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JBL Flip 3 review: A top portable Bluetooth speaker for the money

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The Good The JBL Flip 3 is a highly portable Bluetooth speaker that's splashproof and designed to be used horizontally or vertically. It sounds very good and plays very loud for its size, can act as a speakerphone and offers improved battery life at up to 10 hours. You can also wirelessly link multiple Flip 3 speakers using the free JBL Connect app.

The Bad Some distortion at higher volumes with certain tracks.

The Bottom Line Enhanced with better battery life and splashproof design, the Flip 3 is one of the best mini portable Bluetooth speakers available.

8.1 Overall
  • Design 9
  • Features 8
  • Sound 8
  • Value 8

Third time's a charm, right? When it comes to JBL's Flip 3 Bluetooth speaker, it is. This third-generation model has a more streamlined, splashproof design and better battery life (at 10 hours), while the price remains the same at $100, £100 or AU$150. And as with all such speakers, the JBL plays any audio content from a Bluetooth-enabled source -- nearly any smartphone or tablet, and most recent computers -- so long as it's in the same room, or relatively nearby.

I received a black review unit, but the speaker, which weighs in at just less than a pound (15.9 ounces or 450 grams), is available in seven other colors and like its predecessors can be stood up vertically or laid out horizontally. Since one of the bass ports gets covered up a bit when you go vertical, you do get a little more bass in horizontal mode.

No carrying case is included with the speaker like it was with the JBL Flip 2 (that speaker launched at $120, then came down to $100). But it seems pretty durable and, as I said, it's water-resistant and has a flap that securely covers its USB charging port and audio input.

At first we thought there there was no pause/play button on the speaker, but it turns out the answer/end button doubles as a pause/play button and also allows you to skip tracks forward and back (double tap to advance forward, triple tap to skip back).

The Flip 3 in vertical mode with its included USB charging cable and lanyard attached. Sarah Tew/CNET

As far as other extras go, it's equipped with a built-in noise and echo canceling speakerphone and you can wirelessly link multiple JBL Connect-enabled speakers together to amplify the sound. (JBL Connect is a free app for iOS and Android devices.) The speaker uses Bluetooth 4.1 technology and has the typical wireless streaming range of about 33 feet or 10 meters.

The Flip's 3 USB port and audio input are covered by a flap, making the speaker splashproof. Sarah Tew/CNET

Performance

It'd be good to pair up a couple of these, but a single Flip 3 sounds just fine and plays very loud for its size with ample bass, though a speaker this compact has its limitations. The original Flip delivered 2x5 watts of sound while the Flip 2 was augmented to 6 watts. This model gets an additional boost to 8 watts -- and it makes a difference.

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