Mini Bluetooth speakers continue to get better, but it's still hard to find ones that qualify as being exceptional. The Sony SRS-X3, one of the smaller models in Sony's 2014 lineup of portable Bluetooth speakers, stands out as one of the better minis out there and is a likable wireless speaker for its compact size and $150 price point (£129 UK, AU$199).
I'm a fan of the step-up SRS-X5, which retails for $50 more and performs better (when plugged in anyway) but it's almost twice the X3's size. This model seems designed to compete with the Bose SoundLink Mini and delivers big sound for its compact size. It basically plays as loud as the Bose and sounds arguably as good or better, though it can distort a little at higher volumes. (Sony completists should note, however, that there's also a smaller, cheaper SRS-X2 available, too.)
In hand, it feels sturdy and has some heft to it, weighing around 1.75 pounds (795 grams), with two 10-watt 1.3-inch (3.3 cm) drivers and dual passive bass radiators. Its design is straightforward and elegant and the speaker itself has a nice, smooth-to-the-touch finish. It comes in a few different colors, including black, red, and the white model I tested. Alas, no protective carrying case is included, but Sony does sell one for $20.
As far as extra features go, you get speakerphone capabilities along with NFC tap-to-pair technology for smartphones that support it. There's an audio input for non-Bluetooth devices and battery life is rated at around 7 hours, which is good but not great. The speaker charges via Micro-USB and -- unlike the X5 -- plays at full power when working off its rechargeable battery (the X5 plays louder when plugged in).
The speaker has a couple of different sound modes, one of which is designed to widen the soundstage a bit because speakers like this one that have their drivers so close together offer minimal stereo separation. The wide mode makes a small difference, but I wouldn't say it makes things sound better, just different.