Traditionally, we’ve never been big fans of Beats products. Through the years, the only Beats product that ever earned a high recommendation from us was last year’s Pill XL — and that was issued a voluntary recall for an overheating battery issue. The brand new Beats Pill+ ($230) gives some hope of starting anew — it’s the first new Beats speaker to be introduced since the company was purchased by Apple last year. Pill+ is the successor to last year’s Pill 2.0. This new Pill boasts 12-hour battery life from a 3-hour charge, and the speaker can charge an iPhone with its 1A USB port. Beats Pill+ comes in white or black, with a Beats-branded Lightning cable (used to charge the speaker), wall adapter, and a carrying pouch.
The overall design of Pill+ doesn’t differ too much from its predecessors — after all, it’s still a Pill. But now, there’s a power button, volume controls, an LED battery gauge, and a multifunction “b” button on top. The last button is used for playback and speakerphone controls. Despite serving a number of functions, the button works pretty well, using a series of taps to pause or skip tracks. On the back of the speaker — despite there being a partial speaker grille on the back of Pill+, it’s designed to be used facing forward — is a port cover that can be opened to reveal the charge out port, Lightning port, and audio-in port. It’s a nice, clean design that blends the Pill look with a bit of the Apple aesthetic.
Pill+ is about 8.25” x 2.625” x 2.5”. It weighs about 1.66 pounds. It’s a bit larger than UE’s recent UE Boom 2 — that speaker is a good comparison point for Pill+. Hard rubber runs around Pill+, and acts as its base as well as surrounding the controls.
Pill+ is a solid performer when it comes to sound, but we wouldn’t put it in the upper echelon within its price range. It does well across the sound spectrum for the most part, and the bass is pretty good, as well. Pill+ doesn’t have the strongest peak volume, but it gets loud enough for a room. We prefer listening in the mid-to-high volume range with this speaker. Speakerphone performance was OK.
UE’s UE Boom 2 — which sells for $30 less — can get louder, and it offers 360-degree sound, compared to Pill+‘s narrower listening range. While UE Boom 2 tends to push the vocals more to the forefront, Pill+ has a bit more of a balanced mix, which may be preferable on some songs — but on other songs, certain details seem to get pushed a bit too far into the background compared to the UE Boom 2. There’s just a different sound profile between the two, but overall, we prefer the UE Boom 2.
At this price, without absolute premium sound, one might expect waterproofing, which isn’t found here. In addition to recharging your iPhone’s battery, Pill+ can pair with another Pill+ to double the volume or provide stereo separation. Two friends can also control the music together, taking turns to DJ. All of these features are enabled by using the Pill+ app, which unfortunately has yet to be released in the App Store.
Pill+ is an interesting case. The feature set is good, but not great — not when similar speakers are offering waterproofing, among other things. Sound on Pill+ can be described similarly. It’s good, but doesn’t measure up to the best of the best. We don’t find Pill+ disappointing, though — it’s better than we’ve come to expect from Beats over the years, so the Beats name might really be on the upswing. How much of that you want to credit to Apple at this point is up to you. Pill+ would be more appealing if it remained at the $200 price point of the previous Pill 2.0, but the speaker still earns our general recommendation.
Company and Price
Company: Beats Electronics
Model: Beats Pill+
Compatible: Bluetooth iPads, iPhones + iPods