Review Price £169.99
Unfortunately that's not the case, but not for the reasons we had expected. In the past we have criticised Beats earphones and headphones for being bass heavy at the expense of depth and clarity, but with the Pill the experience is reversed. Across a wide variety of music genres we found the Pill demonstrated excellent clarity and sounds particularly good on acoustic tracks, but upon switching to heavier rock, dance or hip hop tracks the low and midrange frequencies fall flat.
In all fairness thumping bass isn't expected for a small speaker, but it cannot match the bass performance of the Jambox and is comprehensively blown away by the Minirig. The latter in particular is multiple times louder, something the 3W total output differential doesn't suggest (again, always take wattagefigures with a pinch of salt). Yes the Pill will provide a healthy boost over your phone's inbuilt speaker, but it isn’t going to power an impromptu room party and the thin bass will be a shock to its core target audience.
When it comes to conference calls results are better. Callers can tell you are on a loudspeaker, but both parties can be heard clearly and the volume level is consistent - something that often afflicts smaller conferencing devices.
As for battery life, this is again a letdown. Bluetooth usage drains power rapidly and while Beats claims the Pill can last up to eight hours on a wired connection we found it drops closer to four/five hours over wireless. By comparison we got eight hours from the Jambox while the Minirig's wired-only limitation does see it last up to a staggering 60 hours.
We'll cut straight to it: the Pill retails for £169.99 which is a substantial amount of money. We referred to the Jambox as a "guilty pleasure" when it launched in 2010 at £159.99, but packs the same call conferencing functionality and can be found now for closer to £130. Meanwhile the Minirig sells for £90 and provides audio and battery life that are on a different scale to the Pill. That said it lacks Bluetooth or call conferencing – so you have to decide what matters most to you.
Interestingly at £170 the Pill also creeps unnervingly close to the Bose SoundLink mobile speaker whose original £260 RRP has been reduced to £215. The SoundLink is an altogether larger unit at 1.3Kg, but is also offers far superior build quality, audio performance and outright volume making it powerful enough to work as a kitchen or bedroom speaker when you aren't travelling.
A new year and a new product line, but it results in a familiar outcome as we again find the Beats by Dre product line has prioritised style over substance. In fact in the case of the Pill it is arguable that, despite high quality build materials, it doesn't carry off the same youth orientated design aesthetic that has seen millions flock to the brand. In isolation the Pill sounds reasonable, but it lacks bass and midrange compared to the competition and while it has reasonable call conferencing capabilities its price tag is utterly disproportionate to its abilities in such a competitive market. Then again, we still expect it to sell by the bucket load.
Beats Pill speaker not for you? Have a look at our round-up of the best portable speakers to buy
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