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Philips Notebook SoundBar SPA5210B/27 review: Philips Notebook SoundBar SPA5210B/27

Philips Notebook SoundBar SPA5210B/27

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, Kobo e-books and audiobooks.
Expertise Headphones, Bluetooth speakers, mobile accessories, Apple, Sony, Bose, e-readers, Amazon, glasses, ski gear, iPhone cases, gaming accessories, sports tech, portable audio, interviews, audiophile gear, PC speakers Credentials
  • Maggie Award for Best Regularly Featured Web Column/Consumer
David Carnoy
3 min read

Road warriors who want to improve the sound of their laptop speakers have several choices to select from, including Altec's Orbit speaker and various other portable PC speakers; however, many of these can be a bit bulky, and aren't the easiest with which to travel.

7.0

Philips Notebook SoundBar SPA5210B/27

The Good

Compact, clip-on laptop speaker; USB-powered with hideaway cord; carrying pouch included; sounds better and plays louder than your typical internal laptop speakers; works with Macs and Windows PCs.

The Bad

Thin bass for music; no auxiliary input for audio from non-PC sources.

The Bottom Line

The affordable and well-designed Philips Notebook SoundBar SPA5210B travels well and is a worthy upgrade over your internal laptop speakers.

The Philips SPA5210B is a little different from most of its competitors in that it's a sound-bar-style speaker that clips on to the top of a laptop screen--it can also sit on a table, if you'd prefer. It includes a clip-on mechanism with a hand-screw on its back that lets you tighten the fit when securing it to a variety of laptop screens, including Netbooks. We also like how you can wrap its integrated USB cable--which powers the sound bar--around the speaker in a groove and tuck it away into the bottom when traveling. The integrated USB cable measures 20 inches long, which gives you enough cord to run from the top of virtually all laptop displays to a USB port in the back or side of the machine.

The speaker comes with a carrying pouch, and Philips designed it to be stowed in the side pocket of a laptop bag. At 11 inches wide by about 2 inches tall by about 1 inch deep and weighing 7.8 ounces, it may not be quite as small as the Orbit, but it gets high marks for portability. What is also good is that the USB cable handles audio and power, which helps cut down on the cord clutter and eliminates the need for batteries.

The downside to a USB-powered device is that it has to plug into a USB port, and you can't plug in other audio devices, such as an iPod or iPhone, so this sound bar is strictly for laptop use.

As far as the its audio quality goes, as you might expect from a speaker this slim, it's not exactly rich in the bass department; even if the box it comes in says it is. However, that doesn't mean it's totally lacking bass, but we found the speaker's overall sound to be underwhelming with music and preferred using the speaker for augmenting the soundtracks when watching videos.

The key thing, of course, is that the speaker plays louder than your typical internal laptop speakers do--and it sounds better, too. So while it's not going to blow anybody away with its audio quality, it's certainly good for making a business presentation to a small group and watching a movie in your hotel room later. With a cost of about $35 online, it's a decent value.

If you're comparing similar products, the Philips isn't the only option. Logitech makes the Z205 laptop speaker, which costs about the same price. It, too, is USB-powered, and you can clip it on to the top of a Notebook or place it on a table.

The Philips and the Logitech speakers sound very similar, but the Logitech is slightly more compact--it's not as wide--and has an aux input for other audio devices, though you still have to have the unit connected via USB to power it. We'd probably give the Z205 the edge by a hair, but it's worth noting it doesn't include a carrying pouch as the Philips does.

7.0

Philips Notebook SoundBar SPA5210B/27

Score Breakdown

Design 8Features 6Performance 7