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Bluetooth speakers seem to have exploded in the last few years and have dropped massively in price while gaining features and in technical abilities. The MPOW Bluetooth Armor typifies this perfectly. It has good specs with 5W of sound and a 1000 mAh or around 12 hour battery and is somewhat waterproof, can run via a 3.5mm audio cable if you can’t use Bluetooth and can even act as an emergency battery.
The Armor is a small orange brick with black grill sides. It feels solid in the hand the name Armor is not for play – I’ve dropped it a couple of times and the floor came off worse. On the top are the only three buttons. A central power button for switching on and off and syncing and a ‘-‘ and a ‘+’ button that adjust volume and if pressed and held for a couple of seconds skip forward or back. On the front left is a pass through to let you attach a loop to the unit. On the right hand side are the ports which are usually covered by very stiff rubber covers. These include a USB power out, a microUSB power in and a 3.5mm audio in.
On the top of the speaker is a single LED that acts as the alert for being on and for Bluetooth paring information.
Great sound, tiny size
No matter how good the design or how tough they are speakers should be judged by their sound in the end. The Armor does not disappoint. At only 5 Watts I was expecting a reasonable level of volume and fair quality. I’ve just tested it and my decibel meter showed a peak of 122 decibels which is roughly equal to the volume in a typical nightclub and a little louder than a pneumatic drill. The sound has more bass and less over-treble than I had expected and while an audiophile could probably pick holes in it for a portable Bluetooth speaker it is excellent.
It’s sound quality is more than enough for most around the house uses and for trips out and in the last couple of weeks I’ve taken it in the shower to listen to podcasts, had it by the pool playing with the four-year old, taken it on picnics and just listened around the house.
Water and dust resistance
The Armor is water and dust resistant up to IPX65 standards. What does that mean? IP codes or Ingress Protection codes define how well electrical items can resist water, dust and physical impact. In the case of IPX65 this means “Powerful water jets Water projected in powerful jets (12.5 mm nozzle) against the enclosure from any direction shall have no harmful effects. Test duration: at least 3 minutes,Water volume: 100 litres per minute,Pressure: 100 kPa at distance of 3m” and resisting an impact of …”2 Joules or 500 grams dripped from 40cm”.
In real world terms this means you can take the Armor in the shower with you and drop it from waist height without worrying, but if you drop it in the pool you’re unlikely to get a working speaker back out again.
Emergency battery – charges via USB
The Armor is run via an internal battery that charges via a microUSB port but MPOW have added an unexpected bonus. A full size USB power out port. This means the Armor can also act as an external battery. I’d recommend keeping it as an emergency only battery as its internal capacity is not that high and if you use it to charge your phone then it will lose power to run the speaker but the extra facility is very much appreciated.
MPOW are a Chinese company that focuses on Bluetooth smartphone and tablet accessories. Their corporate design objective is to focus on simplicity and usability rather than overwhelm with features.
RRP: £37.87, currently £28.39 on Amazon or £23.39 with code ( 7PF7SDCM )
MPOW have generously given us a code to hand out to our readers to get a further £5 reduction. The code is 7PF7SDCM and can be entered on checkout at Amazon.
Included in the box/price
MPOW Armor Bluetooth Portable indoor/outdoor speaker and a micros USB charging cable, 3.5mm cable.
Size: 5.1 x 3.1 x 3 inches (if there’s multiple components, list all sizes, for bags list size of special pockets)
Speaker: 5 Watt driver and bass radiator
Bluetooth: A2DP and AVRCP compatibility
Item Weight: 218 grams
Waterproofing: to IPX65 Standard
Battery: Integrated with the ability to charge external devices up to 1000mAh
Colour: Black grill, orange body with black highlights
Material: Metal body with rubber trim and port covers and a plastic buttons
Warranty: MPOW has a graduated warranty depending on time. 45 days return for a complete refund, 18 month warranty on the speaker for any manufacturing defects.
The Armor is made for anyone who wants to listen to music or podcasts on the go. The orange and black colouration is eyecatching and attractive but may not be suitable for a professional environment. If you are called whilst using the Armor it is possible to answer a call with it and the speaker plays the audio from the call – be aware that there is no microphone and the mic on your phone will be used.
Ease of use
Pairing with the Armor is straightforward – press and hold the main power button from a switched off state for 5 or six seconds and the speaker will emit a loud two tone and the LED will flash between red and blue. Start up your phones Bluetooth and the Armor should appear as a pairing option. Select it and it will pair. When you switch the Armor on next time it will try and connect with the phone and will play a distinct two tone when it manages.
Volume up and down is straightforward. A single press on + to go higher and on the – to go lower. Skipping forward or back needs a single press and hold for a second or two followed by releasing.
The Armor generally works via Bluetooth streaming and supports Bluetooth 4.0 and supports A2DP and AVRCP. If you do not have access to Bluetooth music can be played to it via the 3.5mm jack but if you do so it obviously makes it harder to carry and removes the water resistance.
The Armor has a single LED that can show either red or blue. When you switch it on on it flashes blue until it manages to connect and at that point it switches off. It also comes on with a flashing red when low on charge, fixed red when being charged, flashing blue every 7 seconds when connected and alternating blue and red when it is attempting to pair. None of these are crucial – the Armor could be operated entirely without looking at it and with any form of colorblindness. Conversely the LED could be covered up if you find it a problem without significant degradation of the speaker.
There are two aspects to hearing – the sound quality and audio feedback of control.
From a control perspective when you switch on there is a distinctive three part tone that indicates it has connected. Switching off produces the opposite noise. Pairing produces a third tone sound. All are distinctive and easy to tell apart.
The sound played through the speaker is higher quality than I had expected. It has less base that a larger speaker would and is a little tinner but for most uses is surprisingly good. I do not have the most refined ears in the world but for standard bit rate MP3’s the Armor provides a good option.
Input and touch
The speaker has a total of three controls on its top. All three are concave to prevent accidental presses and need a reasonable but not large amount of force to press. They all have audible and tactile clicks when pressed giving good feedback. Skipping forward or back tracks requires a press and hold for around 2 seconds.
The ports are covered underneath rubber protectors and these are very stiff to get open or closed. They are printed with the type of port that is covered and the direction to open but do take a certain amount of strength and precision to open. This is unavoidable if you wish to keep the Armor water resistant. It would be possible to remove these if you did not mind the reduced water resistance but this would void the warranty and is not recommended.
The Amour is very simple to use. Once it is paired you need to only press the power button for a couple of seconds and the speaker will switch on and auto connect. Depending on your bluetooth settings this may optionally be enough to auto-start playback of your music or podcasts.
Bluetooth speakers have gotten a lot better in the last few years and have got a lot more popular. There are many versions on the market designed foe either the home or on the go and the MPOW Bluetooth Armor speaker is among the best of the bunch. Its tough, easy to use, distinctive and very water resistant. Add to that the price and its ability to charge other devices and its a winning combination.
If you are going on holiday or out and about this summer and need a compact Bluetooth speaker the Armor is highly recommended.
The review is based on the Mpow® Armor Portable Bluetooth Speaker kindly provided by MPOW.