Some weeks, there are so many tall-skinny cylinders sitting around my apartment you might think I spend my time as a wizard in The Cones of Dunshire. Sadly, you'd be wrong. The job of a WIRED Gear reviewer does not include making civilizations to collect cones. It does involve testing a ton of can-shaped portable speakers. The JBL Link 20 is one my favorites, and it's half off through April 27.
Usually speakers come in, and I test them, and then they leave my cluttered life. But the JBL Link 20 (8/10, WIRED Recommends ) has been so reliable and useful that I've kept it around for nearly a year and a half. It's a Google Home speaker that lets you speak to a voice assistant hands-free, like all of the best smart speakers these days. This one has Google Assistant. Unlike many smart speakers, it's also waterproof (it floats!), can connect via Bluetooth, and has a battery that holds a 10-hour charge.
JBL's Link 10, Link 300, and Link 500 speakers are also on sale. The smaller model has weaker battery life and the larger two don't have batteries at all, but all three are also Google speakers I recommend.
When you buy something using the retail links in our stories, we may earn a small affiliate commission. Read more about how this works.
Is the Link 20 for You?
Here's what I like and dislike about the Link 20.
WIRED: The Link 20 is merges the convenience and portability of the best Bluetooth speakers and the new generation of smart speakers for the home. I like that it has an extra light to show its Wi-Fi signal strength, and a light-up indicator for battery life, too. Muting, volume, and pausing are easy, as is activating Bluetooth. It can also charge while standing up which isn't always true for bottle-shaped speakers.
Since it's a Google Home speaker, setup is also easy. Just download the Google Home app, click to set up a new device, and you're pretty much done. Google Assistant is currently more capable than Amazon's Alexa assistant when it comes to networking speakers and answering questions.
TIRED: The only issue I've had with the Link 20 is that it has such a strong microphone, it sometimes overpowers my other Google speakers. Sometimes, even if I'm talking to a speaker in the kitchen, the Link 20 will try and answer. Closing my bedroom door fixes this problem.
If you've ever heard a JBL speaker, your ears will feel at home. JBL's are not as clear as the absolute best speakers, like those from UE or Sonos, but they do the job well. The Link 20 can play Lizzo's new album with the best of 'em, and I can't say I've cared about much else for the past couple weeks.
- The quietly lucrative business of donating human eggs
- Are we there yet? A reality check on self-driving cars
- Futurism has led to fascism. It could happen again
- What gets lost in the black horror renaissance
- How a scammy phone call led to the robocall king
- 📱 Torn between the latest phones? Never fear—check out our iPhone buying guide and favorite Android phones
- 📩 Hungry for even more deep dives on your next favorite topic? Sign up for the Backchannel newsletter
You can easily connect two other Sonos speakers for surround sound, or add a Sonos Sub to the mix to deepen those explosions.The Beam isn't the absolute best soundbar on the market, but it's good enough for most living rooms and its compact size makes it usable for many size TVs. If you own a Fire TV, the Beam can play movies and TV shows with voice requests, and will likely gain new abilities when Google Assistant is added.Buy the Beam for $399 from Amazon or Sonos(The Polk Command Bar ($250) is a workable, cheaper alternative)4.