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(Pocket-lint) - Some upgrades are big, and others are small - this is as true in the tech world as anywhere else in life. In the Wonderboom 3, we're looking at one of those smaller upgrades.

Ultimate Ears has chosen to not fix something that wasn't broken. Fair enough, if it ain't broke don't fix it right? It means though, that while the third-generation Wonderboom 3 is still remarkable in many ways, its shortcomings are a little bit more baffling than ever.

Our quick take

The Wonderboom 3 is a great little speaker, in a bunch of ways that are no surprise at all thanks to an incredibly minimal upgrade over the Wonderboom 2. You get slightly better range and a sliver more battery life but, otherwise, there's no massive change to speak of.

We're extremely disappointed to see the return of Micro-USB charging, though, when USB-C would be such an obvious upgrade, and that makes it a tighter-run thing than ever between the Wonderboom 3 and Wonderboom 2, which you can now likely find for a chunk less money.

Still, ignoring what might have been and taking it on what it is right now, the Wonderboom 3 is still a brilliant option for those in the market for a hardy, great-sounding compact speaker that will stand up to the elements while delivering excellent sound.

Ultimate Ears Wonderboom 3 review: Still packing punch

Ultimate Ears Wonderboom 3

4.5 stars - Pocket-lint recommended
For
  • Sound is superb
  • Stereo pairing is great
  • Even better battery life
  • So durable
Against
  • Still uses Micro USB
  • No major upgrades compared to last model

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Same excellent design

  • 104mm tall, 95mm wide
  • Weighs 420g
  • IP67 water and dustproof

Back when the Wonderboom 2 arrived in 2019, we were pretty struck by how similar it looked to the first Wonderboom. Well, we didn't know the meaning of similar - because the Wonderboom 3 is quite literally identical to its predecessor on the outside.

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The fabric all over, plastic on the top and bottom design returns without any tweaks at all, as do the trademark Ultimate Ears volume buttons emblazoned on the side.

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You again get a hoop for hooking the speaker to whatever you like, and a couple of buttons on the top for controls and to turn the Wonderboom 3 on and off. The bottom of the speaker meanwhile, houses an LED-lit outdoor mode button.

There are new colours to enjoy this time, including the Vivid Pink we've got but, in every meaningful way, there is total consistency with the last version of the speaker, which in fairness is no bad thing.

For one, you'd imagine that supply chain consistency is partly why Ultimate Ears has been able to introduce 31 per cent post-consumer recycled plastic into the build of the third Wonderboom, which is a welcome change.

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From another angle, there's no problem simply because the speaker still looks and feels great - it's light enough to easily carry around, durable enough to withstand a good few drops, and has waterproofing that means you can literally float it alongside yourself on the surface of a swimming pool without any trouble.

So, kudos to Ultimate Ears for deciding that there was no point ripping up such a successful design, and even more so for designing it a few years ago in the first place. It's stood the test of time, as this new version demonstrates handily.

Brilliant sound performance

  • Two 40mm drivers plus two 46.1 mm x 65.2 mm passive radiators
  • 360-degree sound
  • Outdoor mode for better outdoor sound

The good news for anyone who's heard a Wonderboom or Wonderboom 2 in action is that nothing's changed on the sonic front, either - this is still a hugely impressive compact speaker.

Occasionally, 360-degree sound can be less convincing in person than on a marketing sheet, but the Wonderboom 3's sound is impressively full and really does blast out in all directions, making it perfect stuck on a table in the middle of a room, or picnic if you want to fill out the vibe.

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That's not to say it can't work if you leave it on a bookshelf against a wall, as it's equally solid as a little speaker in that context, too.

As with older Wonderboom models, what's really impressive to us is the way it manages to crank out proper, full and rich bass without distorting the track you're listening to, keeping things balanced while packing a proper punch.

That's something that many worse compact speakers trip up on, but it's handled excellently here.

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If you're outside, meanwhile, the returning outdoors mode, activated at the press of a button, really does help with getting a more satisfying sound profile. It stops the speaker from wasting power on bass that'll just be lost in the ether with nothing to bounce off.

Instead, you get boosted mids and highs, which makes it easier to actually hear the speaker if you're more than a few metres from it, making it a genuinely decent little feature for when you take the Wonderboom out and about with you.

Great features

  • 40-metre Bluetooth range
  • 14-hour battery life
  • Stereo pairing

Turning to some of the under-the-hood features that the Wonderboom 3 brings, we get to some actual genuine improvements over the Wonderboom 2.

To be clear, though, they're incredibly modest updates. Battery life has been improved to a very decent 14 hours of playback, but it was already 13 hours in the Wonderboom 2.

Similarly, a wider 40-metre range is nice, but only a small boost compared to the last speaker's 30 metres, so hardly revolutionary.

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Here's the thing - that's really it. The speaker's feature-set is otherwise basically completely unchanged, a few years later.

The stereo pairing feature that works so nicely, letting you pair two Wonderbooms together for fuller sound and stereo channels is here again and works nicely again without any updates to speak of.

In all of the above cases, there's not much hugely wrong - small performance boosts and returning features might not be inspiring, but if they work well then we've no complaints.

However, there's one huge sting in the tail when it comes to the Wonderboom 3's lack of meaningful change: it still charges using Micro USB, a port hidden behind a flap near the bottom of the speaker. 

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We won't lie - we actually couldn't quite believe it when we first checked this and then verified it on our review sample. We're in the second half of 2022 - launching an upgraded version of a speaker for the mass market with a Micro-USB port feels like a bit of a joke.

It isn't like this is a dealbreaker that ruins the whole speaker, but we were complaining about the port on the 2019 Wonderboom 2, so for it to be unchanged years later in a supposedly upgrade version is pretty maddening. In a couple of short years this won't even be allowed in the EU, so we do have to ask why is UE persisting with it?

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To recap

The Wonderboom 3 is, like the two speakers before it, a great compact option that does brilliantly in the elements. For the first time, its use of Micro USB is genuinely off-putting but, apart from that, it's a shoo-in as one of the very best portable Bluetooth speakers out there.

Writing by Max Freeman-Mills. Editing by Britta O'Boyle.