I reviewed two portable Bluetooth speakerphone options earlier this year: The Philips WeCall ($145) vs. Logitech P710e ($125) . Both are square and have internal batteries and make conference calling easy. But for their ~$150 price tag, I wondered if you could get more portability and style without sacrificing sound quality.
The answer to those questions is the Harman Kardon Esquire line of portable speakerphones. Below, I take a look at the Esquire Mini which retails for $149.99 and can be found as low as $145 at Amazon or $135 at World Wide Stereo.
Harman Kardon products are always packaged nicely and the Esquire Mini is no exception. The unit itself is slightly bigger than an iPhone 6 and about twice as thick. Around the edges is a beveled metal band which connects the softer black underside with the Kevlar-like front speaker grill. On the back is a big stainless steel kickstand which looks classy for portable electronics.
Around the edges you’ll find a 5 LED battery indicator and mic/grill on one side and USB/MicroUSB AUX input and a leather strap (included) base on the other. On the top/front is a metal volume rocker and power/Bluetooth/Phone buttons. The box comes with a MicroUSB charger cable (5V/1A) and a leather strap.
Powering the device up for the first time it automatically goes into pairing mode and in a few seconds you are paired with iOS(Settings/Bluetooth). If you want to pair a second, third and so on devices, you’ll need to press the bluetooth button for a few seconds to manually enter pairing mode.
Immediately all sound in and out will go through the speaker and you’ll notice that everything becomes very crisp and clear. People on the other end of the phone will also notice a crisper and clearer sound than using the iPhone like a push to talk device. The noise canceling works just like the iPhone and in my tests worked well all but one time.
The device itself purports to have 8 hours of continuous use and I think that’s fair though you’ll get a shorter life if you are using it hard. Those 8 hours also go down if you use it as a iPhone charger which might be one of the Esquire Mini’s best features. In a pinch you can get a full iPhone charge from it as well (and we’ve all been there).
The downsides of the Esquire mini are few but notable. You can certainly use this as a Bluetooth speaker and for most music it is perfectly reasonable. However, if you are looking for bass, you are going to still be looking after you crank this one to 11. You just can’t get the kind of movement you need to make deep lows in a package this thin. As for range, this is a few notches above what Apple puts into the 15″ Retina MacBook Pro.
I’m not design snob but I can’t help but wonder if this design matches up more with the iPhone 5/5s. The beveled stainless steel edging definitely matches up there better. The color options here are also not to my liking. I would stick with the black or white version if you must and skip over the brown and gold versions (though obviously if you have a gold iPhone, you might as well).
Usage is where the Esquire Mini shines. It fits anywhere an iPhone 6 fits though it gets tight quick in skinny pants. Put it in a purse or jacket pocket or in your briefcase/bag however and you are in great shape. Pull it out at your desk or in a car or in a conference room and you are immediately hearing great sound and able to speak clearly to people on the other end. I often use the Esquire mini to answer phone calls while leaving the phone in my pocket. Having an extra iPhone charge in your pocket is also a big bonus. You can now chuck that battery which was likely close to the same size as the Esquire Mini. The Aux port works exactly like it should.
This is a fantastic product for portable speakerphone usage and is simply the best looking product in this range at any price. The only downside I can think of as a speakerphone or speaker is the lack of bass which is mostly a factor of its thin, light size. If you want a great portable speaker that also does mic calls, head over to the cylindrical JBL Charge 2 which also retails for $149. However, if you need a speakerphone that gets loud and fits in your pocket, the Esquire Mini which retails for $149.99 is a great product/gift and can be found as low as $145 at Amazon. Oh, and yes it works with Android, Windows or BlackBerry as well.