Bose Portable Home Speaker Review: Small, light and loud

This small speaker has a huge sound, I just wish it was a bit tougher

The Pros

  • Perfect portable size and design
  • The Bose app has a nice design
  • 360-degree sound quality is stellar

The Cons

  • The white version gets dirty easily
  • The Bose app is limited in content
  • Charging dock isn't included

Bose’s latest foray into the portable speaker market looks to bridge both its portable and home speakers into one comprehensive package. While it perfects being an ideal home speaker, its somewhat delicate design holds it back from being a great portable device.

I really liked the Bose Portable Home Speaker, and coming from using the Sonos Move, its size, battery life and full sound were welcome features. Even the Bose app surprised me with how clean its design is and how easy it is to navigate.

While the Bose Portable Home Speaker might look and sound like the perfect portable speaker, it’s less than stellar hardware hold it back in some ways.

A bucket design that’s sure to split opinions

Before I get into the speaker’s issues, I need to mention that I really like the look of the Bose speaker. Its small bucket-shaped design might not be for everyone, but I like its aesthetic. Plus, its size is perfect for moving around and tucking onto the counter while cooking.

The device features a small rubber ring on the bottom, so it’s relatively stable, but it can still fall over if the table it’s on gets bumped.

The model that I tested featured a silver bottom that looks like a Google Home speaker. The top where the buttons are located features a soft-touch lid made out of silicon. The material feels pleasant to the touch, but I worry about its durability.

The final design aspect is a fabric handle that makes the speaker look like a tiny pail. I loved it, but I could see users being split on whether they like the look. The loop was much more practical than the Sonos Move’s integrated handle. It allowed me to clip it onto bags and carry it in my hand with other things.

Overall, it’s a great look, but I would recommend that users get the black version since the colour does a better job of hiding scuffs and dirt that its bound to pick up as you move it around. For instance, I took the unit I was testing to a cottage and it fell off of a table and rolled about a foot away. At that time, it picked up quite a few tiny scuffs that are easily noticeable on the white model.

This is a bit sad to see and something I didn’t expect from Bose since the company has been in the portable Bluetooth speaker market for a while now.

Big sound for a small speaker

Since this is a Bose product, you can almost count on it sounding excellent.

The speaker delivered loud and detailed sound. I do feel like it favours bass a little too much, but that can be adjusted in the Bose Music app if you think it’s too much for you as well. For example, I set mine to minus 20. As much as it wasn’t for me, it’s actually impressive that Bose was able to pack so much bass into such a small speaker.

Overall, it was louder and more precise than the UE Boom 3, which is a similarly sized speaker. Speaking of its volume, I usually kept the speaker at about one third to halfway in my apartment, and it was plenty loud.

The speaker did a decent job of maintaining sound quality at full blast as well, but it’s not quite as clean as when the speaker is at lower to mid volumes.

One area where the Bose excels over the Move is its 360-degree sound output. This made it easy to place centrally in a room and get the perfect sound quality from just about anywhere.

Inside the speaker is packing a single downward-facing 2.66-inch speaker driver that fires into an acoustic deflector that sends sound out 360-degrees around the speaker. Beyond that, there are three passive radiators to increasing the vibrating surface area of the speaker to increase the bass.

It’s smart, too

Like any good smart speaker, the Bose Portable Home Speaker is packed with features.

To start, listeners can download the Bose Music app to control the speaker via Wi-Fi. This is handy for in-home listening since you can move your phone as far away from the speaker as you want.

It also lets you easily stream music from Spotify, Deezer, TuneIn, Amazon Music and SiriusXM. If you have more Bose smart speakers, you can even set up multi-room audio groups.

I liked the app’s layout more than the Sonos app, but its content is a bit limited since it doesn’t support any streaming services from Apple or Google. That said, the speaker does support Apple’s AirPlay 2 standard so you can stream Apple Music to it that way.

Another disappointing aspect is there is no media control notification on Android. This means you can’t quickly pause the music, skip tracks or adjust the volume without opening the app or interacting with the speaker’s hardware.

Bose packed the speaker with Alexa or Google Assistant capabilities as well, making it a perfect smart speaker. I found that it worked well at picking up my voice from far away, even if music was playing.

In my testing, I was able to use it for two nights in a row without it dying. Bose says that it should last for 12 hours at a loud volume, and in my tests that held up. If you’re only using it inside at medium volume, it might even last longer.

This means it should be ok to sit in the bathroom during a steamy shower, or you could tap on the controls if your hand is wet. That said, it should probably be kept away from water just in case. It also has no dustproof rating, so I’d be hesitant to set it in the sand at the beach.

Users can also buy a charging base for $39.99 CAD. This gives the Bose a home where it can sit fully charged all the time, and it can act as a permanent smart speaker until you decide to move it.

This is crucial since it’s battery-powered. Nothing is more disheartening than picking up a speaker to blare some music and finding out that it died overnight because you left it on.

This speaker does almost everything right

The Bose Portable Home speaker is a great speaker for your home with portable aspects. I’d try to convince most people to look at it like that, and less like a portable speaker that can go anywhere.

If you can buy it with the charging dock, I think it’s a perfect foil to Sonos’ Move. While it’s still a good speaker, I think users will get the most out of it if they double it as a permanent smart speaker.

You’ll also get even more value if you’re already embedded in Bose’s smart speaker platform. This portable device will allow you to bring that multi-room experience to every room in the house and even outside as long as you’re in Wi-Fi range. If you’re out of range, Bluetooth is a fine backup plan.

Since it also has Bluetooth and a long battery life, it’s also a great speaker to take away for a weekend.

Overall, it’s a fine speaker that sounds great, looks great and is packed with useful features, but I just wish it was a bit more durable for its high $449.99 price tag.

"Overall, it’s a fine speaker that sounds great, looks great and is packed with useful features, but I just wish it was a bit more durable for its high $449.99 Price tag"

8.5

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