Portability and price and are just two of the many incentives for mobile professionals to ditch a clunky laptop in favor of a sexy, slim Netbook, but one issue still remains: no matter what their size, laptop speakers generally don't produce the volume levels nor the sound quality to appease even the most the casual music lover.
Headphones might be the most obvious solution, but Logitech offers an alternative with its Z205 speakers--they're easy to set up, inexpensive to own at $40, and draw power and audio from the same USB port. Other portable speakers offer more-advanced features like an equalizer and more bass, but the appeal of the Z205 is its simple, straightforward design. The Logitech Z205 portable speakers deserve your attention if your laptop needs an audio boost.
The Z205 speakers are designed to make installation as simple as possible for the user. The 7-inch-long rectangular speakers are housed in a black plastic case with a spring-loaded foot underneath that easily clips to the top of any laptop display. The top of the speakers feature a power button as well as two volume buttons; there's a 3.5mm jack on back for connecting to an external audio source. Keep in mind that the speakers draw power as well as audio from the USB port, so the USB cable must be plugged into a host computer before you can enjoy your music.
Once you have the speakers firmly attached to the laptop, installation is just a matter of plugging the short USB cord into a corresponding port on your laptop and that's it. Depending on your audio settings, you might need to go into Windows' Control Panel and change the audio source to USB for it to work properly the first time.
You shouldn't expect the Z205 speakers to produce high-end output, but we have to admit that we're impressed by the sound that came out of this $40 device. It always helps to have the speakers angled up toward your ears, so we're hoping the next evolution of the Z205 will let you adjust the direction of the speakers as well, but we're generally satisfied with the sound quality.
In our experience testing the Z205, certain bass-heavy tracks like Gangstarr's "Skills" produce a distorted low-end rattle in the bar since there's no subwoofer to amplify the thumping bass drops. Conversely, the speakers produced even harmonies and an overall well-rounded sound with well-balanced genres like jazz and classical. We also used the speakers to test audio from a DVD, and though our copy of King Kong sounded far from breathtaking, there's no question that the Z205 speakers are a worthy upgrade from the shrilly stock speakers on our Lenovo ThinkPad test bed laptop. Inside the box, you'll find the rectangular speakers, a USB 2.0 cable, and a tough nylon carrying case to protect the device in transit, but unfortunately you get no 3.5mm cable.