JBL's portfolio of portable speakers ranges from the compact Clip 3 to the party speaker, Pulse 4. Joining that range is the new JBL Link Portable, one of those few portable smart speakers and doesn't need a continuous power supply. The Link Portable is a Google Assistant-powered smart speaker that is out to rival the hyped Sonos Move. Now, you must've heard all about the amazing features Sonos Move brings to the premium speakers segment.
The Move is the first portable speaker from Sonos to feature both Bluetooth and Wi-Fi. Plus, it supports both Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa, though you can use only one at a time.
So, that brings us to an important question — is the Sonos Move better than the JBL Link Portable? Or, is the small Link Portable more suited for your taste? Well, that's what we will find out in this post as we put the JBL Link Portable against the Sonos Move to see which speaker delivers the value for money.
At first glance, the JBL Link Portable looks like any JBL speaker with a long cylindrical look. When you look at it up close, you will soon realize that this smart speaker bears a slightly different look from its peers. For starters, it has more of a squarish design with broadly rounded edges. The buttons are at the top of the speaker, with the branded Google Assistant button right at the center.
Apart from waking up the Assistant manually, this one doubles up as several things. For example, you can press it to control the playback or to stop alarms and timers. If you press it down for two-seconds longer, the Assistant will be ready to wait for your command. Of course, the JBL Link Portable also supports voice commands.
And hey, there are a couple of LED indicators too. But before you mistake them for a strip that throbs with the music, let me tell you that this is just a simple battery indicator. These tiny indicators placed at the top of the speaker let you know the power status or when the Assistant switches on.
As you may already know, this speaker sits on top of a cradle when charging. And as the name suggests, it's independent of it and once it's fully charged (or has enough charge) you can take it off and get going.
When it comes to the portability factor, the JBL Link Portable is heavier than most speakers, and it may not be ideal for hanging it on bike handlebars or your backpack. The good news is that it's small enough for you to toss in your car's backseat or your bag when you are on the move.
It weighs 1.6 pounds, and when you compare it with the 6.6 pounds Sonos Move, the Link Portable looks and feels a lot lighter.
One of the first things that you will notice about the Sonos Move is its size. It stands tall for a wireless portable speaker at around 10 inches and weighs a whopping 6.6 pounds. So yeah, unlike most wireless speakers, you won't be able just to toss it in your bag that easily. Nor can you hang from your bag or backpack. And minus a handle to hold it, it becomes a difficult task to move it around.
This is a strictly home speaker at max that you can drag out to the patio or backyard to enjoy your favorite songs. Although, it may not perform (in terms of audio quality) that great outdoors.
Apart from the weight and looks (no, I am not body shaming), this wireless smart speaker is beautifully made. It feels premium and justifies its price tag. The buttons are at the top, and unlike the physical buttons of the JBL speaker, you will find capacitive playback controls.
So how portable is the Sonos Move? Well, it goes without saying that the JBL Link Portable wins hands down. However, it's not just the design that determines the worth of a speaker.
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Battery Life & Connectivity
Being smart speakers, both these wireless speakers sport shorter battery life than its peer. The JBL speaker has a continuous playback time of 8 hours (the non-smart Flip 5 has a 12-hours battery life). While it's significantly less than its competitors, it's safe to say that the Link Portable battery will last a day on the beach or by the pool.
It also supports USB-C charging, which proves to be a great backup plan when you are on the road and do not want to carry the charging cradle with you or do not want to drag the speaker to the charging cradle. A full charge can take anywhere around 3.5 hours. And as noted earlier, the LEDs let you know the battery status.
Sadly when it comes to connectivity, the JBL speaker sheds a couple of nifty JBL features. There's no PartyBoost feature, neither is there any support for the JBL Connect app. If you must know, PartyBoost comes in handy if you are looking to amplify the speakers' sound by letting you connect to other compatible speakers. The non-smart Flip 5 bundles these features.
As opposed to the 8-hours of battery life, the Sonos Move gives a little more and has a playback time of around 10 hours. Do note that battery life depends on many factors, and volume is one of the primary players.
Here too, the charging time is almost the same. However, what sets this premium speaker apart from the rest is its battery, which is replaceable. As per Sonos' claims, a single battery can last around 900 charge cycles, roughly equating to around 3 years. After that, if you are still in love with the speaker, you can always swap it for newer batteries.
The Sonos Move shares another feature with the JBL Link Portable, and that is USB-C charging. It adds a ton of convenience.
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So how do the JBL Link Portable and the Sonos Move sound?
For the price, the JBL Link Portable delivers a solid audio performance. If you have listened to the JBL Flip 5, you will find a similar sound signature in this one too. The vocals are clear and crisp. Simultaneously, the bass is a little on the heavy side, although it's not overpowering to drown the vocals of songs and music tracks.
Let's get one thing straight. The Sonos Move is a premium device and is priced way above the JBL Link Portable, which shows up in the audio performance. It's a powerful speaker and delivers an excellent audio performance. The best part is that it does justice to songs across multiple genres.
Interestingly, it packs a downward-firing tweeter, which delivers an omnidirectional sound, and well, it's definitely a huge plus.
Last but not least, the Sonos Move is loud. The folks the Verge compared this speaker to the Apple Homepod and found it to be significantly louder. So yeah, if you have a house party planned or a backyard barbeque, this one will double up as your party speaker as well.
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For around $100, the JBL Link Portable is a pretty good smart speaker that sounds great and has a small build. Apart from the regular Google Assistant smarts (set reminders & alarms, listen to podcasts, etc.), you can also control other smart home appliances such as smart locks and lights.
Plus, it supports apps like Spotify and protocols like AirPlay 2 and Chromecast.
The Sonos Move costs around $299 more and delivers a powerful audio experience. Besides Google Assistant, it also offers support for Amazon Alexa. This gives you the flexibility of choosing the assistant of your choice depending on the rest of your smart home appliances.
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