Beats Pill XL Bluetooth speaker review: Beats' bigger Bluetooth speaker justifies its premium price with strong design and sound

  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 6
  • 7
  • 8
  • 9
  • 10
  • 11
  • 12
MSRP: $299.95

The Good The Beats Pill XL is well-designed with an integrated carrying handle, a robust feature set, including speakerphone capabilities and a USB-out charging port, and strong sound for a portable Bluetooth speaker. Also, battery life is decent at 15 hours.

The Bad Speaker requires its own AC adapter (not Micro-USB) for charging; no carrying case included.

The Bottom Line The combination of the Pill XL's strong sound, excellent design and feature set make it a reasonable value despite its elevated price tag.

Visit for details.

8.0 Overall
  • Design 9
  • Features 8
  • Sound 8
  • Value 7

Editors' note (June 3, 2015): Apple and Beats have recalled this product due to an overheating problem. Our list of best Bluetooth speakers has plenty of great alternatives in the meantime.

First, an apology. We're a little tardy in reviewing the Beats Pill XL, the bigger brother to the standard Beats Pill Bluetooth speaker. Part of the reason for that may have been that I was underwhelmed by the original Pill , which was decent enough but cost too much ($200) when it was released a while back.

Thankfully, the Beats Pill XL, which lists for $300 but retails for about $270 (£260 UK, AU$400) online in a variety of color options, is a far better-sounding speaker.

While it obviously isn't as compact as its little brother, it weighs a manageable 3.3 pounds (1.5 kg) and has a built in handle that makes it easy to carry around. It's really a nice design feature. I also liked the pause/play button in the middle of the speaker. It looks like a harmless Beats logo, but in fact, it does something.

The Beats Pill XL comes in a variety of colors, including white. Sarah Tew/CNET

You get volume controls on the speaker, though no controls for skipping tracks forward or back. You'll have to do that from your Bluetooth-enabled phone or tablet. And yes, even though Beats is now owned by Apple, this speaker works with Android and Windows devices.

Additional features include NFC tap-to-pair technology for phones that support it, a USB charging port and speakerphone capabilities (the speakerphone works pretty well but isn't business-grade). There's an audio input, plus an audio output that allows you to daisy-chain additional speakers.

Unlike the standard Pill, the XL, which appears to use Bluetooth 2.1, doesn't support the AptX codec, but in my book that isn't a big deal.

The Pill XL's handy integrated handle. Sarah Tew/CNET

If you can afford two of these guys, you can sync two Pill XLs together and augment the sound or turn one into a left speaker and the other into a right speaker for stereo sound. (I didn't test this because I only had one Pill XL, but I've done it with two standard Pills and they paired without a hitch).

Battery life is rated at 15 hours, which is good, and the speaker will automatically turn off after 10 minutes of no signal detection to conserve power.

Best Speakers for 2020

All best speakers
  • VIZIO SB3621N-E8

    The Vizio SB3621n-E8 is the best budget soundbar we've ever heard, period.

  • Q Acoustics 3020i

    The Q Acoustics 3020i bookshelf speakers combine cutting-edge design with excellent sonics.

  • Elac Debut 2.0 B6.2

    Starting at: $349.98

    The Elac Debut B6.2 changes things up with a greater emphasis on build quality and sonic...

  • Sonos One

    Starting at: $197.96

    With great sound, a compact size and the option of either Google Assistant or Alexa, the...

  • ELAC Uni-Fi UB5

    Starting at: $579.98

    The ELAC Uni-Fi UB5 shattered our expectations for the sound quality we could expect from...

More Best Products

All best products