After weeks of testing, I determined UE Boom 3 is the best because of its bass, wireless charging, and attractive design. However, you can’t go wrong with either of these. JBL Flip 4 sounds amazing, has similar volume and is cheaper than Boom 3 by $50.
I’ll compare and contrast these two portable speakers (JBL Flip 4 vs. UE Boom 3) by evaluating five categories: sound, design, durability, power, and software.
UE Boom 3: 7/10
- It has two 2″ drivers and two 2″ x 4″ passive radiators.
- Boom 3 stays well-balanced and is solid for its size. It has a more prominent bass than Flip 4, but the sound and bass can’t compete with higher-end speakers like Megaboom 3 or JBL Charge 4.
- UE speakers are omnidirectional, making them perfect for outdoor use or parties because everyone will be able to hear it.
- You can change the sound with an equalizer, although the standard sounds better than the other options.
- It weighs 1.3 pounds and is 7.2 inches tall.
- UE Boom 2 was a nicely designed speaker, but there were two major issues, and Boom 3 addressed both, while only adding a little more bulk.
- Previously, you had to use gestures for play and pause, and these only worked if you were holding the speaker. Boom 3 has a “Magic Button” that’s big and centered on the top.
- With Boom 2, you couldn’t charge it and listen to music at the same time because the charge port was located on the bottom.
- Aside from that, Boom 3 looks better overall, featuring more mesh material and less rubber. The only downside to the design is that we’re trained to hit the center or biggest button for power, while on Boom 3, the big button is the Magic Button. I tried to power it on countless times with the center button.
- The design and color selection is better than JBL’s as it’s made of two-tone fabric and has more character. Ultimate Ears typically releases new color combinations every few months, while JBL sticks with a limited selection
- There’s no 3.5mm port.
- If you press both volume buttons simultaneously, it tells you the battery life.
- It has an IP67 rating, meaning it’s entirely waterproof (up to a meter of water for 30 minutes), like last year’s version, but it’s also dustproof!
- UE speakers are more durable than JBL. Accidental drops won’t be an issue with either speaker, but there are no exposed radiators on Boom 3 and it’s rated as “drop proof” from five feet.
- Unlike JBL Flip 4, it’ll float back up when you drop it in water. This could be a deciding factor if you plan to bring it on a boat.
- Ultimate Ears lists 15 hours of playback time, but I can’t figure out where they got that. Did they test while at 1% volume? I have the latest firmware and consistently got under six hours of playback while at 60% volume or three and a half at 85% volume.
- Another major improvement from Boom 2 is that you can wirelessly charge it if you buy the Ultimate Ears dock for $40. It’s fantastic to never have to worry about a dead battery.
- The app is excellent. You can customize the bass, mids, and treble levels to your liking or you can pick one of the four presets.
- You can pair up to 150 UE speakers together with the Party Up feature. You can let them play duplicate sound, or turn them into a stereo pair. Bluetooth speakers are always going to struggle with being paired together, but Boom does a decent job unless you try to make them a stereo pair. I couldn’t get it to stop cutting out with any combination of Ultimate Ears speakers.
- Block party lets you connect up to three source devices at the same time while eight different people can manage the music.
- If you hold down the Magic Button for two seconds, it’ll play one of four of your preloaded Apple Music playlists. The music will play as long as Boom 3 is connected to your phone and you don’t need to open an app.
- Unlike Boom 2, there’s no speakerphone or way to activate your phone’s personal assistant (e.g., Siri, Google, Alexa, etc.) because there’s no mic. This is a worthwhile sacrifice.
- You can pair it with eight devices and have it paired to two simultaneously.
- The firmware is frequently updated, and the speaker is improving. This isn’t typically for Bluetooth speakers.
- You can turn it on with the app if you’re too lazy to get up.
- UE Boom 3 uses Bluetooth 4.2, just like JBL Flip, but UE lists a range of 150 feet. Like the battery playback number, I’m not sure how UE got this. Boom’s range is no better or worse than JBL Flip’s.
JBL Flip 4: 7/10
- Boom 3 has more bass and better low ends, but Flip 4 has better mids and highs. It’s the clearest sound of any speaker tested.
- Flip 4 is quieter, but not by a wide margin.
- It’s not an omnidirectional speaker, but it still sounds surprisingly well outside. You won’t get the exact same sound around the speaker, but it’s not terrible.
- Keep in mind, while Flip 4 is a great sounding speaker, JBL Charge 3 and Charge 4 (my review) are similarly priced to Boom 3 and sound vastly superior to Flip 4 and Boom 3.
- With two premium brands like JBL and Ultimate Ears, sound comes down to preference. I prefer the sound of Flip 4 compared to Boom 3, but the internet seems to be split on it. It sounds silly, but when deciding between these two, don’t consider sound quality, focus on the other features and price.
- It weighs 1.1 pounds and is 6.9 inches long. It’s lighter and smaller than Boom 3, but for all intents and purposes, they’re the same size and won’t fit into a pocket.
- It has a string strap, but I’m not sure of its purpose.
- Flip 4 sounds best when it’s horizontal, but their marketing material occasionally shows it in vertical position too. It doesn’t sound as good vertically because of one of the side radiators is covered.
- It doesn’t have a base. If you plan on using it in a car or boat, it’s going to roll, covering the speaker and distorting the sound.
- It’s hard to open the port cover. The cover is there for waterproofing, but they went a bit overboard. I have to use the end of a pen to get it open.
- You can plug in any media player or computer directly with a traditional 3.5mm cable.
- The side radiators bounce as music plays. It’s not practical, but it’s a coolness factor that Boom doesn’t have.
- You get to decide what function you want the triangle button to do: it can manage playback controls or activate your phone’s personal assistant.
- Like Boom 3, it has an IPX7 waterproof rating, which is an upgrade from the splashproof Flip 3. The waterproof rating is the only noteworthy upgrade from Flip 3, so it’s worth looking into Flip 3 if waterproofing isn’t important to you and you’re on a budget.
- It won’t float if you drop it in the water.
- It’s definitely a durable speaker, but because of the exposed radiators, Boom is more durable.
- You’ll get 12 hours of playback time according to JBL. But according to my tests, you’ll get six hours of listening with the volume at 60% or three at 85%.
- It takes three hours to recharge the battery via the micro USB port.
- The JBL app is poorly made and serves no purpose. You don’t get an equalizer or firmware updates, and the app isn’t necessary to pair to other speakers. You can’t even power it on.
- Two music sources can be connected concurrently. This makes switching between a laptop and phone easy.
- You can pair other JBL speakers together, but there’s a huge caveat: the speakers must use JBL’s newest platform called “Connect+,” which is only the newest generation of speakers (Flip 4, Charge 3, Charge 4, Xtreme 2).
- It uses Bluetooth 4.2 and lists a range of 30 feet, which my tests confirmed. I can move my phone anywhere throughout my house without losing the connection.
Which is best for you?
UE Boom 3
Get UE Boom 3 if you want a brilliantly designed speaker, and the bass is important to you. It’s better for outdoor use due to its omnidirectional sound, durability, and design. The charging base is a game changer for an extra $40.
JBL Flip 4
Get JBL Flip 4 if you want great sound and don’t care about bass. Half of internet reviewers prefer its sound to Boom 3. You’ll miss out on wireless charging, omnidirectional sound, and Boom 3’s software features, but you’ll save $50.