megaboom 3 in a sink full of water for 5 minutes, and it continued to play fine after that.
UE says the speaker can play for 20 hours on a full charge, and that might be conservative. After about 10 hours of use at low and moderate volume, the Megaboom 3 still had 77 percent of its battery left.
Wireless and Setup
The Megaboom 3 paired with my iPhone quickly. The signal strength was impressive, working through several walls indoors.
The new Boom and Megaboom app (free for iOS and Android) brings several useful features, but it also takes away a couple. It allows you to pair the Megaboom 3 with the older model, as well as UE's Boom 2 and Boom 3 speakers, something I wish more Bluetooth speaker apps would allow. You can pick playlists to assign to the Magic Button; once one is assigned, you press the button for 3 seconds to start playback. You can also choose from preset equalizer settings or create your own. However, there's no longer an alarm feature in the app, and you can't engage Siri or Google Assistant on your phone through the speaker anymore.
For most people, the UE Megaboom 3 is the best portable Bluetooth speaker to buy. It has excellent sound, can handle the elements, plays for a long time on a charge and can pair with other UE speakers for stereo sound.
If you plan to take your speaker with you a lot, this one may be too big. In that case, the $130 UE Boom 3 might be a better match. On the other hand, if you don't ever plan to move your speaker, you can get better sound from larger (and more expensive) speakers, such as the $250 Riva Arena or $250 Marshall Acton II. And, of course, if you want a speaker that supports Alexa or Google Assistant, the Megaboom 3 isn't for you. But if you pick the Megaboom 3, you won't be disappointed.
Credit: Ultimate Ears