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Hands on review: Beats Pill

19 Jan 2015

One of the side benefits of such a glorious summer in Wellington has been firing up the BBQ to scorch some dead Bambi. Getting outdoor music rigged up as the snarlers sizzled proved to be bit of a mission - at least until I got my hands on the Beats Pill.

While I could drag a mini stereo system outside, plugging it into an extension cord is cumbersome and dangerous. Besides, most of my music sits on the micro SD card inside my phone.

Beat’s approach uses a small portable Bluetooth-connected, portable speaker. I can plunk it down next to the BBQ and stream to music via Bluetooth using my phone. There’s no extension cable to trip over. Best of all, I also don’t have to worry about the hernia associated with lugging a stereo system outside.

Look and feel

As the Pill’s name suggests, it resembles an XXL-sized red plastic cold capsule. It has an oblong pill-like shape and rounded ends.

Its red body has a metal grill that protects its 4 speaker drivers. It also sports a small lowercase red "b" logo on a button that does double duty as a Play/Pause and Call Answer/End button. There’s also a built-in microphone which makes the Pill a great BBQ speakerphone.

The Pills rounded underside flattens out, making it steady enough to rest without it rolling off the table. Spinning it around reveals a 3.5mm Aux input. There is also a USB connection (which can charge USB powered devices) as well as a micro USB port whose purpose I was unable to discern. Add to this a socket for a power adapter/charger, and a Bluetooth status light.

Last (but by no means least) there's volume controls, a power switch and an NFC. Tapping an NFC equipped phone made for hassle-free and instant Bluetooth pairing.

One quirky touch that also appealed was the Pill's packaging. Unboxing the Pill I found it was in an XXL-sized pill package, just the ones you pop run-of-the-mill Panadol cold capsules out of. It’s a nice touch.

In use

In theory, battery life is anything up to seven hours. In practice I found results varied depending on playback volume. With typical use via Bluetooth I found I averaged 5-6 hours of outdoor listening.

Powering the Pill up and throwing some music to it, I had no great audio expectations.

Throwing on Run Like Hell (from Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon) I noted that bass wasn’t just hinted at, but was there. While it won't shake my BBQ off its foundations, I was still surprised just how much bass the tiny Pill managed to crank out.

Bass is one thing, but clean sound is another altogether, and with volume cranked all the way up distortion was noticeable. This wasn’t a biggie. Dropping the volume just a tad eliminated distortion.

Throwing a bit of old school rock (Jethro Tull’s Thick as a Brick) through the Pill showcased its clever audio design. Rather than throwing a hint of bass into shrill and treble laden audio, high’s and mids were there with controlled bass.

This isn't too shabby considering audio comes from four mini drivers packed into a tiny pill-shaped package.

Don’t get me wrong. Audiophiles will find plenty to complain about, but for casual listening, the Pill did a stellar job.

If that’s the good, what about the not-so-good? Perhaps the single biggest turn off for many will be the Pill’s $339 sticker price. It delivers plenty of Boom per buck, but there are far cheaper alternatives out there with comparable audio (such as Logitech’s UE Boom which can be found for significantly less money)

Verdict

Provided you don’t mind paying a little extra, the Pill delivers flexible BBQ friendly outdoor audio. In fact, it may be just what the doctor ordered. There are plenty of features baked in and the it is more than capable of delivering the sonic goods at a BBQ sizzle.

Tech specs

RRP$339
Weight: 309.01 grams
Amplification type: active
Woofer size: 1"
Connectivity: wired, wireless (Bluetooth A2DP)
Transmission range: 30 ft
Accessories: Included accessories: power adapter, USB cable, audio cable, carabiner clip, carrying case
Power: up to 7 hours

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