(Pocket-lint) - Accessory maker Belkin might not be the first name that springs to mind when it comes to speakers, but if you’ve bought cables or other tech sundries you’ve almost certainly heard of it.
And, since wireless charging has been a trend, it’s also been at the forefront of that movement, producing all kinds of chargers for the Apple Watch and Qi-enabled smartphones.
And that’s the starting point here for this device newly announced at CES 2020 – a 10W wireless charging cradle underneath which is a Google Assistant-powered smart speaker. However, it seems that Belkin knew its own brand wouldn’t be enough to convince purchasers to opt for it, so it has enlisted another name – French audio specialist Devialet.
There’s little doubt that Devialet have the pedigree in terms of their Phantom series of speakers, but it isn’t particularly well-known in the UK or US. The Phantom lineup is well-and-truly premium and, while this is certainly cheaper than other offerings Devialet has been involved with, it is still a not-insignificant £280.
- Doesn't look great when there's no device charging
- Two finishes available
The Soundform Elite is available in two different colour finishes – grey/white and black. That’s important because the former looks rather like a few other Google Assistant devices out there. That’s not necessarily a bad thing and the slightly spherical design also marks it out from the crowd.
The wireless charging cradle on top doesn’t look great when there’s no phone present, especially on the black version. It’s difficult to know what could have been done to mitigate that, but it does mean this won’t necessarily be the first device you’d want on your sideboard.
Audio performance and rivals
- Beefy bass, punchy sound
- Costs more than most other smart speakers
- Full Google Assistant support
As the volume goes up, there’s little doubt that this device can really pack a punch. Now this comes with the caveat that we were on the CES show floor which is rather noisy, but we felt the sound was superior in quality to the Amazon Echo and Echo Plus.
That said, it’ll be interesting to compare it to the Amazon Echo Studio, Sonos One and Google Home Max, for example. The Sonos and Echo Studio cost less and doesn’t offer the wireless charging, but we’ll compare the two when we test out the Belkin away from the show. In terms of bass the Soundform Elite sounds punchy and you'd never have thought such beef was coming from a device this small.
Devialet worked on the acoustic tech and brought its own SAM audio tech to the device and it also designed the tweeters inside the compact unit.
We learned during a previous chat with Belkin about the new speaker that lot of work had to be done to minimize interference from the wireless charging and minimise vibrations from the speaker which could potentially move the device in the cradle and interfere with the charging.
Naturally there’s full Google Assistant support, so you can play music from various services, control your smart home devices, get timers and reminders and find information online.
It’ll very be interesting to see how this device is received by consumers – and how well it performs when we come to review it. It’s in an expensive bracket thanks to the beefy sound but being in between the Echo Studio/Sonos One and the Apple HomePod means it will have a huge challenge to establish itself among the other players and prove itself worthy of consideration.