When it comes to portable speakers, Bose offers an impressive collection of products to choose from. Whether you are looking for something you can have with you when you’re fishing, want a portable speaker that can put out boombox volume, or you are simply looking for a quality, affordable Bluetooth speaker you can fit in your pocket, Bose has you covered. When it comes to picking the right miniature speaker, you have to understand what each offers.
The Soundlink Flex is going to cost you the most (MSRP ~$150) but that is backed by the superior sound quality and longer-lasting battery life (Bose claims twelve hours). The Flex is an obvious upgrade to the other two older models. Another point to consider is that the SoundLink Flex, being the newest speaker on the list, will be harder to find at a discount.
The Soundlink Micro is a pocket-sized powerhouse that boasts an IPX7 rating (You can dunk this thing in a bucket for thirty minutes without lasting issues) and a very affordable price tag while also being considerably smaller and lighter than its two alternatives.
The Soundlink Color II is going to offer you the best middle ground between the two previous options. You get a battery life of eight hours, a sound quality that does edge the Micro, and at a discounted cost that may save you as much as $50 compared to the Soundlink Flex
It probably goes without saying that the Soundlink Flex is comfortably the winner in this category with much-improved sound quality than its predecessors. This is likely why this Flex is so much bulkier than the other two speakers. However, it more than makes up for it with its improved clarity, especially at higher volumes where the other two (the Micro more specifically) can tend to drop off as the volume touches upwards of sixty percent.
The Soundlink Flex also offers “PositionIQ” which is supposed to detect the positioning of the device and adjust the sound accordingly. Reviewers really seem to be skeptical with this new advancement from Bose, despite the confident marketing.
The Micro, while certainly not offering a horrific sound quality by any stretch, does take last when it comes to the guts of the smaller speaker. While it can reproduce sound admirably for its size, the higher the volume goes the more a song will break apart in quality. For those that love the “bass drop,” you can actually hear the lows fairly well which is unique in portable speakers which always seem to come up lacking on the “ground floor” of audio.
The Color 2 once again feels like the middle child of these devices, offering a more complete sound profile than its smaller sibling yet failing to fill the impressive shadow that the Flex has cast over it. While the average dubstep fan may be found wanting when it comes to the Color 2, it does actually present the most impressive soundstage of the three maintaining stereo sound, even if the treble is a bit heavy-handed.
Verdict: The Soundlink Flex presents the best overall sound quality though all will have some amount of drop-off at higher volumes. It also produces the highest volume of the three, though none of these speakers are incredibly loud to begin with.
Design & Durability
The Soundlink Flex is sitting just a hair under eight inches long and offers a water protection rating of IP67. This speaker feels like durable, high-end tech while maintaining a subtle, sleek exterior that doesn’t come across as loud or overbearing. While it is undoubtedly the bulkiest option of the three it certainly doesn’t feel fragile and could probably withstand a decent bit of wear and tear as well as an admirable amount of errant liquid. It comes in three colors (black, smoke white, and stone blue) and offers a very handy strap at the top so you can attach it to a backpack or belt loop without issue.
Looking towards the Color 2 I think this is where it actually falls short of its competitors by a wide margin. Sitting at around five inches both in height and width, the Color 2 offers slightly more color choices (soft black, citron, aqua blue, and polar white). It has an IPX4 rating which while still liquid-resistant is much more fragile than the Micro and Flex which are far more waterproof. Another thing that takes away from the Color 2 is the lack of a strap or grip to allow it to be attached to your person, which feels like a noticeable oversight for a product marketed for the outdoorsman.
The Micro is subtle and efficient and is designed with these ideals in mind. Sitting at a dainty 3.9 x 3.9 this dainty piece of tech comes in three colors (black, blue, and bright orange) and has a water resistance of IPX7. The durable strap is another thing worth mentioning that further minimizes the chance of dropping or losing this fun-sized device. Considering what this is marketed after and its efficiency of design really makes the Micro stand out.
Verdict – The Micro by a slim margin due to its smaller size. If you are the avid hiker/camper that this device is built for, the smaller design can help lighten your already tightly-packed load which helps it slightly edge out the Flex.
The battery life of all three of these devices is going to vary quite a bit depending on how loud you are playing the music. The higher your music plays definitely seems to drain the battery of all three quite a bit more than at 50% volume for example. If we are going off what Bose says, the Flex can maintain twelve hours of battery life compared to the Micros 6 hours or the Color II’s 8 hours. The Flex also uses a USB-C charging port compared to the MicroUSB that the other two use. This really makes it stand out against its competition especially when you consider the shortened recharge time it will require.
All three offer their own personal automatic shut-off timers which is a nice way to preserve battery life. This seems to trigger when they have not been playing music for twenty minutes.
Verdict – The Soundlink Flex has the highest battery power (based on manufacturer specifications) and will also likely recharge far faster than the other two due to its superior USB-C charging port.
All things considered, as far as product-related software applications go, you could do a good bit worse than Bose Connect. The app has received fairly positive reviews overall and its biggest drawbacks fall more towards the noise-canceling effects of their headphones, rather than anything to do with their portable speakers. The app looks almost identical throughout the three devices so it shouldn’t be factored into your decision heavily.
Flex does come with PositionIQ, which most people have serious reservations about. While it will alter the sound direction mildly depending on how it is placed, this feature feels like it was focused more heavily in the marketing department than anywhere else.
All three come with Bluetooth version 4.2, which is nearly eight years old on the date of this article. While the Color 2 and Micro can be forgiven for this with their dated release dates, the Flex really doesn’t have many excuses for not upgrading to a more recent version. Though due to all having it, it’s hard to consider it a drawback for the Flex.
The Flex also finally introduces a button to turn your microphone off if you aren’t using it. This is a really nice change of pace for the more paranoid consumers worried that they are being monitored (me) and targeted by their technology (also me).
Verdict – The Soundlink Flex by a hair, though only if you enjoy having a microphone toggle button. If not, this is largely a draw across the board.
The Soundlink Flex is the most expensive at an MSRP of ~150 USD, though the added fifty dollars feels justified when Bose has improved on almost everything. If you can handle the extra fifty dollars and don’t mind a bulkier speaker, the Soundlink Flex is ideal.
The Soundlink Color 2 is good for those who want a speaker that will spend more time indoors on flat surfaces as it is not very convenient to attach while outdoors and won’t last as long in the elements. If you want a bit of a deal for closer to $100 and want something that slightly outperforms the Micro in sound quality, get the Color 2.
The Soundlink Micro is a tiny speaker with a lot of heart that will do well for those looking for a compact, easily portable speaker. If sound quality is king, the Micro will likely not be ideal for you as it is the lowest-performing of the three. In the sub-$100 USD price range, this water-resistant palm-sized piece of tech is still a wise purchase for those who value durability and efficiency.
If I had to recommend one overall it would definitely be the Soundlink Flex which really shows what a couple of years of workshopping can do to improve upon a product. It will cost a bit more, though the increase in price is felt in the sound quality, battery life, and overall design.