The JBL Link 10, 20, and 300 offer great sound and Google smarts, but which is right for you?
For almost a year now if you wanted to bring an Assistant powered speaker into your home you only had one choice; it was either the Google Home or nothing. Now that’s all changing with a number of new speakers featuring Google’s Assistant, coming from a variety of brands. This includes a trio of speakers from well-known brands such as JBL with their LINK series. The LINK series consists of the LINK 10, LINK 20, and LINK 300 speakers. So, continue reading to find out the differences between them and which one is right for you.
LINK 10 and LINK 20
The LINK 10 and LINK 20 are quite similar for the fact that they are both vertical standing portable Google Assistant speakers with a nearly identical design except for a difference in size. Both speakers use a plastic top, fabric bodies with rubber accents, and provide a solid rubber base to prevent it from moving while playing bass heavy music.
They also include a light up WiFi indicator and four dots on the front of the speakers. The dots are used as a visual indicator and will pulse when activated by your voice as well as show the volume level. It’s not as visually pleasing as the light up indicators on the Google Home or Amazon’s Echo products but it gets the job done.
On the back above the power button there are five dots that light up, indicating the current battery level. Under the power button is a button to mute the mic, while controls for volume, play/pause, a button to trigger Assistant, and a button for Bluetooth reside on the top. The microphones can also be found on the top of the LINK 10 and 20 speakers. While they did a decent job of hearing me, they did struggle more during music playback than my Google Home, especially at higher volumes.
Unfortunately, both speakers use the old standard micro USB port. It is still disappointing to see any device released in 2017 that doesn’t use the USB-C port, which is hardly new at this point. The port itself is hidden under a flap on the back which assists in making these speakers waterproof. Thanks to the IPX7 waterproofing on the LINK 10 and 20, you won’t have any worries about spills or even if the speaker gets submerged in water.
Setup and Usage
The LINK 10 and LINK 20 were extremely easy to setup using the Google Home app available for Android or iOS. Adding the speakers took less than a couple of minutes and could not be more simple. They both offer 2.4GHz and 5GHz WiFi depending on your needs and what your router supports. It is important to note that 2.4GHz will give you more range and that is essential for a smart speaker. Without the internet, you lose all voice controls and Assistant capabilities on these speakers. At that point, they become no better than a dummy Bluetooth speaker.
During my usage, I found both the LINK 10 and LINK 20 offered fantastic range on my WiFi network. Connection strength and distance will vary greatly depending on your router, however. The biggest issue I had with the WiFI connectivity on these two speakers was when I powered them off and back on.
Most times they didn’t want to reconnect to my network. I would power them on, watch the WiFi symbol light up, and watch the four dots on the front flashing for a few minutes waiting for it to connect. Eventually, I would give up and power it off and on again. It usually took an average of 2 to 5 attempts before it would actually connect. This was very frustrating and happened even when I was within 10 feet of the router.
Another pet peeve I had with the LINK speakers was how loud the Assistant’s voice was. No matter what level I adjusted the main volume of the speaker the voice was quite loud. This made it problematic to use the speaker late at night or earlier in the morning because I didn’t want to wake others. My Google Home allows the voice to get much quieter depending on the main volume level.
The JBL signature sound is very much V-shaped with high highs and low lows. In my opinion, this works great for music, unlike the Google Home speaker which is much too strong in the bass causing music to sound muddy. Both speakers offered a nice clear sound with plenty of treble, a nice amount of bass, and they definitely get loud enough.
It’s worth noting that the LINK 20 was hardly louder than the LINK 10, if at all. The biggest difference between the two was that the LINK 10 was much stronger in the highs. So much so that when the volume is pushed to 70% or above the LINK 10 became piercing to my ears and depending on the song could be unpleasant to listen to. Below 70% the highs were still a little strong on the LINK 10 but they didn’t overwhelm the bass as much.
That being said, if you don’t plan on blasting the LINK 10 it provides a clearer sound than a Google Home with a decent amount of bass. If you do plan on cranking the volume often, the LINK 20 offers a more balanced sound without allowing the highs to become piercing at higher levels.
Battery life is another area where the differences between the LINK 10 and LINK 20 become more apparent. Whereas the LINK 10 is only rated for 5 hours the LINK 20 is rated for double that at 10 hours.
The LINK 300 is the biggest of this trio of Google Assistant speakers, but unlike the LINK 10 and 20 it is shorter and features a wider base. Not only is it a different shape but it’s also much heavier. Although, this shouldn’t matter much because without a battery the LINK 300 is not portable and will be a stationary speaker.
It still shares a similar style with the other LINK speakers because of its plastic top, fabric around the edges, and rubber feet on the bottom. One of the biggest ways the LINK 300 stands out is the with the use of a bass resonator on the back for deep thumping bass.
Another way the LINK 300 mimics the design of the portable LINK speakers is with the WiFi and Assistant indicator lights on the front. The WiFi light shows you when you’re connected to WiFi and the indicator light for Assistant lights up when you say “Ok Google” or “Hey Google.” It also gives you a way to visualize your volume level.
Along the top are the same buttons you’ll find on the other LINK speakers including a play/pause button, volume control buttons, a button to initialize Assistant, a Bluetooth button, and the addition of a button for muting the mic.
Hidden on the back the JBL LINK 300 is a micro USB port similar to the LINK 10 and 20. However, this port is for service only. The speaker itself is powered by a small round power plug. You’ll also find a reset button back there.
Setup and Usage
Similarly to the LINK 10 and 20, setting up the LINK 300 was a breeze. The Google Home app for Android or iOS makes it simple as can be and you’ll be using your new LINK 300 within minutes. You also have the option of using 2.4GHz or 5GHz just like you did with the portable LINK speakers. In the handful of times I disconnected and reconnected the LINK 300, I also encountered the issue where it didn’t want to connect one of those times, much like the LINK 10 and 20. Thankfully, since this is a stationary speaker this is an issue you’ll rarely run into.
Just as with the LINK 10 and 20 I found the voice of the Assistant to be too loud even with the main volume at its lowest level. This is unfortunate because it really does make me use the smart functions less in order to not disturb others. One piece of good news is the LINK 300 mic seemed to hear me better even when music was playing as opposed to the LINK 10 and 20 which struggled more during music playback.
The LINK 300 is much louder than the LINK 10 or 20 and provides room rumbling bass using the resonator on the back. Again, it features a pleasing V-shaped sound with high highs and low lows. This signature JBL sound works great for music and the highs were never piercing and the bass offers a nice punch to your favorite music. The volume is loud enough to fill a room and can be heard in adjacent rooms, so no worries here for filling your house with your favorite tunes.
Which is Right for You
No matter which JBL LINK speaker you buy, it will have good sound and all the smarts of Google Assistant. You’ll be able to control your smart home, ask questions, control your music, and take advantage of their ever-growing list of services. Which one is the right for you depends on your own personal needs.
If you’re looking for an all in one solution, with a smart speaker at home and a waterproof Bluetooth speaker on the go, then the LINK 10 and LINK 20 have what you need. The LINK 10 is the more portable of the two and the larger LINK 20 offers better battery life and has slightly better audio quality.
If you’re looking for something larger and louder to serve as the hub in your house with bass that can rumble the walls then the LINK 300 is the logical choice. However, at a starting price of $249.95, the LINK 10 at $149.95 and LINK 20 at $199.95 might be more appealing.
Despite a couple of nitpicks, I enjoyed my time with the LINK series of speakers from JBL. Each speaker feels solid, provides good sound quality, and offers a great alternative to Google’s offerings. Each speaker is available for purchase now from JBL’s site in either black or white.
If you can’t make up your mind then consider picking up more than one. Thanks to the grouping feature in the Google Home app you can play the same song across several speakers turning it into a whole home audio solution. You can also take advantage of the broadcast feature, so you can use them as an intercom system in other rooms.JBL LINK 10 JBL LINK 20 JBL LINK 300