09/04/2013 09:00 am ET Updated Sep 04, 2013

Mini Jambox Review: Jawbone Gets Even More Portable With Tiny Bluetooth Speaker

When it comes to mobile, bigger, of course, is not better.

That was Jawbone's thinking behind the Mini Jambox, the latest in Jawbone's lineup of Bluetooth-enabled speakers, which went on sale on Wednesday for $179.

The Mini Jambox is exactly what it sounds like: An even smaller version of the brick-like Jambox. Like its bigger and older siblings, the Jambox (also $179) and Big Jambox ($299), Mini Jambox is a rectangular speaker that connects to any device that has Bluetooth. Phones, tablets, music players or computers with Bluetooth can wirelessly send audio to the speaker, while devices without Bluetooth can connect to a 3.5 mm jack that allows for wired playback.

At six inches long, one inch wide and just over two inches tall, the Mini Jambox is about half the width of the Jambox, which is already a pretty small speaker. To put that in perspective: it's about the size of a pencil case, weighs as much as two smartphones, and easily fits into a small purse or the pocket of a pair of pants.

The idea behind the Mini Jambox was to design a speaker that, like a phone or tablet, can be carried with you at all times, Travis Bogard, vice president of product management at Jawbone, said in an interview last week.

"It's not rocket science to make a small speaker loud," said Bogard. "That's easy. [But] how do you make great sound in something small?"

He added: "How can we make something that's as accessible as the iPod, iPhone or iPad that you have with you at all times?"

The Mini Jambox is made for those moments -- at a park, at an impromptu gathering with a few friends, when you're showing someone a viral video -- when your phone or tablet's internal speaker isn't going to cut it. It's meant to be truly portable, and it's not designed to replace your home stereo.

Pairing the Mini Jambox with my devices was easy. Simply turn it on and and hold down the "pairing button" on the side of the speaker until you hear a voice that says "Mini Jambox is in pairing mode -- waiting to pair with your device." Then, go to the Bluetooth settings in your phone, tablet or computer and select Mini Jambox. A voice alerts you seconds later when pairing is successful.

I moved apartments over Labor Day weekend, so I spent hours listening to the Mini Jambox as I packed and unpacked boxes. I streamed Spotify, Pandora, NPR and Netflix from an iPhone, Moto X, and my computer, and the sound was, for the most part, very impressive. Despite its size, Mini Jambox was loud enough to be heard throughout my apartment. When listening to it outside one evening, I had to turn it down to make sure I wouldn't disturb the neighbors. I would only occasionally hear distortion, when I was listening to music at the highest volume. The bass isn't what you'd get with a larger speaker, but for a wireless speaker that you can carry in your pocket, it sounds pretty darn good.

Jawbone is a company that prides itself on industrial design, and the Mini Jambox, constructed from a solid brick of aluminum that's been chiseled away, is an attractive piece of hardware. And I inadvertently found out that it's durable; the Mini Jambox sounded as good as ever after surviving a 4-foot fall onto concrete, suffering only a slightly dented corner.

I never had to worry about the battery, which gives you 10 hours of playback on a single charge; Jawbone says that the Mini Jambox can be in standby mode for up to 75 hours.

The Mini Jambox also has a speakerphone, so if it's paired with a phone and it rings, you can answer without disconnecting the Bluetooth. (When someone calls, the audio stops and a voice reads out the phone number that's calling, which isn't actually that helpful because many of us no longer have phone numbers committed to memory.) But I wasn't overly impressed with the way the speakerphone sounded -- and neither were the people on the other end -- so I would switch to the handset when someone called.

The biggest negative of the Mini Jambox, however, is the steep price tag. At $179, it's more expensive than some of the devices that stream music to it. You're paying a premium for a beautifully designed portable speaker that's also a fashion statement. But at the same time, it's a lot to spend on a speaker that's not meant to replace your home sound system.

The Mini Jambox comes in nine anodized colors and goes on sale online on Wednesday. Jawbone hasn't said when the speaker will begin to ship, but it will be available at a handful of retailers later this month.



Mini Jambox