JBL Link 20
A VERSATILE GOOGLE HOME DEVICE WITH ARRESTING AUDIO AND A HANDY BUILT-IN BATTERY
JBL makes a whole range of Bluetooth speakers, and at rst glance there doesn’t appear to be anything particularly special about the Link 20. Look closely at the top, however, and you’ll spot the distinctive multicoloured logo of the Google Assistant.
Indeed, as far as the software’s concerned, this might as well be a regular Google Home unit. The Link 20 integrates right into the Google Home app, and it can do very nearly anything Google’s own hardware can, from music streaming to checking your calendar. The only major feature that’s been held back is the ability to make phone calls from the device.
Although the Link 20 works just like a real Google Home, it’s physically much less showy, with push-button controls on top and four pulsing white LEDs at the front, in place of the Home’s swirling coloured dots. It’s probably fair to call the design “inoffensive”.
Inside it sports a pair of 50mm drivers, just like the Home – but JBL’s speaker has a much brighter, airier tone than Google’s. It can become a little harsh and resonant at high volumes, but there’s an immediacy to it that makes the Google Home’s restrained performance seem dull by comparison. It goes louder, too: at maximum volume we measured it pumping out 78dBA – enough to properly annoy the neighbours. Note though that, like the Google Home, the Link 20 has just the two microphones, and it can struggle to hear you in noisy environments.
The other thing that really sets the Link 20 apart from the Google Home is the ten-hour internal battery. This means that, while most smart speakers are tethered to the mains, you can yank out the power cable and carry the Link 20 up to the bathroom, while your music happily plays on. It’s also waterproof, meaning you don’t have to worry about splashes from the shower. You can even throw the Link 20 in a bag and take it on a picnic. The Assistant functions need Wi-Fi, however – and you can’t simply use your phone as a portable hotspot, because you have to be on the same network as the speaker in order to switch its network settings in the Home app. You’ll either have to use a second phone, or make do with regular Bluetooth streaming. Still, if the Link 20 isn’t quite the perfect mobile music companion, it’s certainly a more versatile speaker than the standard Google Home.
$249 • www.jbl.com