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First Look: Bose SoundLink Mini: Tiny $200 Bluetooth speaker delivers big sound

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First Look: Bose SoundLink Mini: Tiny $200 Bluetooth speaker delivers big sound

3:16 /

With a very Apple-like design, the SoundLink Mini is a swankier -- and better-sounding -- alternative to the Jawbone Jambox.

Hi. I'm David Carnoy, executive editor for CNET.com, time to give you a quick video tour of the Bose Soundlink Mini, the company's new ultra compact wireless Bluetooth speaker that retails for $199.99. The first thing you'll notice about this speaker is that it's got a sleek design and almost looks like it was built by Apple with the unibody aluminum enclosure that surrounds two small drivers in front and rear passive radiators. At 1.5 pounds, the Mini isn't as diminutive as some of the tiny Bluetooth speakers now on the market. But its metal housing gives it considerably more substance that most of its plastic competitors and if nothing else, this thing feels like something that's worth $200. The Mini is designed to be very simple to use with clearly labeled buttons on the top like all Bluetooth speakers, it will stream audio wirelessly from virtually any smartphone or tablet plus any Bluetooth enabled PC or audio player. The speaker remembers up to six devices so you only need to sync once. I like that the unit comes with a desktop charging cradle. You can also plug the included AC adapter directly into the unit so you don't have to take the cradle with you when you travel. However, it does not charge via USB, so you do need the AC adapter. As for battery life, Bose claims 7 hours of play time and a 3-hour recharge time. While the cradle is a nice extra, everything else will cost you. Bose is selling protective bumper sleeves for a whopping $25 each and a carrying case will set you back $45. In terms of connectivity, there's an auxiliary input on the side for non-Bluetooth devices as well as a micro USB port on the back for potential firmware upgrades. I really like the whole look and feel of the speaker, but like Bose's step-up SoundLink Bluetooth Mobile Speaker 2, there's no integrated speaker phone, which is too bad. How's it sound? Well, while it just can't deliver the performance of a larger speaker for what it is and its tiny size, it sounds very good. The one thing I noticed about it more than some other speakers is that placement makes a big difference. Putting it closer to a wall definitely improves bass response and the speaker sounds fuller. It also plays pretty loud, louder than the Jawbone Jambox for instance, but it's clear that Bose's engineers had to keep the sound a little restrained in order to avoid distortion at higher volumes. Overall, the sound signature is somewhat laid back and forgiving, so it's got a bit creamier sound, the bass goes pretty deep but it doesn't sound incredibly tight or punchy. All in all, however, you come away with the sense that Bose eked out about as much as it could from such a tiny speaker. The Mini is the better choice over such products as the Beats Pill which currently retails for around the same price, but the $200 UE Boom has a bit bigger sound, better battery life, and built-in speaker phone. It's water-resistant and better suited for outdoor use. The Soundlink Mini is really targeted someone who's looking for a very sleek wireless speaker that sounds very good for its tiny size and can be easily move from room to room but will probably end up docked at the end of the day in a bedroom or a home office, perhaps parked next to an iMac or MacBook Air. I'm David Carnoy and that's the Bose Soundlink Mini. Thanks for watching.

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