JBL charge: A converged device that makes good sense

Oct 20, 2013, 09:21 IST | Siddharth Parwatay

When we had got the JBL Flip for review a while ago, we had been open with our praise for the nifty little device. It was by far the best small form factor portable speaker available in the market

Now with the Charge, JBL has upped its game even further. The Charge takes the same sonic performance of the Flip and adds another layer of functionality to it. The speaker now doubles up as a portable powerbank with which you can charge your portable devices on the go. Now that you think about it, the convergence of these device categories makes perfect sense. A bluetooth speaker is something you’ll pull out once in a while from your backpack, maybe at a house party, camping trip, or the occasional commute just to annoy your fellow passengers. We kid about the last one but you get the drift.

A portable powerbank is similar in its frequency of usage. Essentially an emergency device, you’ll use it only for those few occasions when you run out of charge and a plug point is nowhere in sight. For those times it’s a lifesaver but at other times it’s becomes pretty much of a notional burden — another device to lug around. Combining these two categories the JBL Charge leverages the heart of this device — the powerful 6000 mAh battery — beautifully. It makes a much stronger use case for carrying around another device in your bag. If you’re in the mood for some tunes, it’s a rich and powerful speaker. For times when you’re running out of juice on your phone, it’s a life saving breath of much needed electrons.

Now that you know what the device does, let’s talk about how well it does it, and whether the asking price is worth it. The JBL Charge looks a little different from its predecessor — the Flip. The speaker grille is a little smaller but still houses the same dual 5 watt transducers. On one side you have a bass port and on the other is a closed USB port to connect devices to charge. We tested it with regular capacity phones and even a second generation iPad. Phones charged up quickly but it took about 15 mins for the iPad to go up two per cent. We’re guessing the output of the USB port is somewhere in the region of 0.5 Amp — great for phones and good enough for larger devices in worst case scenarios.

To get an idea of the size think of those 500 ML beer cans — yeah, it’s about that big (or small). For the size the Charge is surprisingly loud. It can easily fill out a medium size room with loud music. We had the F&D Swan and Sony SRS BTM8 with us for reference. While leaps ahead of the Swan it held its own against the Sony SRS BTM8 as well. For portable speakers expectations are never sky high. If the bass does not distort and the volume is high enough, the speakers pass muster. Fidelity is an added bonus and even on that front the Charge is good enough.

Pairing is a seamless process and the LED indicators on the device both for pairing and battery life are just what you need for ease of operation. And in case you were wondering: yes it does charge the same device it’s paired with while charging it simultaneously. Now for the big question: is it worth it? The Charge in essence is the Flip with a bigger battery and slightly better sound. The Flip is available for about R6000. This means for the powerbank functionality JBL is charging you a premium of about R4000. If you were in the market for both devices this makes it a perfect purchase. If all you want are good speakers go for the Flip. In comparison you’ll get a standalone powerbank with a capacity of 6000 mAh for a little below that R4,000 premium. But hey you’ll have to lug around two devices. 

Battery: 6000 mAh Li-ion Transducers: 2 x 1-1/2" (38mm)
Amplifier power: 2 x 5W Frequency response: 150Hz - 20kHz
Signal-to-noise ratio: 80dB
Price: R9,990

>> Small size
>> Not that heavy
>> Deceptively loud

>> Could’ve been cheaper
>> Can’t be used for answering calls 

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