JBL Charge 4 vs. UE Boom 3: Not a Fair Fight (One Exception)

After weeks of testing, I determined JBL Charge 4 is the best option for most people because of its superior sound quality and battery life. UE Boom 3 has crisp and omnidirectional sound with the best design on the market, but it lacks the depth and richness of Charge.

I’ll compare and contrast these two portable speakers (JBL Charge 4 vs. UE Boom 3) while evaluating five categories: sound, design, durability, power, and software.

JBL Charge 4: 9/10

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Sound: A-

  • The sound is outstanding for its size and price. Compared to UE Boom 3, it has a better bass and is much richer and louder. Charge 4’s sound is closer to Megaboom 3 than Boom 3. Overall, it’s a brilliant-sounding speaker and provides fantastic value at $150.
  • You need to be in front of the speaker for optimal listening. Although it’ll be fine outdoors, it’s not ideal because it’s not omnidirectional.
  • How does the sound compare to Charge 3?
    • Charge 4 has one driver with 30W of power, while Charge 3 had two drivers with 10W of power. I prefer two drivers, but overall you get more power with Charge 4, and you can hear this in the bass.
    • Charge 4’s treble sounds better.
    • Overall, the sound doesn’t differ much, and both offer great sound for this price and size.

Design: B-

  • It weighs 2.1 pounds and is 8.7 inches long. It’s still small enough that it can be held in one hand.
  • It looks not the best looking, but at least it has a base to sit on (relative to Flip 4).
  • It comes in 10 different colors (Black, Blue, Forest Green, Grey, Pink, Red, Sand, Teal, and White), but the colors are plain and not overly appealing.
  • The port cover is perfect. It stays latched (for waterproofing), but it’s easy to open. This is something that Flip 4 could learn from its big brother.
  • You can plug in your old school devices because there’s a 3.5mm port.

Durability: B+

  • Like UE’s lineup, it’s entirely waterproof (IPX7 rating). It can be submerged in water for up to 30 minutes.
  • While it’s waterproof, you have to let it air out if it gets wet because the water gets in between the radiators on the sides and makes the sound muffled.
  • It’ll float just like Boom 3.

Power: A+

  • The battery is impressive for its size and loudness delivered. It’s rated for 20 hours of playback and takes four hours to recharge. My real world tests:
    • 8.5 hours with 60% volume.
    • 6.5 hours with 85% volume.
  • It works as a portable phone charger with its 7,500-mAh battery USB port.
  • Charge 4 charges with USB-C, which is a great upgrade.

Software: D+

  • It uses Bluetooth 4.2 and you can have two devices paired at once. While this is a downgrade from the three devices simultaneously pair with Charge 3, it’s a good move to improve connection stability.
  • The JBL app is worthless and doesn’t provide any value (assuming you can get the app to pair with Charge 4). Charge 4 is a new product you should expect them to update fix it the pairing, but mine wouldn’t pair at the time of this review. The good news is that you don’t need to bother with the app.
  • The Bluetooth range is about 15 feet further and the connection seems more reliable.
  • You can connect it with other JBL Connect+ (Charge 3, Flip 4, Xtreme 2) speakers, but pairing can be shaky because it cuts in and out.

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UE Boom 3: 7/10

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Sound: C-

  • It has two drivers and two passive radiators.
  • While listening to Boom 3 alone, I don’t hate it, but when I play it side by side with Charge 4, Boom 3 sounds a bit like a tin can.
  • There’s more bass than JBL Flip 4, but there’s no match when compared to Charge 4.
  • UE Boom 3’s biggest advantage is that it delivers 360° sound, which makes it a better option for outdoor use and large gatherings.
  • There are four preset equalizer options, but you can customize the bass, mids, and treble to any level.

Design: A+

  • It weighs 1.3 pounds and is 7.2 inches tall. It’s noticeably smaller and lighter than Charge 4, but this isn’t a dealbreaker.
  • There are four colors (Lagoon Blue, Nightblack, Sunset Red, Ultraviolet Purple), but there are more set to be released in the future. The Ultimate Ears colors with their two-toned fabric are more visually interesting than the boring colors of JBL.
  • Boom 2’s design was great, but there were three major issues which were all fixed with Boom 3:
    • The charging port was on the bottom, making it difficult to charge and listen simultaneously. Now, the port has been moved to the side or it can be charged wirelessly with the base.
    • You had to use gestures by picking up the speaker and hitting it sideways to pause and skip songs, now there’s a “Magic Button” to do play, pause and skip.
    • There was an ugly rubber strip down the middle. Now it’s gone and features a more minimalistic design. Everything about the design looks phenomenal!
  • There’s no 3.5mm port.
  • To find out the battery life, hit the “+” and “-” at the same time for a verbal callout of the volume percentage.

Durability: A+

  • It has the same waterproof rating, but it’s also dustproof.
  • It feels more durable than Charge 4 because the radiators aren’t exposed. Either way, each brand will be able to withstand a drop.
  • It will float to the top of the water.

Power: B

  • UE lists a playback time of 15 hours, but this is not a reasonable figure because they must’ve tested at unreasonably low volumes. My real world tests:
    • 6 hours with 60% volume.
    • 3.5 hours with 85% volume.
  • The playback time isn’t as good as Charge 4, but it’s almost worth it because of UE’s wireless charging. It’s an eye-opening experience. While UE’s charging base is an extra $40, it’s worth every penny. It’s awesome to have your speaker run off power while in the house, then when you’re ready to leave it’s at 100% battery. It takes the thinking out of power management.

Software: A-

  • Ultimate Ears simplified things and made one app for all Megaboom and Boom speakers. It’s a brilliant app.
  • With “Block Party,” you can connect three phones to one speaker, and three people take turns playing music.
  • With “Party Up,” you can pair up to 150 UE speakers together and make them play duplicate sound or create a stereo pair. This works well sometimes, but I wouldn’t count on it. Like anything that relies on Bluetooth for multiple connections, it can be shaky.
  • Like Charge 4, it uses Bluetooth 4.2, and you can have it paired with two devices at once. The curious thing is that the Bluetooth range is listed at 150 feet, but in reality, the range is the worse than Charge 4 (30 feet listed).
  • The firmware is updated frequently. It’s great that UE is continually improving the product and didn’t call it quits after the release.
  • You can power it on and off via the app.
  • Lots of people don’t like the “power on sounds” of portable speakers. UE lets you turn those off, while JBL doesn’t.
  • There’s isn’t a button to activate your phone’s assistant (e.g., Google, Siri, Alexa, etc.) because there’s no mic. This means no speakerphone either, but these are worthwhile sacrifices from last year’s version.
  • You can preload four Apple Music playlists and have them play by holding the Magic Button for two seconds. The music plays, and you don’t touch your phone.

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Which is best for you?

JBL Charge 4

Get JBL Charge 4 if you want the best sounding speaker at this size and an extra two hours of battery at 60% volume. It has one-directional sound, but it isn’t terrible outside. It can’t charge wirelessly.

Get JBL Charge 3 for $50 less. It sounds similar to Charge 4 and is an incredible value.

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UE Boom 3

Get UE Boom 3 if you value design and wireless charging more than the sound quality, volume and battery life. Even with its omnidirectional sound, it can’t compete with Charge 4’s richness and smooth bass.

Get UE Megaboom 3 for an extra $50. It sounds exponentially better than Boom 3 (my review).

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