Samsung is making its own portable Bluetooth speaker as part of its new Level line of audio accessories, and the product goes on sale today online at its official store for $199. The device is definitely compact, and it’s an all-metal product, which is unusual for a Samsung piece of kit, but can it hold its own with the plethora of existing products on the market, including those just acquired by Apple in the form of the Beats Pill?
- MSRP: $199
- Battery life of 15 hours
- Bluetooth, NFC
- Built-in speaker phone
- Product info page
- Attractive, compact, high-quality design
- Speakerphone interrupts line-in
- Sound is just good, not great
The Samsung Level Box is a well-designed piece of hardware. It features an all-metal enclosure with a metal grille to protect the speaker components too. Even the buttons are metal, which bets the question: why so much plastic on the phones when you can deliver a portable speaker with this kind of quality of build?
The design feels a little like something Bose might put out, with an understated look that fits in around the house in virtually any setting, from sitting room to kitchen counter. It’s solid-feeling and heavy, too, both of which point to a quality of build and design that should stand up to some light knocking about, too. The four buttons on top give you access to most of what you need, but the play/pause button looks a little like alien script until you realize what they’ve done.
Overall, this is actually one of my favorite looks for a portable speaker, and I’m impressed Samsung was the one to pull that off.
Connecting to the Level Box with a Samsung device (or other Android equipped with NFC) was easy enough, thanks to the NFC panel on the side. It was only slightly less convenient to pair with my iPhone 5s, however. The connection is solid and doesn’t waver at all in my testing, too.
On the speaker, the buttons let you control volume and also answer and end calls, as well as play or pause tracks. These also worked well, and I was pleasantly surprised to find that notifications from your phone interrupt the audio even when you’re using it hardwired via the 3.5mm line in jack on the back.
As a speakerphone, it performs well, too, delivering audio that was easy for those I called to understand. But for music, the sound quality wasn’t all that great. It’s lacking compared to the top performers in its price range, like the Jambox, as it’s a bit tinny at times. But it’s still a very capable speaker, so long as you’re not heavily into base, and that makes sense for a small device like this.
Battery life performed as advertised, and I was able to use the speaker for at least 15 hours without recharging, with a mix of wireless and wired usage.
Samsung has created a line of audio devices that make it seem like it was prescient regarding the Apple Beats acquisition, and this speaker is a good first effort out of the gate. The design advantages trump any minor audio defects, especially at this price and size range, where you’re not going to get the best sound no matter where you look. Most impressive here is definitely the build quality; you’re going to make your phone envious with this hardware if you’re a Samsung device owner already.