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Smartphones have terrible speakers built-in. I don’t care if has the Beats label on the back – they still suck. If you’re serious about listening to your portable media but don’t want headphones, you need a portable speaker. Inateck has just the thing: 15 hours playback, the latest Bluetooth 4.0 low power technologies, powerful sound, and a sleek, durable design. Say hello to the MercuryBox.
The Inateck MercuryBox costs $55, but if you use the coupon code PVR6K4CG (valid at Amazon.com until August 11th 2015), you’ll get $12 off. We’ve also got one to give away to a lucky reader, so scroll the bottom to find out how to enter.
Design and Specification
It should be obvious to any technologist having lived through the last century where the design inspiration of the Inateck Mercury Box draws heavily from – it bears striking resemblance to the pre-trash-recepticle Mac Pro.
That’s not a bad thing at all. In fact, this isn’t just some tacky silver plastic emulating the classic Mac style – it’s anodized aluminium, so you can be sure it’s able to take a knock or two. Presumably the MercuryBox name alludes to the sleek metal case.
Surprisingly the metal casing, dual 5w speakers, the 1800mAh battery, all add up to just 250g – and a handy 162 mm x 62 mm x 29 mm. Also in the package is a durable pleather carry-case, a carry strap that loops around one side of the MercuryBox, and some cables.
The high quality components – at least aesthetically – carry through to the cables included, with both the micro-USB charging cable and 3.5mm stereo cable featuring a woven nylon cover and attached cable tie.
If the design doesn’t appeal to you, Inateck produce a whole range of small form-factor speakers, which I assume have mostly the same internals.
Features and Sound Quality
Using the latest Bluetooth 4.0 Low Energy technology, the MercuryBox packs a long battery life and won’t drain your device too significantly either. The stated life is 15 hours, and I haven’t had to recharge it yet. At full blast you can expect about 10 hours, more than enough for a single outing; it takes about 3 hours to fully recharge on a standard USB charger (not included).
It doesn’t sound half bad, either, with dual 5w drivers delivering reasonable quality sound on treble and mid-range. There’s also a good bit of bass in there, if somewhat flat, but still perceptibly less bass overall than the Bolse portable speaker I reviewed last year. Getting a good amount of bass from something this small is still impressive though, and I can’t really fault it in the audio department.
Connecting to the device was simple; I tested from numerous Android and iOS devices, and had trouble on precisely none of them. All connected within a second or so and without failure. Range was excellent – I walked about 12 meters away until it began to crack up.
There’s a standard assortment of buttons on the top for power, play/pause, Bluetooth/answer call, and volume. It’s worth noting that unlike some external speakers that include a microphone, this one can’t trigger Siri – holding down the center button will cut the current Bluetooth connection, allowing it to be re-paired with another device. The microphone quality is fairly poor anyway, resulting in muffled but usable voice transmissions.
Though the device is marketed as “waterproof”, you shouldn’t go dropping it in the pool anytime soon. The level of protection it offers is IPX5, which is technically splash proof – or to be more precise, should withstand “directed jets of water”, such as that from a water pistol, or splashes in the shower.
The buttons on top are placed under a rubber enclosure, fully protected from the elements.
The charging port and stereo input are the only area you’d need to be careful of. Under normal use, a rubber cover pushes onto and seals around them – clearly though, if you have it connected to an external source then water could easily get in through the micro USB socket.
I did of course test this the IPx5 water resistance claims thoroughly. In fact, this is kind of the moment my super soaker has been waiting its entire life for, since being purchased for conversion to a costume prop a few years ago. It has never seen active duty as an actual water cannon, and frankly I feel sorry for it. You can hear the damage – or lack thereof – in the video review linked at the top.
Suffice to say, the claims held up. I gave it all my soaking might, and it kept on playing the tunes. There was a little distortion as the water hit the front grill, but the bass quickly shook it off. Don’t put the Inateck MercuryBox in the pool – but feel free to take it poolside, in the shower, or to soaker parties (is that a thing? If it isn’t, it should be), and don’t stress if your Margherita happens to spill.
I also managed to knock if off a wall (over a meter high) while testing – not a problem. It had a minor scuff in the corner but otherwise continued to function fine.
Powerful Sound from a Sleek Package
I was pleasantly surprised by the MercuryBox, and I think you will be too. There’s no shortage of other small form factor portable Bluetooth speakers on the market, but they tend to be little lacking on the aesthetics or unsuitable for outdoor use, which is their mostly likely use case. The sound quality from the Inateck MercuryBox isn’t incredible by any means – it won’t blow your ears off in either volume or clarity – but it’s not bad, either, and about as good as I’d expect from something that costs around $50. If you’re looking to run an entire party from one of these things, forget it, and invest in a $200 Ion Block Party instead. For personal use in the shower or poolside, look no further – the water resistance claim holds up, and it’ll take a good knock thanks to the solid metal case.
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