The Sol Republic Punk's claim to fame is that it plays louder than your typical tiny wireless Bluetooth speaker, with 6 watts of power. It's also water- and shock-resistant and offers 8 hours of battery life, with a 60-foot (18m) wireless range, around double the usual range for Bluetooth devices.
Those are good numbers and the Punk is a very good micro speaker, around half the size of the company's earlier Deck Bluetooth speaker , with dimensions of 5.2 by 5.1 by 2.3 inches (132 by 130 by 58mm) and a weight of around 8 ounces (227 grams).
It comes in a few different color options for $70 or £63. We've seen it discounted in the US to $50, and that's the only issue: it's a great buy at the cheaper price, but merely a good buy at the more expensive one.
From a design and features standpoint, the Punk is sort of a low-frills version of the Deck , which has speakerphone capabilities, a snazzy color-changing LED on the front, NFC pairing and a "heist" mode that allows multiple devices to pair with the speaker and alternate streaming tracks. (Sol Republic also makes the new Deck Ultra, a slightly larger version of the Deck that features 22 hours of battery life and very long-range wireless pairing.)
You don't get any of those extras with the Punk, nor do you get a carrying case (the Deck came with a simple but nice cover). But the Punk is ruggedized, so, in theory, you shouldn't need one.
The Punk does have something the Deck doesn't: on the bottom of the speaker, there's a quarter-inch threaded mount so you can attach the speaker to a variety of bike and camera mounts that are sold separately.
It's also worth highlighting that the speaker has an input as well as an output, so you can connect it to a stereo or home theater (a 3.5mm audio cable is included) and essentially use it as a Bluetooth adapter. I'm not sure how many people will do that, but the feature is there. Belkin, Logitech and Amazon Basics sell similar devices (sans speakers) in the $25-to-$50 range.
My one minor gripe about the design concerns the gasket that covers the Micro-USB charging port and the aforementioned input/output connections. The gasket is intended to keep water out of those ports, but once you pull it out, it took a little fiddling to get it back in again because you have to match up the rubber stoppers with all the holes.
As for sound quality, the speaker does play quite loud and does so mostly without distortion. It sounds good for its tiny size, but it does have its sound limitations, particularly in the bass department -- if you're used to wearing a pair of headphones that have some oomph to them, your fist reaction to the Punk will probably be that it sounds thin. It also has a hard time with complicated tracks with lots of instruments playing at the same time -- everything kind of gets mushed together -- but offers decent clarity with less demanding tracks.
That's par for the course for these types of speakers, which tend to perform best in the midrange (the Punk is no exception). A lot of tiny speakers cost $50 or less -- the JBL Clip , Logitech X100 and Philips BT2500 , to name a few. The Punk matches up well against them, plays slightly louder, offers slightly fuller sound and does a better job of keeping the distortion to a minimum, though that does mean limiting some of the frequencies. As I said, don't expect huge bass or refined sound. All these speakers are for casual, not critical listening.
You can get better sound from a speaker that's a little larger like the JBL Flip 2 , which retails for around $100. But the key here is how small the Punk is, which makes it easy to slip in a bag or even a pocket.
As for the extended range, I tried the speaker with an iPhone 5S and a Samsung Galaxy S5, and managed to walk down the hall in our office a good 50 paces without losing the connection. I didn't measure the exact distance, but it appeared to be around 60 feet.
As I was writing this review, I went to check on the price for the speaker and saw that it was $70 on Amazon but discounted to $50 at Bestbuy.com. I like the speaker, but would pause before buying it at $70, particularly with all the competing micro Bluetooth speakers flooding the market that cost $50 or less. But at $50, it's an attractive supercompact portable Bluetooth speaker that's worth getting.