What's the best product Bose has ever made? That's hard to say, but a case can be made for the, the company's 2013 compact Bluetooth speaker that features impressive build quality and sound for its size and isn't too outrageously priced at $200 (£170 and AU$299).
Now we get the new SoundLink Mini II, which retails for the same price, comes in two colors -- Carbon and Pearl -- and aims to fix a few of the original Mini's shortcomings while adding some a few new feature additions, including a boost in battery life.
The new 1.5-pound (0.67kg) model looks nearly identical to its predecessor -- a good thing, since it's one of the sharpest-looking small speakers out there -- but it now has a built-in microphone for speakerphone capabilities. Another improvement is its 10-hour battery rating, up from 7 hours for the previous model.
Rounding out the improvements: the speaker now charges via a standard USB cable rather than a proprietary AC adapter, which is an important change. Bose says it "charges with most USB power sources." It also includes a charging cradle, which acts as a dock the device at home. (I personally would always leave that cradle connected to the Bose-provided USB charging cable, and then just carry around a second Micro-USB cable and charger for the road.)
As I said about original SoundLink Mini, it looks lot like a speaker Apple would design. Perhaps it's the unibody aluminum enclosure that surrounds the two small drivers and front and back radiators. Or the fact that, at 1.5 pounds, it feels considerably more substantial than many of the tiny all-plastic Bluetooth speakers now on the market. Whatever it is, this is a sleek-looking, very compact wireless speaker.
The new speaker allows you to pair two devices to it at the same time -- you can switch back and forth between the devices, alternating audio streams -- and it can remember up to eight devices. Bose also says it's streamlined the pairing process with new voice prompts and the speaker identifies your devices by name using text-to-speech.
Soft covers, sold separately for $25, £21 or AU$30 each, will be available in deep red, "energy green," navy blue, charcoal black and gray. (Our photo shows the original SoundLink with the now-discontinued bright blue color.)
As far as I can tell, the sound hasn't changed. The original SoundLink Mini was able to produce impressive sound for its tiny size, and this model does as well. It just plays a lot bigger than it looks, with a decent amount of bass and relatively clean, natural sound. It's a nice speaker for the kitchen, bedroom and smaller rooms (such as a dorm room).