Editors' note, April 20, 2016 : Mohu has announced that is recalling the BeBox due to the potential for fire risk and advises customers to discontinue using them immediately.
Android tablets: They're now so commoditized that they're freebies -- the extras thrown in the box when you buy video and audio equipment. Vizio's new 2016 P series TVs include a free Android tablet that doubles as a remote control. And the $500 Mohu BeBox, reviewed here, is basically an old-school boombox with an Android tablet (and wireless audio streaming) built in.
You wouldn't expect Mohu -- the company best known for those wafer-thin over-the-air TV antennas you paste on your window -- to be a likely suspect for such an offbeat product. And even though the operating system is a lot more robust now than it used to be, Android audio/video gadgets can still feel clunky: the BeBox wireless speaker sometimes feels a little like this. It's one part Philips Screenio with two parts Sony ZX2 Walkman. And the Mohu doesn't sound as good as equivalently priced Wi-Fi speakers from the likes of Bose and Sonos.
That said, the BeBox does sound better than some of the more expensive Bluetooth speakers. And while it's large and somewhat heavy for a "portable," its built-in rechargeable battery means it can be moved from room to backyard, or wherever you want your tunes -- be they app-based sources like Spotify or Pandora or gigabytes worth of your own files. If you value its uniqueness, and can look past some minor connectivity foibles, the Mohu BeBox could be the Jack-of-all-trades you've been looking for.
Design and features
While an Android boombox may seem out of the blue for an antenna company, the company has flirted with Android-based gadgets before: the Mohu Channels box came out in 2014.
Compared to most other $500 wireless speakers, the Mohu BeBox can only be described as "large" at 19 inches across and over a foot tall. It's shaped a little like the pole-mounted dust pan that a janitor might use: a rounded box and an angled console (where the dust goes, maybe in both instances). In addition to the touchscreen display, the console features capacitive buttons to turn the display on and off, adjust volume, or toggle inputs. The physical power button on the rear is a welcome feature.
If you're toting this thing about, it weighs a not-too-uncomfortable 14.5 pounds, and it comes with a convenient carrying handle on the back.
The display is, effectively, a 7-inch (non-removable) tablet that features a 1,024x600-pixel LCD. The tablet is based on Android KitKat (version 4.4) and comes preloaded with a music app called "Apollo". The device also includes the Google Play store so that you can load more apps via Wi-Fi. Of the streaming apps I tried I found that some , like Spotify, worked better than others. Tidal, for instance, displayed strangely on the screen.
The player enables you to play from the built-in 16GB of storage, via a plug-in USB key (up to 64GB), or by using a 32GB Micro SD card. Mohu recommends using the last method, as getting music onto the speaker is otherwise convoluted. For example, while the Apollo app suggests you can load music from a PC via a USB cable, this simply won't work (as Mohu confirmed). While you can choose to hold down tracks in the Apollo interface to download them from a USB drive, I found it's easier loading up an SD card instead.
The BeBox is a stereo speaker with two sets of 3-inch midrange drivers and soft dome tweeters, underpinned with a single 6.5-inch long-throw woofer.