Aug 13, 2014

[Gadgets] Gear4 Espresso Bluetooth Speaker

I hadn't heard from Digits Trading up until recently when they contacted me for another product review. Always open to free stuff, I said yes - and so here we are. And I have to admit, I'm particularly glad for this little gadget. As far as external speakers go, it's definitely one of the more impressive ones.

Bluetooth has always been a rather interesting technology - at first everyone was all excited for it as a communication medium. But in more recent years it seems its primary focus has been expanding the capabilities of mobile devices without the burden of extra wires. From speakers, headsets, keyboards and fitness gear, Bluetooth has led to a wide variety of interesting innovations.

The Gear4 Espress Bluetooth Speaker is a whole lot of audio power in such a tiny package. The device retails for about PHP1,350 locally and is widely available with Digits Trading's retail partners including the likes of Digital Walker or the various Apple resellers in the company. Disclaimer: I was given this free unit in exchange for my honest opinion of the device.

The Espresso is aptly named given its size and chosen appearance - it really does look like a little espresso cup. It comes in five different colors that for once don't have snazzy names - so you can get yellow (like the unit I tested), blue, black, pink and green.

This is all that you'll find within its clear plastic packaging - and that's really all you need given it's a Bluetooth device. Primarily you get the speaker itself and a very short micro-USB charging cable, and then the manual. There isn't much of an initial charge to speak of, so you'll need to plug in the device right away to get things started.

As a monoaural speaker, this thing is crazy powerful. The Espresso boasts a "boosted bass" technology that consists of an additional passive radiator. Ignoring the technobabble, this just means that this little guy has some pretty big bass power, especially for a small device. A lot of different speakers boast of having great bass support, but this is the real deal right here. And it's the smallest speaker I've ever had. It has a continuous playback battery life of about 4 hours and can be charged with any micro-USB compatible charging port.

The device has no direct volume controls - everything is dependent on your device's volume settings. Initially I found that a little weird, but ultimately it makes sense. You're more likely to leave this little guy sitting on some table or on a shelf while with your friends. So why bother with the need to get up and move some volume dial, right? And with its use of Bluetooth 3.0 to connect, I experienced little to no delay in terms of device responsiveness. And you can really get some good distance in terms of broadcast range, provided you maintain line of sight with the device.

The Espresso also features a carabiner-style handle, so you can clip it to your bag or something while playing music. It's a good idea, although it's a simple spring-loaded clip that you push out of place with no actual lock. So given the chaotic nature of Metro Manila, I'd reserve utilizing the clip for instances when you're in a more secure location. Otherwise it's not too difficult to slip it off with a slight twist of the wrist. Or maybe I'm just being paranoid.

The only other problem I had was how difficult it was to find the power button - the only physical button on the device. The manual is a bit minimalist and focused more on translating the details in other languages. But there it is right on the bottom of the device - all mashed up against the other obligatory device labels. I strongly feel that this could have designed better to be a bit more noticeable.

On the whole, the Gear4 Espresso Bluetooth Speaker is a great little device that gives the best value for money in terms of devices like this. I can see a lot of versatility with this device and it's certainly worth it if you ever have a need to share music with your friends in an unconventional setting. Thus the speaker rates a great 4.5 out of 5.

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