X-mini Clear review: Retro-looking portable speaker impresses with great-sounding highs

MSRP: $199.00

The Good The X-mini Clear has beautiful retro style and delivers very good sound when it comes to vocals.

The Bad It's somewhat lacking in bass and the touch-sensitive buttons can also be a tad finicky to use.

The Bottom Line X-mini's first non-capsule speaker is a pretty good effort, but it's a little too pricey when compared to the Creative Sound Blaster Roar, which also has an active subwoofer.

7.2 Overall
  • Design 8
  • Features 7
  • Sound 7
  • Value 7

Review Sections

Singapore-based X-mini is known for great compact capsule speakers such as the Kai 2 , so I was excited to learn it's branched out with the Clear, a portable Bluetooth speaker. Much like the Bose SoundLink III or the Logitech UE Boom , it's meant to play music from your smartphone or tablet. It boasts a 10-hour battery life and the ability to charge your device while it plays music.

Priced at $199 in the US, AU$299 and €199 (around £160) in Europe, the Clear ships to the US, Australia and the UK and is available via the company's website.

The Clear measures 22 by 9 by 11cm (8.6 by 3.5 by 4.4 inches) and weighs 920g (32 ounces). It doesn't feel as heavy as it sounds -- it's pretty portable. The 20W, 2.1 system packs two 40mm ceramic drivers, similar to those found in the company's capsule speakers, and a 70mm active subwoofer.

Design and features

Unlike the industrial looks of the Bose SoundLink III or the funky style of the Logitech Boom, the Clear has a retro design packed with curves and a transparent rear -- hence the name -- that's very easy on the eyes.

Aloysius Low/CNET

Because the rear is clear, you get to look into the speaker's innards, which reveals plenty of air, a circuit board and the 6,600mAh battery at the bottom. There are LED lights inside and while this may sound tacky, you can adjust the settings to either strobe the lights based on the music or emit a more soothing glow for a romantic evening.

Instead of the physical buttons found on other speakers, X-mini has gone with touch-sensitive keys to keep the design minimalist. While it certainly looks great, I wasn't too pleased with the functionality. It took me a while to figure out how to turn on the mood lighting -- you have to leave your finger on the the light button for around 2 seconds and hope you didn't accidentally toggle the auxiliary input key instead.

The touch-sensitive buttons can be hard to use. Aloysius Low/CNET

If you did, good luck trying to switch back to Bluetooth, as you'll need to find the exact spot to get it to toggle back -- this took me a few tries. You can control your music via the play, forward and rewind keys. There are volume controls as well, but I noticed the Clear doesn't seem to retain your previous volume setting, so if you had it at max level, you'll need to turn it up again once you turn it on.

Besides Bluetooth, if you own an Android phone, you can also use the Clear's NFC feature to easily pair your device. There's also a USB port for charging your phone while you stream music.

The Clear uses Bluetooth 3.0 and supports A2DP Stereo, AVRCP v1.0 and HFP v1.5. Sadly, there's no aptX support, as that would have been great for devices that use the standard. Pairing is really easy: just turn on Bluetooth on your device, select the Clear and voila, it's paired. You can also use the Clear as a conference call speaker, since it has a microphone built in.

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