JBL Flip 4 review: Next-gen Flip mini Bluetooth speaker is a little bigger and a little better

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The Good The JBL Flip 4 offers significant improvements over the Flip 3, including better sound and battery life, as well as full waterproofing. It has speakerphone capabilities and a more durable fabric covering.

The Bad Its bass is improved but it still lacks some real bass punch.

The Bottom Line A nice upgrade over its predecessor, the Flip 4 is one of the best speakers in its size and price class.

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

At first glance, JBL's Flip 4 Bluetooth portable speaker looks very similar to 2016's Flip 3. But looks can be deceiving: it's actually a slightly bigger speaker, weighing 1.14 lbs (517 g) -- 0.14 pound more than its predecessor -- and it's covered in more durable fabric with a tighter weave. As part of that external design change, the Flip 4 gets some changes on the inside, including new drivers and a presumably bigger battery that delivers 12 hours of battery life instead of the Flip 3's 10 hours. The speaker is also now fully waterproof instead of just splashproof.

Like the Flip 3, the Flip 4 can be stood up vertically or laid down horizontally -- thus its Flip moniker -- and comes with a removable lanyard that allows you to hang the speaker from a shower head, a branch outside or a loop on your backpack. Available in six colors, it costs $100 or £120. Official Australia availability isn't yet known, but that US price converts to about AU$140.

The JBL 4 is fully waterproof and its fabric cover has a tighter weave.

Sarah Tew/CNET

So, how much better is the Flip 4 and how does it stack up against the wireless mini Bluetooth speaker competition at this price point?

The short answer to the first question is that it's actually a significant upgrade over the Flip 3. Not only does it play a little louder, but it sounds better, with improved bass response and slightly better clarity.

I compared this speaker to Ultimate Ears' similarly priced Wonderboom and the more expensive UE Boom 2. The Wonderboom is shorter and squatter and delivers more bass; it comes off as a bigger speaker than the Flip 4. However, with some tracks the Flip 4 sounded more natural, particularly in the midrange, and I preferred its sound when listening to certain songs.