The JBL Link Portable is a portable speaker in a compact format, including support for the Google Assistant. The speaker has a built-in battery so you can also take it with you and enjoy music in other places. The JBL Link Portable has a price tag of 149 euros.
The JBL Link Portable is a small speaker with a maximum power of 20 watts. On board is a battery of 4800 mAh, which takes no less than eight hours to run down. Charging is relatively fast via its own charging point, namely 2.5 hours. The speaker offers support for WiFi 5 at 2.4 and 5 GHz and uses Bluetooth version 4.2. In addition, there is built-in support for Google Cast, the Google Assistant and Apple AirPlay 2, so that you can listen to your favorite music wirelessly at home.
Of course, it has been possible to listen to music wirelessly for years when you use bluetooth. However, with bluetooth you have to activate the bluetooth mode of your smartphone and first make the connection with such a speaker. The advantage of platforms such as Google Cast and AirPlay 2 is that the speaker (on the charging point) is always on and you can play music from all kinds of apps from music streaming services once both the speaker and the smartphone are connected to WiFi. That requires fewer actions.
JBL Link Portable in use
Because the JBL Link Portable can be used in different ways and has support for the Google Assistant, you have to deal with different installations. If you want to listen to music via bluetooth, you arrange it in the old, familiar way. Otherwise you can arrange it very quickly via Google Cast or Apple AirPlay 2. If you want to use the Google Assistant, you have to set it up and prepare it for use via Google Home. Fortunately, all installation methods speak for themselves.
The JBL Link Portable has a total of six buttons and two microphones. The six buttons are for the volume (up and down), the Google Assistant, the bluetooth function and the on / off button. There is also a button for turning off the microphone, for when you do not want Google to listen to your commands. This can be useful if you already have another smart speaker with the Assistant on board in the same room, as was the case here. It was right here next to the Google Nest Hub in the office.
Unfortunately, the button really needs to be pressed. They are not touch sensitive environments, for example. You also have to put some effort to manage the volume. Because the speaker is small and narrow, putting power is not very nice. If you want to quickly adjust the volume with one hand, it can happen that the speaker falls over. Fortunately, the speaker itself is not very heavy (between 700 and 800 grams), so you can just hold it. And because of that, it can also go with you in a bag.
Audio quality JBL Link Portable
When you pay 149 euros for a Bluetooth speaker, you don’t really pay a grand prize. That said, 149 euros is not very little money for a relatively good bluetooth speaker. In both cases, the JBL Link Portable fortunately does not disappoint in terms of audio quality. In this case you also pay something extra for the possibilities via the internet, but that is not a problem at all. Because in terms of sound, the speaker just scores well. JBL says that there is 360-degree sound, but technically that’s not entirely true as far as I hear.
It is clear from the first moment that the sound comes from the bottom of the speaker, just like with other Bluetooth speakers from JBL. And therefore it seems as if the audio comes from all sides of the speaker. But unfortunately, if you listen carefully, this is not the case. Because the sound is pushed down and therefore always hits a surface, some tones and tunes sometimes sound dull and measured. That is unfortunate, but over time this is no longer noticeable.
In any case, it is not something that will bother you much. Because in general, the JBL Link Portable offers a nice listening experience. The deeper tones often sound warm and full, while the higher tones are pleasantly heard. Everything in the middle just sounds great, so you can enjoy quite a bit of detail in the music. We don’t have the idea that things really drop out, but here and there it may happen that you hear some tones less well. You should not expect everything from such a compact speaker.
Smart functions of the JBL Link Portable
Because you can connect the JBL Portable to the internet, which gives the speaker an edge over Bluetooth speakers within the same price segment, you can do a few cool things with it. So you can ask the Google Assistant all kinds of questions and control your smart home devices, while you can use Google Cast and Apple AirPlay 2 to make the JBL Link Portable part of a multitroom network. You can easily and quickly arrange all this in the apps of both smart platforms.
The Google Assistant works fine on the JBL Link Portable. Not only can the voice assistant hear you perfectly (even from across the room, which is 27 square meters here), you can also hear the voice of the personal assistant perfectly. In that respect, the compact speaker does not differ from all smart speakers that we have tested so far and still use daily. Consider the aforementioned Google Nest Hub, but also the Google Nest Mini and, for example, the LG WK7.
JBL Link Portable – conclusion
All in all, we are quite satisfied with the performance of the JBL Link Portable. The music sounds fine, although it can sometimes sound a bit stashed because the music is fired downwards. In addition, pressing the buttons is sometimes a bit difficult. But otherwise, we are happy with the general audio quality and we are very happy with the smart features in terms of multiroom network and the Google Assistant. That you can also use it for 8 hours on the go is the icing on the full cream cake.
- built-in battery
- General sound quality
- Smart features