Bose isn't a company that takes the release of a new product lightly. On the rare occasion that they do unveil a new piece of hardware, it typically sports a bulletproof build quality, thoughtful design and (as a company that specializes in speakers and headphones) excellent audio fidelity. The Soundlink Mini Bluetooth Speaker, is no exception.
Frankly, the Soundlink Mini – in spite of the speaker's diminutive size and the way Bluetooth has of strangling the warmth and complexity out of an audio file – sounds amazing. Offering surprisingly deep, thumping bass, as well as clear high and mid-range sound I found the Soundlink Mini easily bested my Jawbone Jambox and the similarly price Ultimate Ears Boom Wireless Speaker.
After the sound, the first thing you'll notice about the Mini is its weight. At 1.5 pounds, it weighs more than the majority of smartphones and tablets that it's designed to pair with. A significant amount of this heft is thanks to its anodized aluminum housing, which not only lends the speaker a veneer of class, but repels fingerprints and can stand up to one heck of a beating.
One of the first things I do when I review a new piece of hardware that's designed to be portable is test its build quality by squeezing and torquing it. After all, if a device can't stand up to a little intentional manhandling, it likely won't survive the casual bumps, scrapes, drops and other abuse that come along with daily use in the long term. In most cases, I'm able to elicit a pop or a crack from the equipment I test in this fashion. But the Mini refused to give over. Even the front and rear speaker grills – traditional chinks in the armour of portable audio equipment – felt satisfyingly sturdy. The bottom of the Mini's case boasts a rubber footpad to keep the speaker from sliding around on smooth surfaces and a contact to mate with the speaker's charging stand. On top, you'll find row of six rubberized buttons that control the hardware's power, volume and connectivity options.
The Soundlink Mini can be paired with up to six different Bluetooth A2DP compatible devices. Thanks to a 3.5mm audio port built into the side of the Mini's chassis, it's also possible to connect older hardware such as an iPod classic to the speaker. No matter what you're connected to, Bose insists that you'll be able to pump seven hours of music through the Soundlink Mini's speakers. I tested the hardware for a week and a half, and found that when playing audio at about half volume over Bluetooth from my iPhone 5 or laptop, I'm usually able to eke out just shy of eight hours of power from the speaker's batteries before I need to charge it again: an impressive feat considering how often rechargeable batteries fail to deliver on a manufacturer's claimed runtime. And in three or four years when its rechargeable battery starts to die (as Lithium Ion batteries do,) its power cell can easily be replaced, which should help the hardware maintain its long-term value.
But there's a few things about the Soundlink Mini I wish I could change. For starters, buying one will set you back $220, making it one of the the most expensive portable Bluetooth speakers of its size on the market. If you can swallow paying that much for one, at least know you'll get value for money. The Soundlink Mini's durability, crisp, complex sound and clever engineering make it a device that you'll appreciate more as you spend more time with it. I also wasn't crazy about it's charging dock. It felt superfluous to me, given that there's also a charging port built into the side of the side of the Soundlink Mini's chassis. It's a nice extra, but I'd rather Bose had knocked $20 or $30 off the price of the hardware instead of including the dock in the purchase price. However, these are small complaints against a nominally excellent piece of portable audio hardware.
While it may be pricey, you get what you pay for. The Bose Soundlink Mini is worth a listen.