JBL Charge 4 vs. Bose SoundLink Color II: One Of These Is Too Pricey

After a month-long trial using JBL Charge 4 and Bose SoundLink Color II, I determined JBL Charge 4 is the best because of its superior sound, durability, and battery runtime. Bose SoundLink Color II sounds good but it doesn’t have adequate volume and isn’t worth its price.

I’ll compare and contrast these two portable speakers (JBL Charge 4 vs. Bose SoundLink Color II) by evaluating five categories: sound, design, durability, power, and software.

JBL Charge 4: 9/10

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Sound: A-

  • Charge 4 is an amazing speaker for this form factor. It has a brilliant sound that offers a deeper bass at all volume levels with better depth than other speakers. You won’t beat it for $150.
  • The sound gets distorted at high levels because the highs are rough on the ears, but Charge 4 sounds best under 70% volume and Bose can’t come close to this volume level.
  • It’s twice as loud as SoundLink Color II. If you’re looking for a quality party speaker, this is it.
  • There are a 30W driver and two side radiators which bounce with the bass and look cool.
  • If you’re looking to go the JBL route, JBL Charge 3 sounds almost as good (some say better) and is usually around $100.

Design: B-

  • It weighs 2.1 pounds and is 8.7 inches long. It sits on a base horizontally.
  • It’s not the most attractive device, but it doesn’t have the awkward design and cheesiness of Bose SoundLink Color II. If aesthetics are a priority, consider Boom 3 or Megaboom 3.
  • It comes in 10 different colors (Black, Blue, Forest Green, Grey, Pink, Red, Sand, Teal, and White).

Durability: B+

  • It’s waterproof (IPX7) in up to a meter of water for 30 minutes and if you drop it in the water it’ll float.
  • It’s not listed as shockproof, but it’s going to withstand normal drops.

Power: A+

  • The listed playback time for Charge 4 is 20 hours and takes four hours to recharge. My real world tests yielded these results:
    • 8.5 hours with 60% volume.
    • 6.5 hours with 85% volume.
  • JBL Charge 4 works as an external battery pack for charging your gadgets via USB.
  • You recharge it with USB-C and it takes around four hours.
  • If you factor in the volume difference of SoundLink Color II and Charge 4, Charge 4 offers three times long music playback runtimes.

Software: C-

  • The JBL software serves no purpose and should be avoided. There are no benefits, it’s hard to connect, and the interface runs off of the screen. There are supposed to be firmware updates, but I haven’t seen any.
  • You can keep it paired to two different devices at the same time.
  • You can pair Charge 4 with other JBL speakers, but those speakers need to be the current generation that supports JBL Connect+. The documentation on this is poor.
  • JBL Connect+ works pretty well by just pressing the Connect+ button on each speaker that you want to be paired. The connect is stable compared to most Bluetooth connections.
  • There’s no way to activate your phone’s voice assistant because there’s no mic, but you should be okay as this function doesn’t work well on most portable speakers.
  • It gets an extra five feet of Bluetooth range, and the Bluetooth seems more reliable than SoundLink Color II.

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Bose SoundLink Color II: 4/10

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Sound: C+

  • SoundLink Color II sounds good relative to other portable speakers on the market, but most people will want more bass than it provides.
  • It has dual 40mm drivers.
  • Sometimes it sounds like there’s something covering the SoundLink Color II speaker. Charge 4’s sound is more fun, while SoundLink can sound boring and flat.
  • Bose has better highs and seems better balanced at higher volumes. But Bose’s huge disadvantage is its volume. SoundLink Color II at 85% volume, is the equivalent of Charge 4 at 40% volume. SoundLink doesn’t deliver enough volume to warrant $130.
  • For reference, it sounds better than UE Boom 3, but I prefer JBL Flip 4’s sound.
  • If you want to stick with Bose, you’re better off going with SoundLink Micro because it’s half the size, more durable, less money, while sounding similar with a little less bass and power.

Design: F

  • It weighs 1.2 pounds and is 5.25 inches tall.
  • It comes in Aquatic Blue, Coral Red, Polar White, and Soft Black.
  • It’s ugly and has a funky shape. This speaker isn’t aesthetically pleasing for some reason I can’t put my finger on. It has a wrapped silicone casing that feels cheesy. The casing is similar to what’s on Bose SoundLink Micro, but for some reason, I didn’t mind the material on a smaller version.
  • There’s no way to see the battery life on the device via LED light, a voice readout, or even in the app. When you turn on the device, the robot reads out “high,” “medium,” or “low.” While the app either shows a battery percentage of 100% or 40%. That’s a big difference and it’s usually stuck at 40% for hours. It’s not a deal breaker, but it’s frustrating.
  • There’s a 3.5mm port for external audio devices without Bluetooth (like iPods).
  • There’s a “multi-function button.” One tap will play/pause, two taps skip the song, while a press and hold activate your phone’s voice assistant (there’s a mic for listening).

Durability: C

  • Only water-resistant but not waterproof. This means it can withstand a splash, but if you drop it in the water, your speaker is probably toast.
  • It can withstand drops.

Power: B

  • The listed playback time for Bose SoundLink Color II is eight hours and three hours to recharge. My real world tests:
    • 9 hours with 60% volume.
    • 4 hours with 85% volume.
  • You can recharge it with its exposed micro USB port.

Software: B

  • Party Mode lets you pair multiple SoundLink speakers. Pairing works well as long as one of the Bose speakers isn’t connected to two phones simultaneously.
  • You can change the auto-standby timer.
  • Two devices connected simultaneously with eight devices paired in total. In the Bose app, you can manage each device.
  • The speaker firmware is updated frequently, but these updates take forever and fail often.

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Which is best for you?

JBL Charge 4

Get JBL Charge 4 if you want a durable speaker with brilliant, loud sound and a fantastic battery life that’s ideal for large groups. It’s the clear winner between these two speakers and a must-have if you’re using it near water.

Get JBL Flip 4 for $79 or JBL Charge 3 for $99. Both sound better and have better battery life than SoundLink Color.

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Bose SoundLink Color II

Get Bose SoundLink Color II if you want to pay a premium price for an indoor-only speaker to play at low volumes. If you’re cool with a low volume and only plan to use it for personal listening, it’s not a bad speaker but not worth its price.

Get Bose SoundLink Micro for $30 less. It makes more sense because of its better durability, price, and amazing form.

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