Review: Ecoxgear EcoLantern Waterproof Rugged Speaker & Lantern | iLounge

Review

Review: Ecoxgear EcoLantern Waterproof Rugged Speaker & Lantern

B-
Limited Recommendation

Company: Ecoxgear

Model: EcoLantern

Price: $130

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Jesse Hollington

EcoLantern is Ecoxgear's newest addition to its rugged outdoor speaker lineup, combining a five-watt 360 degree speaker with a 400 lumen lantern. It's also IP67 waterproof and shock resistant and even includes a built-in bottle opener on the bottom. Unlike the company's recent EcoSlate, which we reviewed earlier this month, EcoLantern leans more toward being a multifunctional accessory for outdoor settings than simply an outdoor speaker.

Ecoxgear bundles a USB to micro USB cable and power adapter in the box with EcoLantern. The unit is cylindrical in design and measures just over ten inches in height. The lantern section takes up about the top third with the speaker in the bottom quarter and a mid-section that includes the controls and ports. EcoLantern features Ecoxgear’s signature waterproof cover over the ports, which include the micro USB charging port, a 3.5mm aux in port, and a 2.1 amp USB-A power port that can be used to charge an iPhone or other USB device from EcoLantern’s 4400 mAh battery. As with Ecoxgear’s other speakers, a master power switch is also located under the cover. A handle on the top allows EcoLantern to be carried or hung, and the bottom features a built-in bottle opener.

EcoLantern sports a large collection of buttons on the front side, arranged in a circular pattern, with the buttons somewhat color-coded between white for the lantern functions (and EcoConnect multi-speaker pairing) and orange for the audio functions. Two power buttons in the center control the lantern and speaker power separately, making it possible to leave the speaker off and use the lantern function only. Pressing the power button will toggle the lantern through three different light patterns — 360 degree illumination or 180 degree illumination on either the front or rear sides of EcoLantern. A mode button cycles through five different lighting modes, including simple warm white light, red light, color-fading light, party lighting that syncs with the music (off when music isn’t playing), and red and white flashing emergency lights. Two brightness buttons let you select from five different brightness levels when using warm white or red light modes. When turning EcoLantern off and back on it will remember the prior brightness setting, but will return to the standard warm white light mode.

Unfortunately, in terms of audio quality, EcoLantern was somewhat disappointing — not surprising considering it only packs in a single five-watt driver and appears to lack even a passive subwoofer, although we have to admit it does provide decent bass despite that. However, we’d call the sound unrefined at best, and with many tracks it borders on being a bit muddy, especially at higher volumes. We wouldn’t go so far as to call the sound bad, but we really expected more from a speaker in this price range. By comparison, Ecoxgear’s EcoSlate does much better for a mere $20 more, and it’s far from the best speaker we’ve heard in that price range either. Again, none of this is at all surprising — the size, design, and placement of the speaker produces pretty much exactly the kind of sound quality we’d expect, but definitely not what we’d call acceptable for a speaker in this price range. It’s clear that you’re paying a significant price premium for the built-in lantern.

One positive note, however, is that like EcoSlate, EcoLantern provided respectable quality for speakerphone calls. We’ve come to expect very little of speakerphones features in speakers like this — they’re more often than not tossed in as an afterthought — but EcoLantern provided very good clarity on both ends of the call, even when standing several feet away at the other end of a large room. Siri can also be triggered by holding down the play/pause button and Siri clearly understood everything we said to it through the speaker. EcoLantern also promises 20 hours of play time at 75 percent volume, but this is without the use of the lantern; the company doesn’t provide any information on what impact using the lantern will have on battery life.

We think EcoLantern still has some appeal to serious outdoor enthusiasts who want an all-in-one device like this and aren’t too concerned with sound quality, but we still think the price is on the high-end for what EcoLantern offers in that regard. You can get equivalent or better sound quality in sub-$100 outdoor speakers and easily find battery-powered standalone lanterns at your local outdoor or camping supply store for $20 — or for that matter pay only slightly more for Ecoxgear’s EcoSlate which provides significantly better sound quality and still includes a 200 lumen lantern on the side. While we like the idea of what EcoLantern offers, without better sound quality or a lower price tag, we can only recommend it to those who really have a need for a design like this and are willing to live with the compromises it entails.

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Editors' Note: iLounge only reviews products in "final" form, but many companies now change their offerings - sometimes several times - after our reviews have been published. This iLounge article provides more information on this practice, known as revving.

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