The $100 JBL Link 20 is one of the best smart speakers for the price — its built-in battery can last up to 10 hours and the sound quality is great

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The JBL Link 20 (currently $99.99 on Best Buy) is a great budget option for a portable Bluetooth speaker.

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The JBL Link 20 (currently $99.99 on Best Buy) is a great budget option for a portable Bluetooth speaker.
source
Harman International Industries

  • The JBL Link 20 Smart Portable Bluetooth Speaker (currently $99.99 on Best Buy) comes a little cheaper than other portable Bluetooth speakers out there, but it doesn’t skimp on features.
  • The speaker sounds pretty good, plus it has a built-in battery that offers 10 hours of playtime.
  • It also has built-in Google Assistant, so when it’s on Wi-Fi, you’ll be able to control your home, ask questions, and more.

Gone are the days when getting multi-room audio in your home meant spending thousands of dollars and hours upon hours on research. These days, there are dozens of smart speakers, most of which can be used in multi-room setups. Not only that, but given the rise of the digital assistant, these speakers are also getting smarter.

JBL was an early adopter of the smart speaker and its range of JBL Link speakers is beloved by Google Assistant fans who want a smart speaker at a reasonable price. The JBL Link 20 Smart Portable Bluetooth Speaker (currently $99.99 on Best Buy), in particular, seems to embody this – it’s not expensive, has smart features so you can use it in different rooms depending on where you are at any given moment, and has a built-in battery so you can use it when it’s not plugged into an outlet.

But buying inexpensive smart speakers can sometimes be daunting – especially for those that care about good sound quality and their wallets. So, should you buy the JBL Link 20 or steer clear of it entirely? We put it to the test.

Design

As with any new product, the first thing you’ll notice about the JBL Link 20 is the design, which is sleek and minimal by speaker standards. The device is available in all black (which is the one I’m reviewing) or all white, save for a small JBL logo on the front.

On the top of the speaker, you’ll find volume and playback controls as well as a button to summon Google Assistant without having to say “Hey, Google.” On the back, you’ll find a power button with a battery indicator above it and a microphone mute button below. Last but not least, there’s a micro USB port toward the bottom of the speaker.

The speaker isn’t very big compared to other smart speakers today, but it’s not tiny either. That’s ultimately a good thing because it means there’s plenty of space for a durable built-in battery. For context, the JBL Link 20 is about two inches shorter and an inch smaller in diameter than the Libratone Zipp 2.

Another great thing about the JBL Link 20 is that it’s water-resistant. According to JBL, the speaker can withstand being immersed in up to 1 meter of water for up to 30 minutes, which makes it an excellent option for things like taking to the beach or pool.

Read more: The best portable speakers you can buy

It's water-resistant and has a long battery life of up to 10 hours so you can take it to the beach or pool with any issues.

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It’s water-resistant and has a long battery life of up to 10 hours so you can take it to the beach or pool with any issues.
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Harman International Industries

Specs

  • 3.66 x 3.66 x 8.26 inches
  • 2.09 pounds
  • 6,000mAh battery
  • Google Assistant, Bluetooth 4.2, and Wi-Fi support
  • Built-in Chromecast
  • 24-bit/96kHz sound
  • 10 hours of playback time

The design is sleek and minimal, and the control panel at the top of the device is intuitive.

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The design is sleek and minimal, and the control panel at the top of the device is intuitive.
source
Harman International Industries

Set-up process

Setting up the JBL Link 20 is extremely easy to do – especially given the fact that the Google Home app is simple to use. To set up the speaker, all you really need to do is turn on the device, download and log in to the Google Home app, then follow the instructions in that app. The speaker should appear automatically, which helps make it easy to connect to your home network.

Connecting to the speaker through Bluetooth is very easy too, it’s basically just like connecting to any other device. Simply open up the Bluetooth settings on your phone, and if the speaker is powered on, it should show up as an option to connect. Since Google Assistant doesn’t work without Wi-Fi, this Bluetooth connectivity would come in handy if you plan on using the speaker at the beach or the park so you can still listen to music if you want.

What makes it stand out

Perhaps the most notable is the fact that it has Google Assistant built right in. In other words, you can use the speaker to control your smart home, play music from your connected music streaming service, ask questions about the weather or news, and more. Google Assistant is largely considered to be one of the best digital assistants (if not the single best) and it’s a breeze to use when the speaker is connected to a Wi-Fi network.

Given the fact that the speaker has IPX7 waterproofing, it’s also very versatile. If you’re looking for something you can take on vacation, then the JBL Link 20 may be the speaker for you.

There’s also the sound quality, which is pretty good. The speaker offers pretty balanced sound – a slightly laid-back bass response with decently-tuned mids and good clarity in the high end. It’s important though to keep in mind that this is a budget speaker, and as such, it may not sound as good as an expensive option like the Sonos One.

Read more: The best portable speakers you can buy

The sound quality is good for a budget option, but audiophiles might want to upgrade to a more expensive speaker like the Sonos One.

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The sound quality is good for a budget option, but audiophiles might want to upgrade to a more expensive speaker like the Sonos One.
source
Harman International Industries

Cons to consider

While the JBL Link 20 generally sounds good, as mentioned, it could sound better. The bass extension in general could be a little deeper and we wouldn’t say no to a little extra bass response too. The same is true for the high end – the speaker is relatively clear and detailed, but having a little more sizzle in those ultra-high frequencies is always nice.

The only other issue you might have is that Google Assistant doesn’t work when it’s not connected to the Internet, so when you take the speaker to the beach, you’ll need to connect via Bluetooth. Technically, that’s not JBL’s fault – it’s just how Google Assistant works.

The bottom line

The JBL Link 20 is ultimately a great speaker for those who want a Google Assistant-powered speaker they can take on the road with them. There are a few things to keep in mind – like the fact that the sound quality isn’t quite as good as some other more expensive speakers and that Google Assistant doesn’t work without an Internet connection. Assuming you don’t have a problem accommodating those two things, the Link 20 is a great way to go.

Pros: Nice design, built-in Google Assistant, inexpensive

Cons: Sound quality isn’t audiophile-level

Buy the JBL Link 20 on Best Buy for $99.99

Buy the JBL Link 20 from Jet for $104.94