In the past year, I’ve had the chance to review two excellent and portable Bluetooth speakers. Both the UE Mobile Boombox and the Jawbone Mini Jambox have impressed me so much, I was almost tempted to keep them both, redundant as that may seem. So imagine my excitement when the chance cropped up to review what should be superior to them both — the Ultimate Ears Boom.
This 360 degrees Bluetooth speaker promises 15 hours of straight listening, “bold, immersive sound” and a range of 15 meters (50 ft). It supports NFC, comes with a built-in alarm clock, and should even be waterproof enough for a day at the beach or pool. So how does this cylindrical speaker measure up to the competition? We took it for a spin to find out. And as you’ve probably guessed, one of you will be lucky enough to win this $200 speaker for free! Keep reading for more information.
The $200 Logitech UE Boom, the older, better and larger sibling to the UE Mobile Boombox, is an 18 centimeters (7.1 inches) tall cylinder with a 6.5 centimeters (2.6 inches) diameter. It weighs over 500 grams (19 oz), which puts it at about double the weight of the smaller UE Mobile Boombox. At these dimensions, the UE Boom might not sound like the most portable speaker in the world, but Logitech made some interesting adjustments to the speaker to make it easy to carry around despite its larger size. As common in the Bluetooth speaker world, the UE Boom comes in six different color combinations.
When it comes to size, the UE Boom’s closest competitor is the $250 Big Jambox by Jawbone. Just like the UE Boom, the Big Jambox promises 15 hours of continuous play. Unlike the UE Boom, it doesn’t support NFC, and offers a range of only 10 meters (33 feet). It’s also $50 more expensive, which makes the UE Boom a pretty good choice when it comes to pure specs and price. Jawbone speakers do offer some extra features which we already covered in our Mini Jambox review.
It’s All In the Packaging
After unboxing a fair share of devices in the past year, the UE Boom’s packaging is still one of the most impressive I’ve seen. In fact, it feels more like unboxing a space instrument or some “serious” piece of equipment, and not much like a simple speaker.
While the box itself is certainly beautiful, it doesn’t betray the magic within until you start the unwrapping. Out of the paper cylinder comes a plastic box; a box which at first glance looks completely unopenable. Turn it around for a minute, and you still might be baffled as to how this thing works.
And then, just when you’re about to give up, you’ll notice a small sunken spot in the middle of the plastic. Without much hope, you’ll touch it, and the cylinder will suddenly pop open.
This is all a very satisfying experience, but at this point you’ll start to wonder: is the speaker itself all I’m getting? How about a USB cable? A charger? Any accessory at all? This is where the UE Boom’s box surprises yet again. See those ordinary looking plastic wheels at each side of the speaker? They’re not as ordinary as they seem.
Each of these holds some extra accessories for your new UE Boom — accessories which you may not find with other Bluetooth speakers on the market. Along with every UE Boom, you’ll get a flat micro-USB cable, a wall charger with US, European and UK adapters (all in bright yellow-green so you never forget what they belong to), a plastic cover for the micro-USB port and audio jack (for waterproofing), and some information booklets.
Once you’re done being impressed with the packaging (this might take a few minutes), it’s time to take a look at the speaker itself.
Getting To Know The UE Boom
The UE Boom and UE Mobile Boombox have similar design lines, and yet the former manages to look like a completely different species than it’s younger sibling.
The UE Boom can stand any which way you want. On its bottom, on its head, and even on its side. The cylindrical shape makes it sound equally good no matter how it’s positioned and which way it’s turned to. The huge plus and minus buttons are the speaker’s volume buttons, and while they’re certainly easy to see, they’re not that convenient to use. More likely than not, you’ll find yourself adjusting the volume using your connected device.
On top, you’ll find the speaker’s power button and pairing button. Each comes with its own LED to signify low battery, and whether the speaker is in pairing mode or is already paired.
On the bottom, reside the aforementioned micro-USB and audio jacks, and the UE Boom’s D-ring. You can use the D-ring to clip the speaker onto your backpack, your pants, or anything else you can think of.
The D-ring comes off to reveal a tripod mount, which adds a whole new dimension to what you can do with the UE Boom. The D-ring is a bit hard to remove the first time — you may need to use a screwdriver or a fork handle to get your leverage — but once it’s removed once, you’ll have no problem removing it again.
Using The UE Boom
Unlike the Mini Jambox, the UE Boom is not a “smart” speaker. It doesn’t have different accents — in fact, it barely talks — and the main focus seems to be on the listening. Pairing the UE Boom for the first time is a breeze, and for any subsequent device, all you have to do is long-press the Bluetooth button to put the Boom in pairing mode. The speaker remembers up to 8 devices, so once you have these paired, the UE Boom will automatically pair again when it detects them. NFC pairing makes the whole thing even easier.
At any point, you can press the volume up and down buttons at the same time to hear how much battery’s left in the speaker. The speaker comes 30% charged out of the box, and after almost 2 hours of non-stop listening and playing, it still claimed to have those 30%. The Bluetooth connection’s 15 meter range is definitely impressive, and it kept working no matter how far I got from it inside the house. It did start stuttering when I left the apartment and closed the door, though.
Like most Bluetooth speakers, the UE Boom can also be used as a speaker phone. If a phone call comes in while it’s paired with your phone, the UE Boom will turn down the music and alert the call. Once you answer, the UE Boom is an excellent speaker with good sound quality for both sides. This continues to work well even if you leave the phone behind and carry just the speaker around, which is more than could be said for either the Mobile Boombox and the Jawbone Mini Jambox.
When compared to the smaller UE Mobile Boombox, the UE Boom is superior in most aspects. The sound is distinctly better, which makes sense due to the UE Boom’s better specs and larger size. The quality of build feels about the same, but unlike the smaller Mobile Boombox, the UE Boom is safe to carry along to the beach or pool. The UE Boom’s auto-off feature is better the the Mobile Boombox’s, which, when left on, runs out of battery pretty quickly.
The UE Boom’s shape also makes it much more suitable for watching movies or getting good sound for an entire big room. Two UE Booms paired together can be used for actual stereo, and could provide a good, affordable solution for your home entertainment.
Despite being on the heavy side, the UE Boom is easy to hold in your hand and carry around. The mesh on the speaker itself feels like cloth of some kind, and the rest of the speaker is covered in durable rubberized material. All in all, the UE Boom feels very durable, and I wouldn’t hesitate taking it out of the house.
The UE Boom App & Extra Features
As it is, the UE Boom doesn’t come with many features other than good sound. This changes when you install the UE Boom app (Android / iOS). The app is free, and the first impressive thing it did was recognize what color my speaker was. While it may show the red one to anyone who installs the app, the screenshots on iTunes and Google Play make me think differently.
The app includes lots of information about the UE Boom, as well as the option to pair two UE Boom’s to the same device. In the settings, you can see and hear the speaker’s battery level and change the language of this alert to one of eight different languages.
Through the EQ settings, you can adjust the speaker’s sound to best suit your environment. While the “Out Loud” option sounds great in most places, the “Intimate” setting for small rooms sounds much better indoors, and the “Vocals” setting is great for watching movies or listening to podcasts or talks.
You may have noticed that both the Alarm and the Bass Boost options are greyed out in the screenshots above. That’s because they’re not available in the firmware version my speaker came with. In order to use these settings, it’s necessary to upgrade the speaker. Unlike the Mini Jambox, which upgrades solely using the Jawbone website, the UE Boom update requires that you download and install a updater (available for Windows or Mac OS X).
Also unlike the Mini Jambox, the update is very quick once you’ve installed the software and plugged in your speaker. There’s also no need to create an account of any kind.
Once updated, you get to boost your bass and also use the Alarm feature. Unfortunately, the latter isn’t as exciting as it sounds. The UE Boom’s alarm clock lets you set your speaker to start playing music when you want to wake up, or at any time you want to listen to music.
Other than the time to go off, you can choose which song you’d like to listen to when you wake up. This can be exactly what you were listening to last, anything from your music library, and even playlists from Spotify or Pandora, if you have accounts.
This all works great. Trouble started when the alarm actually went off. The music start off gradually, which is great for waking up, and looking at your phone at this point, you get two options: Snooze and Alarm off. If you choose to snooze, the music will turn itself up to full volume for a split second before turning off — enough to give you a heart attack while wide awake, let alone while half asleep. The music will stay off for 10 minutes — a setting I found no way to control.
When it starts up again, it doesn’t always show you the alarm screen again, meaning you can’t really turn the alarm off or snooze again. In fact, when this happened to me, I had to stop the music using my music app, and was stuck with the alarm clock icon in my notification area. It kept saying “snoozing”, but I had no way to actually turn it off. This happened every time I tried snoozing the alarm.
Should You Buy The UE Boom?
The Logitech UE Boom is a serious Bluetooth speaker, and is meant for serious music listeners who want to keep listening on the go. If you like your music absolutely everywhere, want to use your speaker in parties, at the pool or beach, or to watch movies, the UE Boom is an excellent buy. It’s portable enough to go anywhere with you, and you can rest assured it won’t be easily damaged. The sound quality you get from it is great for its size, and the 360 degrees effect really does fill the room.
Here, again, we come to the question of price versus needs. While the UE Mobile Boombox cannot compete with the UE Boom when it comes to sound, it’s $80 price tag is tempting. It’s smaller, lighter, and more mobile, and the sound it produces is great for most purposes.
If you’re looking for excellent battery life, long range, and booming, customizable sound in an extra durable speaker, the UE Boom is worth the investment. If your needs can be met by a smaller speaker with decent sound and shorter battery life, you’ll be very happy with the Mobile Boombox as well.
How do I win the Logitech UE Boom?
You may enter by submitting your name and email address. You’ll receive one entry simply by doing so.
After that, you’ll also be offered various methods to earn additional entries. They range from sharing a link to this giveaway on social networks; to commenting or visiting a specific page. The more you participate, the higher your chances of winning! You will receive 5 additional entries into the giveaway for every successful referral via your shared links.
This giveaway begins now and ends Friday, December 20. The winner will be selected at random and informed via email.
Congratulations, George Guba! You would have received an email from firstname.lastname@example.org. Please respond before January 15 to claim your prize. Enquires beyond this date will not be entertained.
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