Deck by Sol Republic portable Bluetooth speaker review:

Slim size, big sound

Decent sound
So how's it sound? Pretty good, though not $200 good. Since the speaker is designed first and foremost to sit on a flat surface and fire upward, it's not surprising that it's being billed as delivering 360-degree sound. But the so-called surround effect does have its limitations and you do have to experiment a little with placement to optimize the sound quality.

For a small speaker, it does play fairly loud, and can fill a small room with sound. It also has an outdoor mode that boosts the sound and changes the sound stage a bit to make the speaker better for outdoor listening. I've listened to a lot of these little speakers and my experience with the Deck was that it felt like it was right at the edge of sounding decent but didn't always get there; you might listen to one track and think it sounded good and then you'd listen to another and wouldn't be so sure. It lacks dynamic range so it just doesn't come off sounding all that full or detailed.

The Deck ships with a nice, form-fitting protective carrying case. Sarah Tew/CNET

That said, for its size, the sound quality slightly exceeded my expectations. I don't expect all that much from these tiny speakers so if they sound OK, that's good. The only problem is when you're paying $200 for a speaker, you start to expect a little more and there are also some strong competitors.

For instance, I compared the Deck with the UE Boom and Bose SoundLink Mini. Both those models deliver bigger, fuller sound, with more bass. However, they do weigh more, and aren't quite as compact.

The Deck comes in four colors (click on image to enlarge). David Carnoy/CNET

Companies send me a lot of Bluetooth speakers to review and some are obviously better than others. I get to test these products without plunking down my hard-earned cash for them, but I like to ask myself whether I would buy the product for what its priced at. After all, that's really the bottom line.

In the case of the Deck by Sol Republic, I can't say I'm really itching to go out and buy this thing for $200. In terms of performance, it just doesn't measure up to other $200 speakers and really sounds like a speaker that costs closer to $100.

But don't get me wrong. I like it. It has a very appealing design, it's easy to carry around, it has some cool extra features, and its wireless-streaming range is excellent. I also like that it comes with its own form-fitting protective carrying case.

The bottom line is The Deck is a likable speaker that isn't a bargain. But if the whole value issue doesn't concern you too much, I don't have a problem recommending it. I like the speaker, just not its price.

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