There is no denying that technology has brought a level of convenience and enjoyment to nearly every aspect of our lives, and that includes the outdoors. The proliferation of smartphones and tablets have put a great deal of information right int he palm of our hands, not to mention plenty of options for entertainment, navigation, and communication. It has gotten to the point now that we rarely leave home without these gadgets, whether we’re setting off to run errands around town, or flying to the far side of the planet.
One of the more popular accessories for these smart devices is a Bluetooth speaker, which allows us to listen to our favorite music, news reports, or podcasts while on the go. And over the past few years, few companies have produced speakers that are more well suited for the active, outdoor lifestyle than ECOXGEAR
. Their products are rugged and durable, easy to use, have been designed to take anywhere with us. But of all of their devices that I’ve tested so far, none compare with the new EcoPebble Powerbank
, which brings some much appreciated new options that make it a more valuable both at home, and on the road.
For many of us who like to travel light, carrying a Bluetooth speaker on our adventures is a luxury that we often can’t often afford. After all, these devices do take up extra room in our backpacks, and add unnecessary weight. But ECOXGEAR has decided to counter these arguments by making a device that is more versatile and useful, eliminating some of the reasons why we might not want to take a speaker with us when we hit the road. In this case, the Powerbank not only cranks out our favorite tunes, it also has the ability to recharge our other gadgets, and comes equipped with a built-in flashlight capable of producing 200 lumens of light when necessary.
If you’ve ever used one of ECOXGEAR’s other speakers, you probably already know what to expect from the Powerbank in terms of build quality. The device is built like a brick, and feels nearly indestructible in your hands. It has been ruggedized against the elements, and is IP67 rated. That means it is waterproof, dustproof, and impact resistant, making it a great choice for use not just around home, but the backyard and campsite as well. In fact, the speaker is so durable, I wouldn’t hesitate to take it with me just about anywhere.
As with any modern Bluetooth device pairing is a simple affair that takes just a few seconds. Within a matter of moments you’ll have audio being wirelessly fed to the Powerbank, with sound quality that is crisp and clear, even at higher volumes. Audiophiles will probably find fault with the way the speaker performs, but the vast majority of us will find that it delivers solid performance with our favorite tunes, particularly for use in an outdoor environment.
Most Bluetooth speakers have a relatively small battery, which gives them somewhere between 8-12 hours of playtime depending on the device. But the Powerbank gets its name from the fact that it has a massive 10,400 mAh lithium-ion batter, which can keep it belting out music for up to 50 hours. That is impressive in and of itself, and means that it can probably get you through most of your adventures without needing a recharge.
But that massive battery isn’t just for keeping the speaker powered up. The Powerbank also has two integrated USB ports that allows it to transfer power to other devices as well. For instance, it can recharge most smartphones up to four times, or cameras as much as eight times. It’ll even power-up your full sized tablet once too. That means that when you carry this speaker with you, you’re also bringing a portable power source for your other devices too.
ECOXGEAR has also integrated a speakerphone into the Powerbank, which allows you to take calls right from the device when it is pared with a smartphone. This is a handy feature to have around home, and extends the usefulness of the device a bit further. This isn’t a feature that I use often, but it is nice to have in a situation where you want to have a conference call, or allow the whole family to chat at the same time.
The Powerbank’s built-in flashlight feels a bit like an add on that isn’t altogether necessary, but it is also nice to have in a pinch. As mentioned, the light source is 200 lumens, which is plenty bright for use around a dark campsite, or for emergency purposes at home when the power goes out. It won’t replace a trusty headlamp of course, but it is certainly nice to have in a pinch.
Despite its high level of build quality, enormous battery life, and level of versatility, there are still a few issues with the Powerbank. For starters, it is not only built like a brick, but it is about the size of one as well. If you like to travel light, you’ll probably still have some qualms about taking this speaker with you, particularly since it weighs 1.4 pounds. That’s a considerable amount of weight to add to your pack, although its increased functionality does help to offset that to a degree.
I also found that the range on the speaker’s Bluetooth chip wasn’t particularly impressive. In theory, Bluetooth should have a range of about 30 feet (9 meters) or so, depending on conditions. Some devices even have greater range than that. But if you wandered more than 15-20 feet away from the speaker while carrying the audio source, the sound quality dropped off and began to cut out. I ended up leaving my smartphone next to the speaker most of the time as that ensured a good connection, but if I carried the device too far away, it left others without any music to listen to.
Despite a few nitpicks like these however, I really like the Powerbank. It is a fun device that is truly built to survive in the outdoor. Because it is on the heavy side, I’ll certainly pick and choose the times when I’ll want to carry it with me. But it is a very well-built device that offers a number of features that I truly appreciate while on the road. The fact that it can not only play audio sources, but also recharge my other gadgets, is a big plus, and the flashlight is a nice bonus that adds convenience.
The EcoPebble Powerbank is available now for $99.99. It offers solid audio performance, outstanding battery life, and useful features that go beyond what most other Bluetooth speakers can provide. That makes it easy to recommend this device for anyone looking for some backcountry entertainment around the campfire, and it would be a great gift for the adventure traveler on your list this holiday season.
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