When it comes to Bluetooth accessories for mobile phones, there are certainly lots of headsets and visor-mounted speakerphones to choose from. Various models, ranging from low-quality, budget-friendly to somewhat expensive, high-end products are available from several manufactures in many different outlets, from Best Buy to ShopCrackBerry.com, Wal-Mart and even convenience stores at gas stations. Considering the wave of local legislation banning cell phone usage while driving, this is definitely good for everyone.
However, as smartphone sales have skyrocketed in recent years and companies like Apple and Google have forced the likes of RIM and Palm to shift focus from enterprise to consumer space, there still aren't a lot of entertainment-driven Bluetooth accessories for mobile phones. What about those of us who love to listen to music or watch movies and YouTube videos on our phones but don't feel the equipped external speaker is adequate? As mentioned, there are the visor-mounted speakerphones for cars but when placed on a table they don't stand up easily, making it difficult to control the direction of the sound. If you should leave it in the house and forget to take it with you when you travel, you are without your speakerphone and-in the jurisdiction of some cities and states-without communication, thus negating its entire purpose. Headsets are certainly more portable and the direction of sound is obviously controllable, as it goes directly into your ear. But if you lose power in a storm and you want to watch a movie with your wife or roommate, or if you just want to listen to music while you read, without having something attached to your head, headsets or even headphones will not give you the perfect blend of sound quality and liberation that you desire.
Enter the exceedingly more narrow market of Bluetooth portable speakers. There isn't nearly the plethora of options available that there is for headsets but there are some decent products, including a couple from Sony and an offering from Cignias that seems to have vanished. At any rate, it seems that if you are able to find portable Bluetooth speakers for your BlackBerry, they often come at a premium. This is where the Motorola ROKR EQ5 comes in. With decent sound quality, perfect size and weight for mobility, and a great price-point, it has almost everything I was hoping for. Is it right for you?
First Things First
Before I give my own impressions and findings, let's run through the features and specs so you know exactly what you're getting:
Play music wirelessly from MP3 players, PC's or various mobile phones with Bluetooth Stereo Profile (A2DP)
Make hands-free phone calls using your phone's Bluetooth connectivity
Universal Compatibility: Tested with over 200 phones and works with brands like Apple (iPhone), Motorola (Droid) and, of course, RIM (BlackBerry).
3.5 mm audio input jack for music devices without Bluetooth
Wireless Range: up to 10 meters (33 ft)
Battery: Rechargeable, non-replaceable
Music Play time: Up to 6 hours
Talk time: Up to 12 hours
Standby time: Up to 150 hours
Inside the box:
MOTOROKR EQ5 (Obviously)
Charger (You're basically getting an extra phone charger; this uses the same micro-USB connection as your BlackBerry!)
Quick Start Guide (Which, by the way, is very detailed, but easy to follow and extremely helpful)
3.5mm Audio Cable for connecting to non-Bluetooth devices
Let's be honest: I'm not typically one to pay attention to listed dimensions on websites when ordering things, unless I'm buying clothes (and sometimes not even then). So when I first pulled this little guy out of the box I was extremely surprised by how small it is. Had I noted the listed dimensions of 4.6 x 2.55 x 0.59 inches I would have known that it's almost exactly the same size as my Storm 9530, but with a weight of 100g, it is considerably lighter.
The second thing I noticed right away was the nice, sleek aesthetic of the design. All black with a shiny chrome bezel around the front edge, it slightly resembles some BlackBerry designs, such as the Storm and the Bold 9700. The unit has 6 large, but not gawky, buttons centered between the two speakers, which allow the user to skip ahead or backward, play/pause the selected track, raise and lower the volume and make calls. The buttons are large and easily read, but are flush with the surface of the speaker and don't take away from its portability. The power switch is on the bottom edge of the device and locks in place, preventing the user from accidentally bumping it on or off. Perhaps one of the nicest features is the fold-out desk-stand which props the speakers up at approximately a 45 degree angle instantly enhancing the environment wherever you go. Rounding out the design are the necessary inputs: well-concealed and covered micro-USB port for charging, a 3.5mm audio jack for external audio sources and a built-in microphone for hands free calling.
Setup and Use
Connection to the EQ5 is extremely simple and takes a matter of seconds. Check out the video at the top of this post for my Easy Setup Guide.
The sound quality is much better than the external speaker on my Storm 9530. It's clearer, louder and has a much more dynamic range than any built-in speaker I've personally heard on a phone. It even maintains great clarity at its maximum volume with very little, if any, distortion. While it has great clarity and excellent highs and mids, my biggest complaint with this speaker is easily the lack of low-end tone. There is almost zero bass in this unit and there is no way to adjust the sound to bring up the low end or tweak any settings. For a speaker with "EQ" in the name, I found it very disappointing that there is no access to a graphic equalizer, either on the device or as a setting from the phone. With this being a rather inexpensive device and considering the portability, versatility and functionality, I don't fault it too much for this one flaw. However, I would personally trade some of the compactness of the design for larger speakers that could handle some bass. As a musician and somewhat music nerd, that matters to me perhaps more than it might to other people, but it is definitely worth mentioning and worth taking into consideration before purchasing this unit.
As far as usefulness and functionality as a whole, I definitely find the EQ5 to suit my desires. It's good for adding music to a workout, while reading, hanging out on the deck or porch, or while getting ready for your day. It's not really ideal for parties, due to the lack of bass response and though it has excellent clarity on both the sending and receiving ends, it's not ideal for phone calls in your car as there is no real way to mount it anywhere, unless you just keep it in your cup holder or on the seat next to you. I really didn't have any problems with the device other than those already mentioned. I found that after the initial setup it connected quickly every time and cooperated well with most applications. The only trouble I had was with MLB At Bat 2010 for BlackBerry and not the device itself.
Overall I am extremely satisfied with this speaker. It's a great product for anyone who wants to enhance the sound of the music stored on, or streaming to, her BlackBerry. It is very portable and durable as it could fit into a pocket or a purse without worry of buttons falling off or any sort of screen getting cracked. Despite the lack of bass, it also provides great sound quality and volume for the size. At a price of $99.95 on ShopCrackBerry.com, I would recommend it highly.
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