JBL Xtreme 3 has a larger battery and higher maximum volume than JBL Charge 5. But the battery life of Xtreme 3 is actually shorter than Charge 5, and the sound quality isn’t much different between the two speakers.
At about half the price, Charge 5 offers a better value. You still get great sound quality and a power bank which can charge your phone from the speaker’s battery. And most of the features are the same.
Since Xtreme 3 and Charge 5 have the same build quality, software, warranty, and waterproofing, it makes sense to choose the more portable and less expensive Charge 5.
Both speakers have high ratings in almost every category, and should be on your shortlist of best portable bluetooth speakers.
Sound quality for both speakers is good-to-great.
Charge 5 is a quality speaker, especially for the sub-$200 price. It gets louder than you would imagine, and is clear throughout pitches. Bass is impressive, and a definite improvement on previous generations of the JBL Charge. To some ears, the bass will sound over-pronounced. This didn’t bother me since the bass had a nice booming quality to it, rather than a cheap subwoofer rattle. Plus, most of us expect a portable, waterproof party speaker to have some bass.
Considering the price difference, you would expect Xtreme 3 to have significantly better sound. In testing, there really wasn’t a lot of difference. Xtreme 3 was lacking in bass, at least relative to my expectations. Maybe I was overhyping the product based on the MSRP of almost $400.
None of this is to say that the Xtreme 3 has poor sound quality, or even average sound quality. It still sounds excellent — I just expected it to be much better than Charge 5, and it really wasn’t. Basing things strictly on sound quality, the Charge 5 is the clear winner due to the significantly lower price.
We have previously complained about the lack of an equalizer for the Charge 5. Even at a premium price, the Xtreme 3 also lacks an equalizer.
Xtreme 3 features stereo sound, while Charge 5 is mono. Although some users knock Charge 5 and other mono portable speakers, I think the difference between mono and stereo speakers is overblown.
The simple fact is that both of these speakers are less than a foot long. So, having a “left” and “right” channel speaker is somewhat overrated, since both speakers are in essentially the same place. In side-by-side testing, there really isn’t much difference between the mono Charge 5 and the stereo Xtreme 3.
Additionally, Charge 5 can still technically play in stereo, it just requires two speakers. With another PartyBoost speaker (most new JBL portables are compatible), you can pair the speakers and make one speaker a left channel and one a right.
Total output for Charge 5 is 40 watts, while Xtreme 3 has a total output of 100 watts. But, again, the difference isn’t as noticeable as you would think. The Xtreme 3 does get louder, but the difference is subtle.
Sound winner: Charge 5 (equal sound quality for a lower price)
The design of these two devices is very similar. The Xtreme 3 looks like a larger version of the Charge 5. And, really, that’s basically what it is.
Xtreme 3 is about 3 inches longer, and 2 inches taller and wider. Along with the larger size, it is roughly twice the weight of Charge 5.
The esthetics of both speakers are excellent. The latest generation of both speakers has the new JBL design, with a more noticeable JBL logo integrated into the design. The earlier generation Xtreme 2 and Charge 4 both had a red JBL badge logo, which looked like a cheap sticker slapped onto the face of the speaker. With Xtreme 3 and Charge 5, the logo actually enhances the look.
The device also has a kidney bean shape, rather than a more typical cylinder shape. Because these speakers should be used on their base, rather than sitting on one end, the unusual shape is not a problem. In fact, I like the look of it, because it adds some visual interest relative to previous models.
The main difference, besides the larger size of Xtreme 3, is that Xtreme 3 has hooks built into the top of the device. It also comes with an included strap. This is a nice feature, even if it isn’t 100% necessary. At more than 4 pounds, the device lacks portability regardless of whether you use the strap.
Both speakers have sturdy build quality and rate well for durability. Dropping these speakers from low heights shouldn’t cause any damage, although neither is shockproof.
From a functional standpoint, the Charge 5 is well-designed, but the Xtreme 3 is better.
Both speakers have a power bank function that allows you to charge a phone or other device. Because the battery is larger on the Xtreme 3, the power bank has a little extra juice to it.
Charge 5 is available in six colors, plus camo. Xtreme 3 is available in two colors, plus camo. And neither device has a built-in microphone, so these speakers can’t be used for speaker phone or voice assistants.
The main advantage to the design of Xtreme is the 3.5 mm aux port. Unfortunately, JBL decided to eliminate the aux port on Charge 5. The Charge 4 (and previous generations) had a 3.5 mm aux port. The Xtreme 3 doesn’t include an aux cable, though.
One last difference is that Charge 5 includes the charging cable only, while Xtreme 3 includes the charging cable plus the wall adaptor.
Design winner: Xtreme 3 (larger power bank and a 3.5 mm aux port)
Both the Xtreme 3 and the Charge 5 score well for durability. Neither device is shockproof, but each should hold up well to water, elements, and drops from normal heights.
Both speakers are IP67 rated, meaning they are waterproof and dustproof.
The materials and build quality is solid on both the Xtreme 3 and Charge 5. Because the design and build quality are nearly identical, we would expect that the durability is nearly the same, also. The only difference is that the heavier weight of Xtreme 3 makes it more susceptible to damage from being dropped.
Overall, these devices are both durable enough for everyday use, and for taking to the beach or on the boat. Like any portable speaker, drops have the potential to cause damage. But if you take decent care of these speakers, you should get at least a few years of life from them without issue.
Durability Winner: Tie
Charge 5 wins this category, but Xtreme 3 also rates well.
Xtreme 3 has a 10,000 mAh battery, while Charge 5 has a slightly smaller 7,500 mAh battery.
Although the battery on Charge 5 is smaller, it is also a lower output speaker. So, the smaller battery powers Charge 5 for 12+ hours, but the larger battery powers Xtreme 3 for only about 10 hours. Charge 5 is rated for 20 hours of playtime, and Xtreme 3 is rated for 15 hours. But in testing, both fell slightly short. If you run your speaker at the 30-40% volume range, it seems possible that you could achieve the runtime that JBL advertises.
Both devices have the power bank feature, meaning you can use your speaker to charge a phone or other device. This is an excellent feature to have. Because the Xtreme 3 has a larger battery, it should be better able to charge a device without running itself low on battery.
Battery Winner: Charge 5 (by a slight margin, due to longer runtime)
We have previously written about how unimpressive the software on Charge 5 is. Even though there have been changes made to the JBL Connect app (now called JBL Portable), the software is still limited. This will be true for both Charge 5 and Xtreme 3.
Both Charge 5 and Xtreme 3 lack an equalizer. Thankfully, both have great sound quality right out of the box. But still, if I’m paying $150+ for a speaker, I want to be able to adjust the sound. If I’m paying $350+, it is even crazier that I can’t adjust the sound.
Even besides the absence of an EQ, the JBL app is lacking. Some simple controls, like pairing multiple speakers, are available through the app. But there really isn’t much customization or functionality added by the app.
Xtreme 3 and Charge 5 each have PartyBoost, which is the newest JBL party mode. Unfortunately, this means that any older JBL speaker without PartyBoost will not be compatible with Xtreme 3 or Charge 5. Because Xtreme 2 uses Connect+ rather than PartyBoost, you won’t be able to sync Xtreme 2 and Xtreme 3. And likewise with Charge 5 and Charge 4, which also uses Connect+.
Both speakers have Bluetooth 5.1, which is a current version of bluetooth with high performance. In our testing, neither device had connection issues.
Both JBL speakers have a 1 year warranty from the manufacturer. And JBL customer service generally rates well.
Software Winner: Tie
But price matters.
If you are paying MSRP, or anything close to it, Charge 5 provides greater value. Xtreme 3 has a larger battery and higher maximum volume. But at twice the price of Charge 5, it should be twice the speaker, and it isn’t. In reality, the differences between the two are not large enough to justify spending hundreds of dollars more.
If you are looking for a waterproof, well-built portable speaker with excellent sound and a power bank, both of these products are worth considering. But if budget is any concern, save the money and choose the Charge 5.