JBL Charge 5 vs. Flip 5: A Buying Guide

After a few weeks of testing, we have decided that JBL Charge 5 wins the battle against JBL Flip 5 due to higher sound quality, longer battery life, and its ability to charge other devices.

However, JBL Flip 5 is a quality bluetooth speaker in its own right, and provides nearly as good of sound quality for a fraction of the price. And with the smaller footprint of the Flip 5, it is more portable than the Charge 5.

Most features are similar between the two devices, like the degree of waterproofing, software, and the absence of a built-in microphone and aux port. So if you can find the Flip 5 at a discounted price, it may be a better purchase overall rather than paying more for a slightly-better Charge 5.

Neither device is perfect. The app lacks an equalizer, and the software is limited. But these are still two of our favorite bluetooth speakers. Both the Charge 5 and Flip 5 score well in nearly every category, so they are great choices in the sub-$200 waterproof portable speaker category.

Sound – Charge 5 vs. Flip 5

When it comes to sound differences between the Charge 5 and the Flip 5, we have to agree with the consensus — Charge 5 sounds better and gets louder, but the Flip 5 offers sound quality that is nearly as good. In looking at the device sizes and prices, you would expect the Charge 5 (which is significantly larger and significantly more expensive) to be the clear winner on sound. While Charge 5 does bring much more volume, the crispness and overall quality on the Flip 5 is not much worse than the Charge 5.

Compared to expectations, I think Flip 5 is more impressive for sound. And relative to its price, I again think Flip 5 is more impressive. But, overall, Charge 5 wins here. The 40 watt Charge 5 just packs a bit more punch than the 20 watt Flip 5.

Design – Charge 5 vs. Flip 5

[JBL Charge 5 pictured above]

[JBL Flip 5 pictured above]

To begin, Flip 5 is a lot smaller. Charge 5 is around an inch taller, over an inch longer, and weighs twice as much. Flip 5 also has a hook to attach a handle. So between this and the lighter weight, the Flip 5 is more portable and better for on-the-go use. However, because the device can be stood vertically and has no real base, it still isn’t a top choice for portable use.

The esthetics of the Charge 5 look nicer. Both devices have a similar cylindrical shape, but Charge 5 is more kidney bean-shaped which adds some visual interest. Flip 5 is just a very boring cylinder without anything to spice up the appearance. Charge 5 also has an oversized logo that is integrated into the design of the speaker, whereas Flip 5 has the older style JBL logo that looks like a cheap sticker slapped on the speaker. Flip 5 does have many more color options, as well as color customizations.

Both devices are missing an aux port. For better or worse, this seems to be the direction that devices are heading (Charge 4 had a 3.5 mm aux port, but this feature was removed with the Charge 5). And neither has a built-in microphone, so you won’t be able to use these speakers for phone calls, or control them with voice functions.

Durability – Charge 5 vs. Flip 5

The durability of these two speakers is nearly identical. 

Flip 5 has an IPX7 rating, meaning it is waterproof but not rated as dust-proof. Charge 5 adds the dust-proof label with an IP67 rating. However, this is more of a formality than a functional difference. I am not aware of any issues with the Flip 5 being vulnerable to dirt, sand, or dust. And both speakers are well-sealed. But of course, all things equal, the IP67 rating of Charge 5 is “better” than the IPX7 rating of Flip 5.

Both devices have some well-placed rubber edges for padding, and are durable even if they aren’t totally shockproof. The exposed radiators on the speakers create a potential weak spot, but either device should hold up to drops pretty well.

The vertical orientation of Flip 5 puts it at risk of being tipped over. Charge 5 has wide rubber ridges on the base, and is used horizontally, but is still somewhat clumsy and easy to knock over.

Battery Life – Charge 5 vs. Flip 5

There really is no competition here — the battery on the Charge 5 is significantly better than the Flip 5. 

Charge 5 features a 7,500 mAh battery that is marketed as having 20 hours of playtime. It also has a USB port that allows it to charge phones and other devices. If you use the Charge 5 to charge another device, it will of course decrease the battery life length. And it underperformed on the 20 hour battery life rating during our testing. With volume at 70-80%, we got more than 10 hours of life, but nowhere close to 20 hours.

Flip 5 has a 4,800 mAh battery that lacks the ability to charge other devices. It also has Bluetooth 4.2, while Charge 5 has Bluetooth 5.1. This is noteworthy because Bluetooth 5.1 is more energy-efficient, which further widens the battery life gap between Charge 5 and Flip 5. Flip 5 is listed at 12 hours of battery life, but our testing at 60% volume only allowed for 6 hours of battery. At volumes closer to the maximum, we barely got 4 hours of life.

Charge 5 has a bigger battery that lasts longer and is able to charge other devices. The status light is blindingly bright when the device is fully charged and sitting in a dark room, but this is a minor annoyance that is pretty easy to get used to. Charge 5 is the clear winner.

Software – Charge 5 vs. Flip 5

As mentioned above, the Charge 5 has Bluetooth 5.1 while the Flip 5 has the older Bluetooth 4.2. Bluetooth 5.1 is faster, with longer connectivity range and lower power consumption. However, in our testing, there was little functional difference. Both devices maintained a strong connection as long as they were within a reasonable proximity of the connected device. Most users of both Bluetooth 4.2 and Bluetooth 5.1 will report that it isn’t a night-and-day difference in connection strength.

Both Charge 5 and Flip 5 have PartyBoost, which is the updated version of Connect+. This means you can use the app to sync multiple speakers together. Because they both have PartyBoost, each device is compatible with other PartyBoost devices, but not compatible with older JBL speakers that have Connect+. So if you have a Charge 4 or other older JBL speaker, you won’t be able to connect them to Charge 5 or Flip 5.

Although the PartyBoost features work better than Connect+, the app is still frustrating and disappointing. We are still waiting for an in-app equalizer, and there is no indication that this feature is on the way any time soon. And you really can’t manage the device or check battery life via the app, either. 

As mentioned above, neither device has a built-in microphone. Although we love both speakers, the lack of connectivity features and the limited app makes them feel like they are lacking “smarts” considering the price range.

Final thoughts

If you want to pay extra for better sound and more volume, purchase the JBL Charge 5. And if you want a longer battery life and a device that can charge your phone or another device, Charge 5 is again the clearcut winner.

On the other hand, if budget and portability are a higher concern, choose the Flip 5. Since the Flip 6 is due out in November 2021, you should be able to find good deals on the Flip 5 in the coming months.

Because most of the other features (waterproofing, software, lacking a built-in microphone and aux port) are nearly identical, the decision should be simple.

And regardless of your decision, you really can’t go wrong in the sub-$200 price range by choosing either the Flip 5 or the Charge 5.