Review: Beats Electronics Beats Pill 2.0 Bluetooth Speaker
Beats Pill 2.0 ($200) is the second edition of Beats Electronics' highly portable Bluetooth speaker. "Pill" is more than just a name, as it also accurately describes the shape of the 7.5"-long unit. Available in a number of color schemes, including the pictured white version with gold accents, the speaker is made of plastic and metal components. It's rather feature-packed for such a small device, with speakerphone capabilities, physical volume controls, audio in and out ports, and even USB charging output. The internal battery lasts for seven hours of audio playback, and multiple Pill speakers can be paired simply by tapping them together. A carrying case, audio cable, micro-USB cable, and wall adapter are included with Pill 2.0.
The strongest feature of this speaker is its design. From the way it looks to the materials used to how it’s all put together, it’s very clear that the designers at Beats were on the top of their game with this one. On the front, a curved metal grate covers the four speaker drivers underneath, but leaves them visible. The back is smooth, soft touch plastic that feels great.
There’s also a 1” segment of that material bisecting the speaker vertically, framed on either side by metal accents. Here, you’ll find the microphone at the bottom, below a Beats logo that doubles as a multi-function button, and volume controls. Flip it around to the back and there’s a power button in the center, flanked by audio ports off to the left, and a Bluetooth indicator light, micro-USB input, and NFC touch point to the right. A rubber pad on the bottom keeps the speaker in place, and the USB charging port is hidden under a center flap.
While Pill 2.0’s look and feel are big successes, the audio quality — the most important feature of any speaker — leaves a lot to be desired. It seems the company did the best it could with the small, shallow enclosure, but the setup certainly doesn’t put out $200 worth of sound. As mentioned, there are four small full-range speaker drivers arranged horizontally across the unit. This means none of them are dedicated towards bass or high-end performance; instead, they each attempt to cover the whole audio spectrum.
While the highs are relatively clean, bass is the first thing to disappear in any song that has a wide audio range. This is surprising, considering the Beats brand is so well known for its bass performance. We also found there to be distortion at top volume levels. Ultimate Ears’ UE Boom delivers much stronger performance at the same price. Speakerphone performance is pretty respectable though; our test caller reported performance just a small step below the iPhone’s own performance.
Beats Pill 2.0 has plenty going for it, including great looks, nice audio sharing options, and the ability to charge an iPhone on the go. If it sounded better, it’d be a real contender for the top speaker in the category popularized by Jawbone’s original Jambox. Unfortunately, the audio performance is just lacking in a lot of ways. For those simply looking to stream audio at close range, who aren’t concerned about bass performance, and are willing to drop a significant amount of money, it’s an acceptable option. Overall though, it’s worthy of our limited recommendation. We’re holding out hope for a better sounding Pill 3.0.