Review: Beats Electronics Beats Pill XL Bluetooth Speaker
Seemingly replacing the Beatbox Portable, and more in line with Beats Pill 2.0, Beats Electronics is rolling out its Beats Pill XL Bluetooth Speaker ($300). It shares the smaller unit's namesake shape, but this one is significantly larger at 13.3" long and 4.1" tall. Only available in black, the metal grille and rubber-coasted plastic are accented by glossy plastic on the back, where there's a handle for easy carrying. Built into the handle are the power button, volume controls, battery indicator lights, as well as power, audio in and out, and USB ports, hidden underneath a rubber flap. The necessary power cord and an audio cable are included.
Because of its large size, Beats Pill XL isn’t optimally portable, but the handle and 15 hour rechargeable battery help. It’s too big to fit into most backpacks if you plan on carrying anything else, but not so heavy that it can’t be toted around by hand. Much like with the smaller Pill 2.0, the front and back of this unit are made of two different materials. Instead of a rubber pad along the bottom, this one rests on the lower edge of its handle, where there are four small feet to keep it sturdy.
Except for the Beats button on the front of the speaker, which controls audio playback and phone calls, all of the other controls, and the necessary ports, are on the back of the handle. This includes the power, audio in and out, and USB charging ports — the last three of which are protected by a rubber door — plus volume and power buttons. A white light shows when a Bluetooth-enabled device is connected, and five more lights display how much battery life is left. There’s also an NFC touchpad. While iPhone users can almost always ignore the technology, it’s pretty cool here because it can be used to instantly pair two Beats speakers, even those of different sizes. When connected, their volume levels are still controlled independently.
While the audio performance of the smaller Beats Pill didn’t wow us, this one is far more impressive. Apart from a hiss when there’s no music playing, Pill XL puts out some seriously respectable sound. Thanks to its five driver system, the highs, mids, and lows are all properly represented. It’s an unusually strong high volume performer, clearer then Braven’s 850 HD at the same top levels. The strong bass is also more natural on this one. We really liked what we heard, and there’s enough sound to fill a medium room. In speakerphone mode, the mic picks up a fair amount of echo, but sounds similar to an iPhone being used the same way.
Whereas Pill 2.0 left a lot to be desired, Beats Pill XL hits on just about all cylinders. It’s an impressive sounding system packed inside a very attractive package, making it worthy of our high recommendation. Other than a lower price — $300 isn’t terrible, but it’s certainly not cheap — there’s not a lot more we could ask for from this speaker. While we’ve often been less than impressed by Beats’ audio products, this one has us excited.