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Bose SoundLink Wireless Mobile review: Bose SoundLink Wireless Mobile

The Bose SoundLink Wireless Mobile speaker offers a classy design and it's easy to set up. But it's quite heavy and it's let down by sound quality that doesn't justify its high price.

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Luke Westaway
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Luke Westaway

Senior editor

Luke Westaway is a senior editor at CNET and writer/ presenter of Adventures in Tech, a thrilling gadget show produced in our London office. Luke's focus is on keeping you in the loop with a mix of video, features, expert opinion and analysis.

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You're a musically savvy chap or chappette, right? Why confine your music taste to your own ears when the world could benefit from your sonic wisdom? Bust out the Bose SoundLink Wireless Mobile speaker and fill your friends' faces with tunes, all via the magic of Bluetooth.

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5.5

Bose SoundLink Wireless Mobile

The Good

Classy design; fairly small; easy to operate.

The Bad

Underwhelming sound quality; quite heavy; no AirPlay support.

The Bottom Line

The Bose SoundLink Wireless Mobile speaker offers a classy design and it's easy to set up. But it's quite heavy and it's let down by sound quality that doesn't justify its high price.

This diminutive speaker will set you back around £260, or £300 if you want the version with the fancy leather front. That's a lot of cash to splash, so is the SoundLink worth it?

Design

The SoundLink makes a good first impression. Its natty design is classier than that of most portable speakers. There's brushed metal around the sides, chrome around the edges and a row of buttons finished in matte black along the top. The front plays host to a wide, silver grille. The protective flap that covers the grille folds beneath the speaker and acts as a stand.

Bose SoundLink Wireless Mobile in the park
For a laugh, try out the SoundLink in a public place and see how long it takes for someone to cave your face in.

The SoundLink is fairly small. Measuring 244 by 130 by 48mm, it's slender enough to fit in a bag and carry around. Its weight might stymie your adventures, however -- at 1.3kg, you'll definitely feel the heft of this unit if you're lugging it about.

All things considered, this speaker cuts a fine figure, although, at this price, we'd expect nothing less.

Build quality

You'd be forgiven for thinking something that looked so at home on your mantelpiece would prove too fragile to survive life out and about, but, happily, the SoundLink's build quality is quite solid.

The frame feels well glued together, and we'd hazard that it would survive a knock or two. We wouldn't smack it with a sledgehammer, but we think it'll handle a picnic just fine, and the protective flap that folds over the grille may protect the speaker from light spills.

Nevertheless, dropping the SoundLink could prove an expensive mistake. Unless you've got disposable cash coming out of your ears, we'd think long and hard about what kind of punishment you put this little speaker through.

Bluetooth

The SoundLink connects to your gadgets via Bluetooth. While there's a 3.5mm socket around the back too, Bluetooth connections are definitely what Bose has in mind for this speaker.

Connection to your smart phone or laptop of choice will likely prove simple enough, although there are few issues. For example, if you turn the volume up to maximum on your mobile, it won't be maxed out on the speaker -- you'll have to keep pressing the mechanical buttons on the SoundLink itself. The same goes for turning the volume down.

Bose reckons the wireless range is about 10m, although we managed much further than that. It's safe to say that the SoundLink will probably keep playing from as far as you're likely to need to roam.

Apple fans will be sorry to see there's no AirPlay support. We've been impressed by other devices that use Apple's wireless playback tech, so it's a shame Bose hasn't seen fit to stuff it inside the SoundLink.

There's a lithium-ion battery inside the SoundLink that Bose thinks will manage about 8 hours of playback before conking out. We think that's a respectable amount of time away from the mains. The battery takes about 2 to 3 hours to charge fully from empty.

Sound quality

Sadly, sound quality is the weakest aspect of the SoundLink. We funnelled an array of tunes through its miniature carapace, but we weren't especially impressed by the clarity of the noise it produced, with everything sounding quite muddled.

Bose SoundLink Wireless Mobile flap
Behold the pull-down protective flap. 

The opening squeaky guitar riff in No Doubt's Just a Girl didn't sound as sharp as we'd like, and all the mid and high tones sounded quite flat, with little precision. The SoundLink delivers decent low-end smack for its size, but there's not much definition to the bass, and pounding tracks like Pendulum's Propane Nightmares don't sound as riotous as they should, instead sounding slightly muddy.

At high volumes, you'll be impressed by the amount of noise this tiny box spits out, but the audio quality will quickly degrade. The sound on offer isn't bad per se, but it's not what we'd expect from a speaker that costs this much.

Conclusion

The Bose SoundLink Wireless Mobile offers a classy design and it's simple enough to operate, but it's let down by a high price tag, distinctly average sound quality and its weight. We think you'd be better off shopping around for a cheaper, more portable speaker.

Edited by Charles Kloet