I’ve reviewed a few JBL speakers in the last couple of years. While some of their speakers have smart assistant features available through the connection of your phone, they decided to release a few official smart speakers with their line of JBL Link smart assistant speakers. I’ve had the JBL Link 20 smart assistant speaker for a few weeks.
Link 20 Design and Build
If you’ve had any of JBL’s portable bluetooth speakers, you’ll be familiar with the build of the Link 20. It looks like their Charge speakers. The top and bottom of the speaker are rubber. The thick mesh the rest of the Link 20 is covered in feels qualitative. The top has 5 buttons, volume up and down across from each other, play/pause and bluetooth pairing buttons across from each other with the Google assistant button in between. Even tough it has a tall canned shape, the corners are squared. You’ll find two microphones on these corners. On one of the long sides you have the power button and microphone mute button. Above the power button you have the battery indicator. Way below the microphone mute button, you have the micro USB charging port. In the “front” of the speaker where you find the JBL logo, you have the wifi indicator. On the same side as the JBL logo, but way up top you will have a 4-LED volume indicator. What you won’t find on the Link 20 is the auxiliary in/ out jack. So you definitely have to go wired to listen to music, whether it’s via bluetooth or casting.
I have the Google Home Mini and I’ve been using it. I have also been using the Google Assistant on the JBL Pulse 3. I use mainly to play a song I don’t have on a playlist or to get some information on some random question I have. What’s great about the link over the Home and Home Mini is that it’s portable. It’s not the smallest speaker out there, but you can put it in different parts of the house with no problem. You can even use it by the sink and the tub (unplugged) because it’s IPX7 rated.
Setting up the speaker is the same as with any Google Assistant devices. You need the Google Home app. If you already have the app, you can just go to the menu and add the devices. You can cast to multiple speakers that have Google Assistants at the same time which is pretty cool. I created a group with the Link 20 and the Google Home.
You get the sound you’d expect from a bluetooth speaker. It has a pretty balanced sound. No heavy bass or highs. The speaker can go at a nice volume without distortion. At higher volumes there is definitely no bass thump. The cylinder shape helps shoot room-filling 360 sound (remember, I live in a small apartment). To get a rich sound, you may need 2 or 3 speakers, but you can have a quick jam-session with just one Link 20 speaker. Using the Link 20, I ended up jammin’ out more than I intended to.
Casting works as well as your internet connection allows it to. The main feature of the Link 20 is obviously the voice activation. The microphones caught my voice from pretty much every point of the apartment. You can activate the Google Assistant with the button on the speaker or by voice command. The volume indicator lights up when you say the “Hey, Google” wake-up command. But there is no sound feedback. If I have the speaker at an angle where I can’t see the indicator, I can’t tell if if it heard my wake-up or not. Google Assistant is wifi based, so the Link 20 is just a regular bluetooth speaker when you are outside the home. It serves its purpose.
The Link 20 charges the 6000 mAh battery via micro USB. It doesn’t disappoint when it comes to battery life. Of course it matters how long and how loud you listen to it. I got it to last a little over 10 hours with medium volume and random Google Assistant prompts.
The Link 20 is a great speaker on its own. The price varies between $160 and $200. It’s only available in black for now (UPDATE: It’s now available in white also). If having Google Assistant available in any part of your home whenever you want it, you will definitely enjoy the Link 20. The simple setup and addition to the rest of your Google Home family, makes the JBL Link 20 a good purchase. If you want a portable speaker with great sound and battery life, you will want to go with JBL’s Charge series and use your phone for Google Assistant features. You can of course find it at JBL.com and Amazon.com