- Review Price: £35.54
However much we may extol the wonders of ultra portable laptops, there is one area where they all consistently fall short and that’s on the sound quality from their speakers. The emphasis on saving space and weight means laptop speakers are invariably tiny and underpowered and, if you like a bit of bass, you’re going to be left wanting.
Not that this tends to be a problem when travelling or listening on your own as you can just plug in a set of headphones and be done with it (not to mention you probably have a separate MP3 player for music on the move) but when you’ve arrived at your destination it’s much nicer to be rid of all the cables and just use a pair of speakers. And, if you’re away with friends or family, this becomes even more essential as trying to have a conversation can prove rather difficult when you’ve all got headphones on. The solution then is to take a set of portable speakers with you as well, which is where Sony’s SRS-T10PC set comes in.
Normally, using a separate speaker system would involve taking the speakers themselves, a set of batteries or power adapter, and whatever cables are required to connect up your laptop. However, with the SRS-T10PCs Sony has done away with the batteries, the audio cables and all the other extraneous bulk by using a single USB cable to provide power and audio. Combining this with a number of other neat little design touches and the fact they give decent sound quality and you have one of the neatest little portable speaker sets we’ve ever seen.
At first, there seems to be little to distinguish these from any other small portable speaker set but once you free them from their packaging the first trick up the SRS-T10PCs sleeve is soon revealed. The purple plastic cover that protects the speakers and bass ports actually doubles as a stand. To use it you simply open the cover slightly then the sprung hinges round the back will take over, pulling the cover round and under the body of the speaker set, positioning the speakers at an appropriate angle ready for listening. Just like the ingenious double hinged screen mechanism used on the HP Pavilion HDX9095EA notebook, it is a brilliantly conceived and executed example of good ergonomics.
As well as protecting the front of the speakers, the cover-come-stand also hides and holds in position the USB cable that wraps around the back for easy storage. By prizing the cover open or completely removing it, the cable can be unwound ready for use and just as easily tucked back away again when finished with. At around 34cm, it is a tad short but it can easily be extended with the use of a standard USB extension cable so you should seldom have any problems.
At 170mm long, 60 mm tall, and 23mm deep, the whole device is small enough to fit in the tiniest of rucksacks, or even a large pocket, and is light enough (182g) not to cause concern. However, the use of a shiny scratch prone translucent plastic for the front cover means you may want to invest in a small slip bag if you want to avoid them looking tired before their time.
Installing the speakers is a simple case of plugging the USB cable into an available port on your computer. Windows will recognise and install the speakers almost instantly and before you know it, you’re ready to go – never has the term ‘plug and play’ been truer. As someone that’s probably been witness to every conceivable problem that occurs from installing a piece of hardware in a PC, to have these speakers just work was quite a breath of fresh air.
Two drivers power the audio side of things along with two accompanying bass reflex ports positioned just to the inside of each driver. Together they manage to create quite an impressive sound that puts most small laptop setups to shame and can easily fill a small room. Bass is obviously lacking and if you plan to get down and party with a set of these you may be disappointed but for more sedate activities – like pre-clubbing drinking games – they will more than suffice.
I listened to a variety of music to put the speakers through their paces but started off with something clean and simple, namely Crosses from the album Veneer by Jose Gonzales. The gentle rhythmic guitar work is well defined but has a harsh edge and lacks depth as a result of the limited bass reproduction. Most strikingly, though, the speakers tend to struggle with the wide dynamic range so quiet passages get lost while louder sections kick in with a bit of a start. However, striking up something more compressed and a little less challenging, like Green Day’s Hitchin’ A Ride, showed the speakers were more than capable for a bit of that gosh darn popular music.
All in all these speakers are very easy to use and will improve the sound quality of any but the largest of laptops, which is great for someone that’s travelling light (i.e. for business). However, the lack of any other auxiliary audio input or battery power means they’re unsuitable for camping or any other occasion where you’re going to be away without your laptop. Moreover, if you are off on a proper holiday where travelling light is less of a concern, you’d be better served by a slightly larger, more powerful set.
If the speakers on your laptop are too weedy for words and you’re fed up of being tethered by your headphones, the USB powered Sony SRS-T10PC portable speaker set may be just perfect for you. However, the lack of battery power or auxiliary input means their uses are limited (campers and backpackers need not apply) and more powerful mains options are available for those holidaying in a hotel or self catering apartment.
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