We’re Jammin’, Jammin’ – Jawbone JAMBOX SmartSpeaker reviewed!

Jawbone has made a wireless bluetooth speaker/ speakerphone that is so packed with features that they’re calling it a SMARTSPEAKER. It does a lot of things and it manages to do them really well. Is it for you? And is it worth £160 (US $200)?

Review and test Jawbone Jambox smartspeaker showing the controls. ©CarProductsTested2012

Design and Build 9.5/10

You know that feeling that you get when you pick something up for the first time and it just feels right? That’s how it felt with the Jambox. Its got Bang and Olufsen designer good looks and everything feels well engineered; there’s no creaking plastic here. Tough rubber caps the top and bottom while coloured stainless steel mesh wraps around it.  It feels more solid than its actual weight of 350grams (12oz) would indicate; this thing is definitely portable but without sacrificing quality. At just 15x4x6cm it’ll fit neatly into even a small bag.

You can tell a lot of thought has gone into every last detail of it and we like that: the box it comes in, the included cables and the protective carry case are all beautifully made.  Three chunky buttons are moulded into the top and on the side there’s the on/off/pairing switch, a micro USB socket for charging and syncing, and a 3.5mm audio input in case you don’t have bluetooth. The battery is good for ten hours (a bit less if you play it on full volume all the time) so it’ll keep you going for a full day of working or several nights camping on a road trip.

If you like choice or individuality, then you’ll love the Remix option. Go to Jawbone’s site and without any extra cost you can pick and mix your own Jambox from 13 different grilles and nine different cap colours – that’s a 100 different combo’s – you can go as muted or as wild as you want. Get it from a shop and you have four options: Red Dot, Black Diamond, Blue Wave and Grey Hex. There’s also a couple of limited edition ones around including the White Platinum we were sent.

The Remix website allows you to pick n mix your own design of the Jambox

Features & Usability 8.5/10

Let’s get it going. Just slide the switch on the side up and hold for a second or two, and the built-in voice tells you it’s in pairing mode. It connected flawlessly with all our devices except our Mac laptops, but an update from Jambox sorted that out anyway. The volume controls are the very obvious plus and minus chunky rubber buttons on the top. Want to know how much battery life you have left? Just press the circular Talk button and a voice will tell you.

Jambox as a Speaker: The Jambox’s use as bluetooth speaker is its most obvious function, and it is astonishingly good given how small it is! Music was a pleasure to listen to; it comes through the stereo speakers clean, clear and accurately, and voices are natural and full of life. You’d think decent bass would be an impossibility with such tiny speakers, but the turn the volume up and the Jambox surprises you with just how much punch it has and how well it can put it across. Occasionally we experienced some audio glitches when using bluetooth, but overall it’s a great experience.

Jawbone Jambox review and test. Four images showing details of the Jambox ©CarProductsTested2012

Games and videos get a massive boost: Not only is the volume significantly better on these, but the sounds are clearer too; little noises that previously escaped our notice were suddenly present. It makes chilling with your favourite film or game a vastly better experience. We did find one problem. When using our laptops (Macbook Pro) the voice sync was out noticeably, and disconcertingly so; we did install the latest firmware but it made no difference.

Live audio: Press and hold both volume buttons and you’ll turn on an effect called Live Audio, which Jawbone says will make it ‘as if you’re on stage, in the action, hearing it live’. It worked well when gaming, making the music and sound effects much more three dimensional. We were less impressed with what it did to music. While it occasionally works well with a track, most of the time the music gets a lot quieter and voices are more muted. It’s a nice feature to have available, but we mostly preferred music without it.

Volume: Ultimately this is a small personal speaker. It works great for small groups of people, and you can hear it over a car’s noise or while you’re working in the kitchen or home office. It’s made to be carried around and plonked down next to you and it’s a vast upgrade over your phone, tablet or laptop’s speakers. Don’t buy it if you want to fill a room or power a party – it’s not meant for that.

The Jambox as a speakerphone: Conference calls come through crystal-clear and are easily as good – if not better – than your actual phone. The built-in microphone picks up your voice excellently, even from a few metres away. Answering and ending calls feels weirdly satisfying. You just push the inverted round button on top and that’s it. So if you’re not liking how the call is going, *pushes O* , see ya. During calls, holding the minus-shaped button down for a couple of seconds gives you mute, and the + button brings the call back.

The range is quite good, and we found you can easily use the Jambox a couple of rooms away from your device. Strangely, when announcing a phone call it only gives the number of the caller and not the name, which is useless; their name still pops up on your phone though. It works well as a bluetooth headset replacement in the car, and with it’s small size it’s easy for it to live in a cup holder or some other nook. It played nicely with apps like Skype too.

The Jambox works well as a replacement for a bluetooth headset - you can answer and dial calls with the press of one button. ©CarProductsTested2012

Using the Jambox with two devices: With this feature turned on through Jawbone’s MyTalk web interface you connect two devices at a time. Now you can be listening to the music from your iPad and then accept a call from your phone on it too. It’s a practical feature that has been well executed; definitely one that will wow your mates.

Software: Making the Jambox even more versatile is the way you can easily customise it. Plug it into your computer with the USB and simply go to MYTALK page on Jawbone’s website. Signup is painless as is updating to the latest software. Jawbone have obviously put a lot of thought into this as well. While you’re connected you can exchange the Jambox’s built in voice for one of 10 others. Pick The Rogue and you’ll get a French accented assassin who tells you stuff like “I am ready for my assignment” when you startup. The Bombshell says her lines with such a breathy sexy whisper that it makes even hearing your remaining battery life sound like a come on. It sounds like a gimmick but it’s actually quite fun.

The round ‘Talk’ button can be set with what Jawbone calls DIALAPPS. Holding the Talks button down can make it:

  • dial your favourite person (the one you call the most),
  • Trigger voice dialling if your phone supports it.
  • Access Siri or the Android equivalent
  • Trigger one of two subscription services -Voice on the Go and HandsFree assistant. Both of these allow you to send emails, texts, tweets, Facebook updates and much more simply by speaking; Get any of these and they’ll be read out to you. Sounds great but you do have to pay for them.

Price 8.5/10

We could have almost justified paying £160/$200 for a small wireless speaker that is this good. Add in an excellent speakerphone system and all the other features, and it’s looking much more reasonable.

Our Verdict & Final Score 9.0/10

The Jambox is something special. It’s superbly made, sounds great and is simple to use. It extends and enhances your iPhone’s/smartphone’s capabilities too. We’d recommend it without any hesitation.

Pro: Great sound with good bass. Speakerphone feature works well. Ability to customise it. Fantastic build quality.

Con: Found ourselves wanting a bit more volume sometimes. Using Bluetooth while watching movies on Laptop resulted in out of sync sound. Syncing your settings does take a few minutes. Occasional glitches in audio when using laptops.

Specs

Weight: 347g (12oz) | Dimensions: 151 (L) x 40 (W) x 57 (H) mm | Bluetooth range: 33 feet (10M) | Includes: 60″ micro USB, charging cable, 12.5″ micro USB charging cable, 36″ 3.5mm stereo cable, Carrying case, A/C wall charger, User guide | Battery life: 10 hours | Website: (click) Jawbone.com | RRP: £160 / $200

Score Board

  Design & Build: 9.5 | Features & Use: 8.5 | Price: 8.5 | Overall score: 9.0/10

Big thanks to WCommunications for sending us the Jambox
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Words: Matthew Davies | Photography: Chris Davies, Matthew Davies

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