Smart Speaker of the Year
The smart speaker market has just graduated to include screens — Google’s Home Hub and the Amazon Echo Show have both arrived... but neither company has a good record when it comes to sound quality. JBL, on the other hand, is a loudspeaker company that has got smart, selling frankly astounding numbers of its wireless speakers, then being very quick to implement Google Voice Assistant into its Link smart speaker range, and now bringing this touch-screen Link View to market in Australia at a remarkable price of just $349 (and as we write, available for $80 below that).
It is a useful thing? Hell, yes. It has an audio Chromecast inside, so it works within the Google Home app, streams Spotify, and groups with other rooms. It has Bluetooth as well. Slightly disappointingly it doesn’t work as a video Chromecast, but the 8-inch touchscreen can access YouTube, Google-compatible security cams, and Google-stored photos and videos. There’s a 5-megapixel camera which you can use for making calls using Google Duo (though not Skype or Facetime).
And it can play music. Now usually we suggest that if you use a Google Home or Home Mini, you set its default music output to something else — a Chromecast plugged into your hi-fi, say, or direct to an Android TV with an attached sound system. But JBL’s Link speakers achieve far better standalone sound, and the Link View is no exception, its stereo speakers firing forward to deliver a solid sound at desktop distances from YouTube or Spotify; bass went down to the 40s of hertz with some peaks and dips up to 100Hz (a loud 75Hz test tone had it shuffling across the benchtop), and it hit full strength from perhaps 140Hz. We couldn’t find a Bluetooth button, so were impressed that saying ‘Hey Google, enter Bluetooth pairing mode’ was understood and implemented, for easy direct streaming.
Is a screen better? We discuss that on p10 this issue; there are pros and cons. But if your answer is yes, then the JBL Link View is one cool and effective early example of the new breed.
More info: www.jbl.com.au
“It’s a smart Google Voice-equipped speaker with a screen and camera. But its crucial difference is the quality of its sound.”