JBL Link 20

A VER­SA­TILE GOOGLE HOME DE­VICE WITH AR­REST­ING AU­DIO AND A HANDY BUILT-IN BAT­TERY

PC & Tech Authority - - CONTENTS -

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

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