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Philips Dot review: This inexpensive speaker survives water and shock

It may not deliver fantastic sound, but the modestly priced Philips Dot has a unique look and is both water- and shock-resistant.

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David Carnoy
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David Carnoy

Executive Editor / Reviews

Executive Editor David Carnoy has been a leading member of CNET's Reviews team since 2000. He covers the gamut of gadgets and is a notable reviewer of mobile accessories and portable audio products, including headphones and speakers. He's also an e-reader and e-publishing expert as well as the author of the novels Knife Music, The Big Exit and Lucidity. All the titles are available as Kindle, iBooks, Nook e-books and audiobooks.

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Philips makes a number of portable Bluetooth wireless speakers, including the popular SoundShooter Wireless, but its Dot speaker, which also goes by the model number SB2000, is arguably the company's most uncommon-looking one.

Philips_Dot_SB_2000B.jpg
6.9

Philips Dot

The Good

The affordable Philips Dot has a rugged, modern design and is both water and shock resistant. It's equipped with a speakerphone, has a built-in rechargeable battery, and can be stood up vertically and positioned at an angle. It also has an auto sensor that allows you to pause your music by flipping the speaker on its head.

The Bad

Can have a harsh edge at higher volumes and doesn't sound as good as some smaller speakers.

The Bottom Line

It may not deliver fantastic sound, but the Philips Dot has a unique look and is both water- and shock-resistant.

Bowl-shaped and ribbed, the Dot can be stood up vertically or propped up at an angle, and when you flip the speaker over, your music will automatically pause. Philips bills it as being both water- and shock-resistant, so it's suitable for both indoor and outdoor use. A loop on its base allows you to hang it from a hook.

Available in multiple color options, the Dot ($50 online), fits in well with more modern decors and has a bit of an Ikea or Target look to it (and I mean that in a positive way). I liked it overall, but I thought its sound could have been a little better for its size.

Philips Dot product photos

See all photos

Design and features

Unlike Philips' flatter BT3500 and BT2500 speakers, this portable model isn't designed to be slipped into a bag. At 1.257 pounds, it's got a bit of heft to it for a mini speaker, though it's certainly not heavy. I see people using it indoors (say in the kitchen or a kid's room) and then bringing it out to the patio or pool.

As far as features go, beyond the aforementioned "auto-sensing" flip-to-pause feature (it can be turned on and off), there's a built-in microphone for speakerphone calls.

This is a Bluetooth 2.1 speaker -- it's compatible with all Bluetooth-enabled smartphones and tablets -- and has an Micro-USB port that doubles as an audio input with an included cable (the USB is hidden by a removable rubber gasket, which keeps the port from getting wet in the event the speaker gets spritzed).

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The Dot standing upright with the speaker firing straight up. Sarah Tew/CNET

On the top of the speaker you'll find a power button and volume controls along with a call/answer end button (they're all sealed off and rubberized). However, there's no pause/play button or transport controls -- you have to control music playback through your smartphone or tablet.

In all, the speaker seems sturdy and should survive a short fall. A metallic grill covers the single 3-inch driver (yes, this is a mono speaker).

Performance

I wasn't particularly blown away by the sound of the Dot. It doesn't sound bad for a $50 wireless speaker, but it also doesn't sound great (I expected a little more because it's bigger than many of wireless speakers, such as the BT2500).

There's some bass and the speaker plays fairly loud, but you'll hit some distortion if you really crank it, and it just doesn't handle complicated music or tracks with lots of bass too well. For instance, when I turned up the volume on Coldplay's "A Sky Full of Stars," it did fine with the vocals (midrange) but once the heavier bass line kicked in with the chorus it sounded pretty messy. The same was true for techno and hip-hop tracks.

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Sarah Tew/CNET

The moral of the story is that you just can't push this speaker too much or it'll end up with a harsh edge. That's true for a lot of these mini Bluetooth speakers, but I was hoping the Dot would exceed my expectations. As it was, I thought I might be better off with a smaller speaker like the Divoom Voombox Travel, which also retails for around $50 and is water- and shock-resistant and has Bluetooth 4.0, which makes pairing a little easier.

Battery life is rated at 8 hours, which should allow you to get through most of the day (at least the daylight hours) on a single charge. You may be able to get more battery life out of the speaker if you keep the volume at more modest levels.

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The USB charging port/audio input and auto sensor on/off switch are hidden under a rubber gasket. Sarah Tew/CNET

Conclusion

Ultimately, the biggest strength and standout feature of the Philips Dot is its design. It's attractive and unique looking and has the added benefited of a weatherized finish that makes it splashproof. I didn't think its sound was great, but for its modest price it's fine for noncritical listening and will serve well as a background music speaker both indoors and outdoors.

Philips_Dot_SB_2000B.jpg
6.9

Philips Dot

Score Breakdown

Design 8Features 7Sound 6Value 7
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