(Pocket-lint) - There are stacks of portable Bluetooth speaker options on the market, each vying for space in a saturated space. Is one like the JBL Flip 5 worth your attention?

Design

  • Dimensions: 181 x 69 x 74mm / Weight: 540g
  • 11 colour options available
  • Bluetooth 4.2 connectivity
  • IPX7 waterproof (to 1m)

It was back in 2017 that we reviewed the Flip 4 which, naturally, the Flip 5 updates. The newer model is a whole new design, too, tweaking the form with some advances, while maintaining the format that makes this small-scale speaker so easy to carry around. 

The main front of the unit is material clad, with a rubberised edging and strip that runs around the back. It's within this section that there's a USB-C port used for recharging - but it's not hidden behind any flap so is really easy to access (the Micro-USB port of the Flip 4 was a whole other story).

Despite the exposed port, the Flip 5 is still IPX7 waterproof, meaning it can be submerged in up to a metre of water for 30 minutes. That's really handy for poolside parties, picnics in the rain and so forth.

As ever with JBL, the company likes to go quite hard with its logo presence. There's the orange logo front and centre, along with an embossed one to one side, where the main driver tube is located.

On/off and Bluetooth pairing buttons also feature on the rubber strip, which illuminate when the speaker is switched on. Pairing is super easy and the signal has remained solid in our testing, with no drop-outs. Additional buttons for volume up/down, play/pause and PartyMode also feature raised in the material section of the design.

It's that infinity-style symbol that represents PartyMode, making it possible to pair two speakers in stereo or up to 100 compatible speakers en masse within the JBL Connect app. As we don't own another JBL speaker, however, we weren't able to test this.

Sound

  • 4,800mAh battery capacity, up to 12hrs listening
  • 65Hz to 20kHz frequency response
  • PartyBoost: Pair two Flip speakers in stereo

We describe the Flip 5 as having a 'back' as this rubber strip adds some weight that naturally positions the product to face forward and up a little - that JBL logo always looking at you. Front-on, therefore, you'll get good delivery of sound.

Thing is, this isn't a 360-degree speaker, like many of its competitors are, such as the UE Boom 3. That's not necessarily a big issue, but if you want that full revolution of sound then a few extra quid can achieve that from other product choices.

As sound goes, don't let the Flip 5's small scale fool you. It's got the guts to deliver loud output and it's not shy of some bass either - something which often lacks in small speakers. This is possible given the chamber interior to the speaker, with the side driver cones allowing lots of movement to reverberate that low-end. That means impactful kick drums.

It's not the cleanest, most precise listen in the world - but it'll give you a decent wallop of sound that's not tinny, whatever your preferred genre of music.

The Flip 5 also has a much more capacious battery than the Flip 4 (4,800mAh, up from 3,000mAh) that'll deliver hours and hours of listening time. JBL claims 12, depending on how loud you listen, and we've been knocking out around 10 at a time with no problem. The easy access to the USB-C port makes charging simple too - although you'll need about two-and-a-half hours to fully charge it.

Verdict

If you're looking for a small, portable and waterproof Bluetooth speaker then your options are many. The JBL Flip 5 delivers ample audio output and ticks all those boxes too, making it a tempting little portable.

It also updates the design over the earlier Flip 4, adding more battery life, a much easier-to-access port (although the 3.5mm is now gone), improved sound, and USB-C recharging simplicity (not Micro-USB).

However, without true 360-degree sound, the JBL Flip 5 lacks that extra appeal in what's a rather crowded market. Buy one and you won't be disappointed though.

Also consider

Pocket-lint

Ultimate Ears Boom 3

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Slightly larger and with a 360-degree sound output, the UE Boom 3 is an obvious choice and has long led this market space. We prefer the design and more subtle use of logo too.

Writing by Mike Lowe.