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JBL Charge 2 review: A long-lasting Bluetooth speaker that can juice up your gadgets, too

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MSRP: $149.95

The Good The JBL Charge 2 is a well-designed, durable portable Bluetooth speaker that features excellent battery life and doubles as an external charger for your portable devices. It also has built-in speakerphone capabilities, plays loudly for its size, and offers relatively strong bass.

The Bad The speaker distorts with certain material, particularly with bass-heavy tracks and more complicated songs.

The Bottom Line The JBL Charge 2 is an attractive, sturdy portable Bluetooth speaker with strong battery life and the power to juice up your gadgets, but its decent sound is held back by uneven performance.

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7.3 Overall
  • Design 8
  • Features 8
  • Sound 7
  • Value 7

A couple of years ago, the JBL Charge stood out among its portable Bluetooth peers for offering strong sound and significantly better battery life in a compact, durable package that included speakerphone capabilities.

Its sequel, the Charge 2 ($130, £99, not available in Australia), is in some ways a better speaker, particularly in the design department, but in the meantime a lot more Bluetooth speakers have hit the market.

Like its predecessor, the Charge 2 has the added benefit of being able to double as an external battery charger for your portable devices (thus the name "Charge"). And while it plays loud and serves up a good helping of bass, its sound isn't quite what I'd hope it would be. It's good, just not great for this type of speaker.

Design and features

The Charge 2 retains the cylindrical design of the original Charge, and you can lay it down horizontally or stand it up vertically. The new model charges via Micro-USB and has a built-in 6,000mAh battery for 12 hours of playback (or charging your portable devices or both). The Charge 2's little brother, the JBL Flip 2 , has a similar design, but it's a bit more compact and its battery isn't as long-lasting.

As noted, there's a built-in speakerphone -- it works well so long as you stay within about 5 to 10 feet of the microphone -- and a "social sharing mode" that allows multiple users to connect to speaker with their devices and play tracks alternately. (Sol Republic's Deck speaker offers this feature as well.)

The speaker can be stood up vertically or laid down horizontally. Sarah Tew/CNET

I had no problem pairing both an iPhone 5S and Samsung Galaxy S5 with the speaker and re-pairing was automatic when I turned the speaker back on (there's a dedicated Bluetooth button on the speaker to enable pairing if you get disconnected). Range is the usual 33 feet/10m, and I managed to hold a steady connection with minimal dropouts so long as I stayed within that range.

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