Hands-on: Native Union Switch portable Bluetooth speaker review

The portable speaker market is rapidly becoming a packed one, with plenty of choice for those who want to play their tunes without having to dock their smartphone or tablet device. Beats by Dr Dre has recently added its Pill speaker to the mix, and Jawbone is still going strong with the Jambox, but now there's a new kid on the block, and it could give the others a run for their money.

Native Union's Switch portable Bluetooth speaker is more like the latter than the former, coming across like a giant Lego block, but it does have one massive standout difference: a volume dial that sticks out proudly and reassuringly from one end.

The speaker unit can be laid lat or on its non-dial end. It has rubber non-slip coating applied in both places, and is fairly nondescript other than that. That's somewhat the point, as it is meant to be simple and clean. It won't look out of place in any location, something that can't be said about Beats' Pill (which looks like, well, a pill).

Another major difference with the Switch is less aesthetic and more practical. As well as being host to your banging sounds, it can be used as a conference call hub. It is not a mere speaker, but houses a duplex microphone too, so you can chat to friends, family or work acquaintances over voice or voip calls through the Switch, without having to take your phone out of your pocket.

Battery life, after a full charge, should last up to 14 hours, and you can even leech power from the Switch into your phone, to extend its life too.

There are stereo drivers in the block, with an active bass unit and class 2 amplification. In effect, this gives the speaker a throaty, deep sound that's as good if not better than the Beats Pill to our ears. Where the Beats struggle with deeper bass response, the Switch packs a meaty punch. It's a small(ish) portable speaker, so don't expect miracles, especially at high volumes, but it will fill a normal-sized room with enough of a kick, without needing to crank it up to distorting levels.

Its Bluetooth connectivity is stable (up to 10 metres) and its a doddle to set up with any Bluetooth-enable device - we tested it with both an iPhone 5 and Samsung Galaxy S3. If you don't have a Bluetooth device, there's also an auxiliary input.

Other inputs and outputs include USB and a speaker/line out. Neat.

The Native Union Switch speaker is available in five colours - black, red, grey, blue and white - and costs £119.99. Check out more details from the company website, where you also buy it, at nativeunion.com.



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