3.5 star rating

Jawbone Big Jambox Review

Pros: Good battery life; Easy setup; Loud for its size; Customizable apps
Cons: Weak bass; No included case or cover
The Verdict: This Bluetooth speaker favors volume over richness, but its speakerphone capabilities, battery life and apps make it a very good choice.

REVIEW

SPECIFICATIONS

Jawbone's latest portable speaker untethers the mobile audio experience for smartphones, tablets and notebooks via Bluetooth. Yes, this device is bulkier and pricier than the original Jambox, but the Big Jambox also promises much bigger sound along with apps to customize the experience. Find out if this $299 speaker lives up to its name.

Article Continued Below

Design

Jawbone Big JamboxThe distinctive Yves Behar-designed grille (available in graphite, red or white) covers four of the speaker's sides, with large rubber buttons on top and eight rubber stabilizers on the bottom. Underneath the grille are two 2.25-inch drivers and dual passive bass radiators. The power and pairing buttons as well as jacks for AC charging, audio line-in and microUSB are on the unit's right side.

Measuring 10.1 x 3.7 x 3.2 inches and weighing 2.7 pounds -- as much as some ultraportable laptops -- the Big Jambox is about the same size and weight as the Bose SoundLink (5.1 x 9.6 x 1.9 inches, 2.9 pounds).

Included are microUSB and 3.5mm line-in cables, though there's no travel pouch. For mobile protection, you can pick up a carry case for $49.99 (or $24.99 bundled with the speaker). The metal speaker grille feels sturdy, but we wish it came with some sort of protection; the Bose SoundLink II, by contrast, has a built-in grille cover, and the Braven 650 comes with a bag.

Setup & Operation

Pairing the Big Jambox is simple: put any Bluetooth-equipped device in discoverable mode, press the Jambox's pairing button to initiate the handshake, and select the Big Jambox on your device.

The built-in rechargeable battery is rated for up to 15 hours, but typical usage yields around 11 hours. While the Big Jambox's microUSB port can be used for charging the speaker, it does so at a glacial pace. iOS users can see the speaker's battery life in a headset icon at the top of their screens, while Android users can download a free app with a battery meter and a few scheduling and voice-activation features. (There are currently no apps for other platforms.)

Using the large rubber buttons -- shaped according to their function -- is a pleasure, and the rubber feet on bottom keep the speaker from vibrating on hard surfaces. Holding down the + and - volume buttons turns on the LiveAudio feature (more on that later).

DialApps

The "J" button activates the speakerphone, though you can customize the button's function via the MyTalk website after a brief signup and software install. These DialApps let you configure the "J" button to do things such as voice dialing, access Siri on iOS devices, and access favorite numbers.

To install an app, users must first download the Jawbone Updater software onto their PC or Mac. From there, you plug the speaker into your notebook to sync apps and recent driver updates from the MyTalk website. Too bad you can have only one AudioApp and one DialApp activated at any given time.

Jawbone Big JamboxJawbone Companion for Android lets users hear calendar alerts through the Jambox and display the speaker's battery meter on the phone.

You can also customize the voice that greets you when you power the Big Jambox on or off, pair it, or drain the battery halfway or less. Some of the voices, like the Mobster, are actually pretty funny; oddly (as of this writing) the voice that tells you when LiveAudio is turned on or off does not change.

Performance

Jawbone Big JamboxMusic from the Big Jambox generally sounded crisp with an emphasis on treble, making the speaker sound very bright. Bass response wasn't as strong as on the Bose Soundlink II, and deep bass from the likes of Bass Mekanik disappears. However, bass guitar on Bob Marley tracks like "Exodus" came across with decent power. Our test unit distorted very slightly at top volume, but otherwise the sound held together well. Movie explosions in "The Bourne Legacy" came through reasonably well, and dialogue was clear.

The LiveAudio feature adjusts the timing of sounds so they reach your ears as though they are not coming from a 10-inch-long box, attempting to make the spatial cues more realistic. This feature works OK for movies, though it lowers the overall volume and shoves the dialogue into the background a bit. Forget about using LiveAudio with most music -- it mangled our rock, reggae and jazz test tracks. Fortunately, Jawbone maintains playlists on services such as Spotify and MOG containing music that works well with the LiveAudio feature.

In general, upper bass had less impact on the Big Jambox than on the Bose SoundLink II. The net result is that while tracks such as Bob Marley's "Exodus" will still sound punchy on the Big Jambox, it will sound warmer and fuller on the SoundLink. And when a drone missile strikes a secluded mountain cabin in "The Bourne Legacy," the Big Jambox's LiveAudio feature gives you better spatial cues as the missile comes in, but the SoundLink has a deeper rumble to it during the explosion. Gunshots actually sounded crisper on the Big Jambox.

Speakerphone calls were clear on both ends, and we could be heard well from anywhere in the room in relation to the speaker.

Verdict

Jawbone Big JamboxLike its smaller brother, the $299 Jawbone Big Jambox has a stylish design and clever features, such as LiveAudio and speakerphone capability. Those who are solely interested in audio quality will prefer the Bose SoundLink, though that device lacks the ability to make and receive calls. But if you're looking for a multipurpose portable speaker with large sound, the Big Jambox is worth a listen.

Tags: Jawbone Big Jambox, Jawbone Jambox, bluetooth speakers, Bluetooth, Accessories, reviews, business

Technical Specifications
Jawbone Big Jambox
http://www.jawbone.com


Accessories TypeApple Accessories; Bluetooth Device
Battery Type/Life15 hrs(rated)
Size10 x 3.1 x 3.6 inches
Weight2.7 pounds
FIND A REVIEW
Laptops
All Product Types Accessories eReaders Laptops Networking Projectors Smartphones Software Storage Tablets
All Subcategories
All Subcategories All-Purpose Budget Business Desktop Replacement Gaming Multimedia Netbook Nettop Rugged Student Tablet PCs Ultraportable
Brand
Acer Alienware Apple Archos ASUS AVADirect Averatec BeagleBone BenQ CTL Corp. CyberPowerPC Dell Digital Storm eMachines Emtec Eurocom Everex Fujitsu GammaTech Gateway General Dynamics Getac Gigabyte Google Hercules HP HTC iBuyPower Intel Lenovo Maingear MSI Nokia Nvidia OCZ OLPC OQO Origin Panasonic Razer Sager Samsung Sony Sony PlayStation Sylvania Systemax TabletKiosk Toshiba Verizon Viewsonic Viliv Vizio VooDoo Workhorse PC ZT Systems
Minimum Rating
Any Rating Editor's Choice 4.5 Stars 4.0 Stars 3.5 Stars 3.0 Stars
Screen Size
10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 20 21 4 5 6 7 8 9
Resolution
1024x576 1024x600 1024x768 1136 x 768 1200X800 1280 x 720 1280x1024 1280x768 1280x800 1366x678 1366x768 1440x1050 1440x900 1600x768 1600x900 1680x1050 1680x945 1792 x 768 1900x1080 1920x1080 1920x1200 2560 x 1440 2560 x 1600 2560 x 1700 2880 x 1620 2880 x 1880 3200 x 1800 800x400 800x480
Weight Range
10.1 - 12.0 pounds 12.1 - 14.0 pounds 14.1 - 16.0 pounds 2 lbs 2 pounds and under 2+ lbs 2.1 - 4.0 pounds 4.1 - 6.0 pounds 6.1 - 8.0 pounds 8.1 - 10.0 pounds Over 16 pounds Under 2 pounds
more options
SUBSCRIBE