JBL Link 10: Smart speaker with good all-round sound

The JBL Link 10 speaker with Google Assistant delivers big, powerful sound for its size.
The JBL Link 10 speaker with Google Assistant delivers big, powerful sound for its size.

The first wave of third-party smart speakers to feature Google's Assistant software has hit the market, with audio brand JBL leading the charge here.

JBL's Link 10 smart speaker is the entry-level speaker in its Link line-up, which features four smart speakers of varying prices.

The $219 Link 10 is the cheapest in the range, which maxes out with the $579 Link 500.

The Link 10 is a bit pricier than Google's own smart speaker, the Google Home, which costs $30 less. However, that extra bit spent on the Link 10 gives you much bigger, better sound, as well as portability thanks to its internal battery.

The Link 10 delivers big, powerful sound for a speaker its size, and does great blasting music in a bedroom or outdoors at a picnic party.

It delivers good all-round sound on the mids and treble, but do not expect earth-shattering bass.

  • TECH SPECS

    PRICE: $219

    SOFTWARE: Google Assistant

    DIMENSIONS: 8.6cm (diameter) x 16.9cm

    WEIGHT: 710g

    DRIVERS: 2 x 45mm transducers

  • RATING

    FEATURES: 4/5

    DESIGN: 4/5

    PERFORMANCE: 4/5

    VALUE FOR MONEY: 4/5

    OVERALL: 4/5

You might not feel as much body and oomph on the bass line as you might hope for.

The Link 10 comes equipped with Google Assistant software, which necessitates a short set-up time when you first power up the speaker.

You can control the speaker by first saying "Okay Google", followed by a command, like "Play songs by Adele". But you first have to add your choice of streaming service, such as Spotify, Deezer or Google Play Music, to enable such a feature.

In a pinch, you can use the Link 10 as a portable Bluetooth speaker even if the voice control functions do not work in the absence of a Wi-Fi network. The 4,000mAh battery will last about five hours in continuous playback at more than half the maximum volume.

One major omission from the Link 10 is a power adapter. The speakers come with just one USB cable and you will need another adapter with a USB port to connect it to a power outlet.

JBL could have fared better on the design front for the Link 10. The all-black or all-grey look is safe and functional, but it is not as stylish as the Google Home.

A bright LED light at the base of the speaker serves as a Wi-Fi status indicator that shows when the Link 10 is connected to your network and ready to receive your voice commands.

Starting the speaker up takes a while though. It takes more than 20 seconds to power up and connect to its saved Wi-Fi network before you can say "okay Google" to it.

The top of the speaker features physical rubber buttons, for users to play or pause music and adjust the volume. A large centre button activates Assistant, which is unnecessary as you can do so with your voice.

• Verdict: The entry-level JBL Link 10 is a good choice for a smart speaker with great sound and portability. If you are looking for a smart speaker, but are turned off by the Google Home's average sound quality, JBL's Link series could be the one to check out.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 27, 2018, with the headline 'Smart speaker with good all-round sound'. Print Edition | Subscribe