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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

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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.)

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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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