NFC offers the possibility of wireless charging, but what else can you do with it?
NFC charging plates are a nice idea, but who can be bothered to use them? But what about a charging plate that will also play your music? Enter the JBL PowerUp, an NFC/Bluetooth sound dock aimed at new Nokia Windows devices like the Lumia 920 and 820.
No, No, you won’t get earth-shuddering bass, but you do get a surprisingly full sound from such relatively small speakers
Available in black, white or baby blue flavours, the PowerUp is a solid-looking piece of kit — functional and reliable, if not necessarily sleek and cool.
The NFC plate on top of the device is marked by a rubber roundel with the Nokia logo in the middle. And embedded motion sensor recognises when you come close and activates four navigating lights that mark out the limits of the NFC plate. Place your NFC-enabled phone on here and it will charge while you play. It won’t play your music via NFC of course, for that you’ll also need to have Bluetooth switched on.
Wireless charging only makes sense when it’s convenient, and the PowerUp certainly offers that. Playing tunes from your phone via Bluetooth will soon bite huge chunks out of your battery life, so it makes sense to be able to simply rest your phone on top of the speaker to keep it fully charged while you play. Yes, you could plug it into the mains, but really, this is a lot more convenient, and rather than taking up the space of a charging plate, the PowerUp actually justifies its place on the shelf or desktop. And if you just want to charge without playing music, you don’t even have to switch the speaker on — so long as it’s plugged in it will still charge.
Around the back there’s a microUSB but that’s only for connecting to your computer to download future software updates. If you want a wired connection to the device you’ll need the 3.5mm headphone jack, for which there’s a lead supplied.
When it’s connected by Bluetooth you can use the controls on the PowerUp — touch sensitive buttons for play/pause, fast forward and previous track, plus volume. These won’t work if you’re plugged in using a cable — you’ll need to use the controls on your device.
The internal amps can pump out up to 10 watts of sound from each of the stereo speakers. They’re only 2.5in in diameter, and cover the full range — no woofers and tweeters here. That’s usually a recipe for a muddled sound stage but JBL’s hi-fi experience shows and these speakers manage to deliver a clearly delineated performance across the sound spectrum.
No, you won’t get earth-shuddering bass, but you do get a surprisingly full sound from such relatively small speakers, and the bass is well contained, tight and controlled, never seeming to get out of control, even with the big bass n drums on Tommy T’s The Eight Wonder.
Midrange and high end lack something of the immediacy that you get with higher quality speakers, but still manage to sound distinctive and clear both with delicate acoustic tunes like Gillian Welch’s Time (The Revelator) and big, booming dance tracks like Mint Royale’s Dancehall Places.
So far so good. But we had some problems connecting devices via Bluetooth. Most, like Nokia’s Lumia 920 and our trusty iPhone 4S had no issues, but our Samsung S4 couldn’t find it, though it seemed to find our other Bluetooth devices. NFC charging worked fine with all the NFC devices we tried though.
The JBL PowerUp is a compact little boombox that pumps out a respectably big sound. It looks fun but functional, rather than cool and suave, suggesting a lower price point than what they’re asking, but for the quality of the sound, and the convenience, it’s worth the investment.