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Bluetooth speakers offer an easy and convenient way to take your favorite music everywhere. Given their rising popularity right now, manufacturers have been quick to flood the market with tons of products of all shapes and sizes. From the vast sea of Bluetooth speakers, today we bring you the Tronsmart Splash 1 Portable Bluetooth Speaker: a portable music-playing elliptical-shaped waterproof speaker. If you’re curious to learn how well this affordable device will play your music, follow along in this review to learn more about its capabilities.

Getting Started with the Tronsmart Splash 1 Portable Bluetooth Speaker

The Tronsmart Splash 1 Portable Bluetooth Speaker is delivered in a very compact square box, which includes a USB Type-C charging cable. There are no other accessories included, but it’s really all that you need to start listening to music.

The Splash 1 is a super portable device, which can easily fit in your palm. It features two buttons on the back (On/Off and Menu), while the volume, forward and back buttons are mounted on top, underneath the logo.

Using the Tronsmart Splash 1 Portable Bluetooth Speaker

The Tronsmart Splash 1 Portable Bluetooth Speaker features a practical (but built r in) lanyard design so that you can easily hang it anywhere. This makes the product suitable for travel, office, hiking, beach/pool, shower and many other scenarios.

Given the speaker’s size, we weren’t sure what to expect in terms of sound, but the device performed pretty decently in this department. According to the spec sheet, the Splash 1 boasts so-called “premium dual drivers with Passive Radiator for Tonal Balance.” It also offers True Wireless Stereo for Stereo Surround Sound. Moreover, Tronsmart says the device can deliver 15W stereo sound. This last specification places the Splash 1 somewhere in the middle, not too loud but not too quiet.

Of course, we’ve had louder speakers, but given the Splash 1 price range, as well as compact frame, the outcome was better than expected, especially indoors. On the other hand, if you want to use the Splash 1 at a barbecue or another type of social activity – anywhere where there’s a lot of chatter as well as background noise – you may have a bit of a hard time hearing the music over the racket.

Even in closed spaces, you shouldn’t expect the Splash 1 to convey outstanding sound. When maxing out the volume, for example, sound quality does take a noticeable dip, so we don’t recommend listening with the volume turned all the way up. With all that being said, the speaker does a decent job at playing your favorite tunes. There’s nothing spectacular about it, and that’s okay for the price and what its designed for.

Battery Life and Other Features

The speaker offers a pretty long battery life. You can get an entire day of playback if you’re willing to keep the volume to 50% or lower without the battery dipping down too much. The product is powered by a 2,200 mAh battery, which takes about 2 hours to fully charge with a USB Type-C cable.

The Splash 1 is rated as waterproof (IPX7), so you shouldn’t have any problem using it in the shower. In our testing, the product managed to do its job without skipping a beat, even with water splashing it continually during a 20-minute shower. The device should work just as well at the beach or the pool.

As for additional features, the speaker packs a cool light show. There are two lights at the base of the speaker that constantly change while you’re playing your tunes, which will make the whole experience more enjoyable. Users can also access their virtual assistants via the Splash 1, so you can talk to Google Assistant, Cortana or Siri just by saying the magic words.


The Tronsmart Splash 1 Portable Bluetooth Speaker can be purchased for $30.99, and for this price, the speaker offers quite a lot. It’s small and easy to carry, so you can take it with you just about anywhere. It has an IP7X rating, which means you can hang it in the shower or take it to the pool for some background music.

It has a decent battery life and can connect seamlessly to your smartphone via Bluetooth. However, it won’t sound as good as some of the larger speakers currently on the market. Despite its dual drivers and stereo sound capabilities, the Splash 1 falls into the average category when it comes to sound.

The Tronsmart Splash 1 Portable Bluetooth Speaker isn’t for audiophiles, but it’s a great starting point for someone who has never owned a Bluetooth speaker before and wants to see what such products can offer. The super affordable price alone is enough to make it an interesting choice for a larger audience.

Alexandra Arici

Alexandra is passionate about mobile tech and can be often found fiddling with a smartphone from some obscure company. She kick-started her career in tech journalism in 2013, after working a few years as a middle-school teacher. Constantly driven by curiosity, Alexandra likes to know how things work and to share that knowledge with everyone.

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Tribit Stormbox Blast Portable Bluetooth Speaker: The Best Portable Speaker For Your Party

Tribit StormBox Blast (Amazon) is another portable speaker that follows the tendency of looking like an old-school boombox, where the chunkier the body of the speaker, the better. It’s massive and powerful – the StormBox Blast produces enough sound to fill one or multiple rooms with music, even if it’s crowded with people. But can this party beast beat the competition?

I tested and reviewed the StormBox Blast portable Bluetooth speaker to make it easier for you to decide whether or not you should buy this biggest and most powerful speaker yet by Tribit.

Table of Contents

Tribit StormBox Blast: First Impressions & Specs

One of the first things you’ll notice about the StormBox Blast speaker is its size. Even though it’s a portable speaker, it weighs 11.6 pounds (or 5.4 kg) and is massive compared to other portable speakers that we reviewed, like the Soundcore Motion Boom Plus by Anker.

However, with great size comes greater sound. While the StormBox Blast probably won’t beat a standard subwoofer + soundbar combo, it’s more powerful than the above-mentioned Motion Boom Plus and JBL Charge 5 (both in the same price category as the StormBox Blast), on par with JBL Xtreme 3 (which is significantly more expensive).

Together with this wireless speaker, you also get 32 blazing LED lights. By default, the lights turn on whenever you turn on the speaker. You can control them using the lights button on the control panel on top of the speaker or via the Tribit app. While some people may find such an excessive amount of LEDs annoying, I found the lights rather useful, especially if you’re planning an after-dark party or a late-night BBQ outdoors.

Speaking of outdoor use, StormBox Blast is IPX67 water-resistant, meaning it’s fully waterproof. You can submerge the speaker at depths of up to 3.3 ft (1m), and it’ll withstand it for 30 minutes without getting damaged. This doesn’t mean you should try and dunk it into the nearest body of water as soon as you buy the speaker. However, you can safely leave your StormBox Blast near a pool without worrying about the splashes.

Here’s the full list of specifications of the Tribit StormBox Blast:

Dimensions: 8.9 x 16 x 6.4in (22.6 x 40.6 x 16cm)

Weight: 11.6 pounds or 5.4kg

Connectivity: Wireless distance – 40M, Bluetooth 5.3, USB-C port, 3.5mm AUX input

Water & dust resistance rating: IPX7

Output: 90W (2 x 30W Woofer & 2 x 15W Tweeter)

Frequency range: 50Hz to 20kHz

Channels: Stereo

Protocol: A2DP, AVRCP

Drivers: 4.2-inch bass driver, 1.2-inch treble driver

Battery: 18650 (3.6V*9 2200mAh)

Extra features: XBass boost function

Price: from $199.99 on the Tribit website or from $155.98 on Amazon

Design and Unpacking

Okay, I’ll admit that the design and the overall look aren’t this speaker’s strong suits. I guess they were going for a nostalgic retro look with the boombox shape and size. But in the end, it sort of looks like a big black plastic brick.

What’s in the Box

Before we continue dissecting the speaker’s appearance, here’s everything you’ll find in the box when unpacking your Tribit StormBox Blast:

StormBox Blast portable speaker

Charging cable

User manual

The flashing LED lights don’t help at all during the day. The speaker lights up like a Christmas tree when you turn it on, and the LEDs mirror every beat, which I found annoying sometimes. However, it leaves a completely different impression when using the StormBox speaker after dark. The lights can help create a playful atmosphere and serve as party lights. Plus, you can switch the lights off completely if you’re tired of them.

One last downside is the speaker’s size. Sure, you can still take it with you, chuck it into your car and bring it on a picnic outdoors. The speaker’s body has a handle on the top, but if you have to carry it by hand, the 11.6 pounds is a pretty significant weight that will tire you out quickly, especially if it’s not the only thing you have to carry.

I found that the best use for this speaker is to find a place for it in your house and leave it there permanently or semi-permanently. The bottom of the StormBox Blast is finished with two rubber feet that keep it in place.

The central grille is framed by two arrays of LED light in the front. Behind the protective grille, you’ll find two drivers lit up by two more LEDs.

On top of the speaker, you’ll find the central control panel. There’s the main multifunction button for playback and track navigation in the middle, a power button, a pairing button, LED, and an XBass button.

On the back of the speaker, you’ll find a connection panel hidden behind a protective rubber cover. There you’ll see the main port for charging your speaker, a 3.5mm AUX input, and a USB-C port for charging your external devices using the speaker’s battery.

Sound Quality & Features

Tribit StormBox Blast features Bluetooth 5.3 for dual connection. That means you can pair two devices to your speaker at the same time. Thanks to the Bluetooth range of 40m, two people can play and control the playlist at once, even from two different rooms. You don’t get aptX or AAC codec support but are only limited to the A2DP and AVRCP protocols here (both of which are basic Bluetooth streaming standards).

The speaker has two 1.2-inch tweeters and two 4.20-inch woofers. The impressive 90W of output combines with a frequency range of 50Hz to 20kHz. On the sides of the speaker, you’ll find dual passive radiators that help enhance the bass response.

StormBox Blast delivers not just good sound but superb sound. Expect textured vocals, robust and powerful lows, clear mids and highs, enough to balance the heavy bass floor.

Bass and volume are two areas where this speaker truly shines. The added XBass feature can be controlled via the button on the top panel of the speaker or via the app. As the name suggests, this feature pumps up the bass on your tracks. I wouldn’t recommend using this feature indoors unless you’re having a party – the enhanced bass can make a lot of difference on higher volume levels and cause problems with your neighbors.

When it comes to the speaker’s functionality, the biggest issue is the lack of a speakerphone (which is present on a cheaper Soundcore Motion Boom Plus, for example). You can’t use your StormBox Blast to conduct calls or use your mobile device’s voice assistant. Using it as a portable speaker and a party starter is where the StormBox Blast’s functions end.

The Tribit App

The Tribit app is available for both Apple iPhone and Android devices, and I recommend downloading it straight away after you get your StormBox Blast unpacked.

Tribit has one app for connecting multiple devices. So if you own Tribit earbuds or another speaker, you probably already know your way around the app.

The mobile app offers a lot of useful features. You can perform your standard firmware updates, enable or disable the auto-shutdown and auto-hibernate functions, perform a factory reset, as well as use one of the EQ presets or create your own.

In the app, you can switch between the LED light show modes: one mode is beat-drives, and the other is more random. Mode 1 cycles through various colors on both side panels and the speaker LEDs, while Mode 2 keeps the speaker LEDs the same color while creating a rainbow effect on the side panels. The toggle switch on top of the screen allows you to switch the speaker lights off for an audio-only experience.

The app also allows you to see the remaining battery of the speaker, which is helpful when you’re throwing a party and need to keep everything (including the music) under control without being physically close to the speaker.

Battery Life

The StormBox Blast comes with nine 3.6V 2200mAh lithium batteries. Depending on the volume level and whether you have the XBass feature switched on, the speaker’s battery life varies from 20 to an incredible 40 hours. This means that when you’re not throwing long parties, you’ll barely need to charge it at all.

The speaker needs about 3.5 hours to charge fully from zero and comes with the charger included in the package.

While that’s already impressive, the best part about the StormBox Blast’s charging capabilities for me was the ability to use its USB-C port to charge your other devices. Basically, you get a 2-in-1 deal here: a portable speaker and a power bank for external devices.

Price & Competition

The StormBox Blast currently retails for $199.99 (for the US plug version) and $243.99 (for the EU plug version) on the official Tribit website. You can also find it cheaper on Amazon when there’s a deal or an active coupon. Either way, with StormBox Blast, you get way more sound than the price tag suggests, and if you can overlook the size and design flaws, you’ll get an excellent speaker for your needs.

As for competition, the strongest one in the price category is still the Anker Soundcore Motion Boom Plus. If you’re after a speaker with similar output, you can also check out the JBL Xtreme and Sony SRS-XB43, although you’ll have to pay more for these two.

Should You Buy the Tribit StormBox Blast?

Tribit StormBox Blast is one of the best party speakers you can find that are also portable and available for an affordable price. However, if you can’t imagine getting such a massive speaker, a good party alternative setup would be getting 2 of the Tribit StormBox Micro 2 (or even Tribit StormBox Micro). You can connect these two little speakers together via the stereo pair feature and create a stereo sound suitable for your house party.

If you enjoyed this speaker review, keep your eyes peeled for our review of the latest earbuds by Tribit – the FlyBuds C1 Pro.

Marshall Middleton Bluetooth Speaker Review: Punchy Bass In A Heavy Frame

The teenage version of me, complete with messy pages of Kerrang! and Mojo slapped on my wall, would be delighted to know that one day I could be blaring music out of a tiny portable Marshall speaker.


The company, best known for its range of towering guitar amplifiers has been slowly making the transition to more consumer products – think more headphones for runners and speakers for BBQs than Jimi Hendrix at Woodstock.

And now, a few iterations down the line, we have the Marshall Middleton. A speaker that is all about portability, survivability, and above all, big sound from a small package.

To see if it could live up to its legendary brand name and its many claims, I spent a few weeks with the Marshall Middleton to see how it stacks up.


If you’ve seen a Marshall device before, whether that’s a speaker, amplifier, pair of headphones or one of the many other devices the brand makes, then you’ve seen this one.

Black faux leather all over, with gold buttons and the signature gold Marshall logo, the Middleton gives a sleek and stylish look to a genre that can often be quite boring.

The speaker actually plays out of all four sides, through a grate on each part. However, the front of the speaker is unsurprisingly where most of the brute force of sound is emitting from.

On the top of the speaker, there’s a gold metal button, intended as the power button as well as the volume and skip buttons.

It’s not huge for a Bluetooth speaker, but it is surprisingly heavy. Despite its above-average weight, Marshall ships this speaker with an attachable wrist strap to help carry it or tie it onto bags.

This is clearly a strong strap, more than capable of holding all the weight, but that didn’t stop me frequently feeling like it was going to snap, leaving me with an expensive accident. 


The Marshall Middleton is simplistic, focusing on good audio and that signature Marshall design over a wealth of features. However, there are a few key things to note when using the device.

Once fully charged, you’ll get at least 20 hours of playtime. There is also an in-built power bank which allows you to charge devices from the speaker. However, this unsurprisingly will rapidly drain the battery.

Designed to be taken on the move, the Middleton is IP67 dust- and water-resistant, helping it to fend off some rain or a dusty festival.

If you like to customise your music more, Marshall offers an app to use alongside the speaker, tweaking the sound as you please. Equally, there are bass and treble adjusters on top of the speaker.


Thanks to its beefy size, the Marshall Middleton can pump out a hefty sound. It thrives in harsher genres, packed with bass and aggressive drum tracks. With its adjustable bass toggle on the top of the speaker, you can really customise the aggression of bass-heavy tracks.

This speaker, unsurprisingly with its history, especially thrives in rock and metal genres. The hard-hitting drums and bass backing of Rage Against the Machine’s Killing In The Name Of hits with precision and isn’t muddied like some cheaper speakers have a tendency to do.

The same goes for similar genres like Queens of the Stone Age’s Go With The Flow. A powerful drum backing and fuzzy guitar come through cleanly but with the kind of power you’ll find it hard not to be impressed by.

This emphasis on bass especially pays off in electronic genres. The slowly rising bass of Gosh by Jamie XX punches hard as the song goes on. As does Fred Again’s Marea with its complicated jumble of sounds spanning the many levels a speaker looks to achieve.

Sometimes the emphasis on bass can be overwhelming. Bury A Friend from Billy Eillish’s award-winning album pumps through a lot of bass, which, even with adjusted settings, becomes a bit of a mess through the Marshall speaker.

I was pleasantly surprised to see that, while bass is Marshall’s premiere game here, it isn’t a one-trick pony. Afghan Whig’s softly rising Birdlands is perfectly clean without imperfections in the playback, as is Polyphia’s Playing God, a song that really pushes your speaker’s soundstage.

This is not to say the Marshall Middleton is perfect. For the audiophiles of the world, there will be noticeable imperfections, especially on songs that have been masterfully crafted in the studio. But for a portable speaker of this price range, it is pretty fantastic.


The Marshall Middleton has a lot going for it. It’s sleek and stylish, built in a robust casing, it pumps out a rich sound in all directions, and thanks to its IP rating and strong frame, can take some falls, bumps and spills.

However, there are two crucial factors that hold this speaker back from being the perfect portable device. Firstly, it is pricey. Costing you £269, it costs more than most of its equivalent competitors.

Secondly, for its size, the Middleton weighs far more than it realistically should. It’s going to weigh down any bag it’s put in, and at its bulky size, isn’t exactly the most portable speaker out there.

If you can deal with these two factors, then the Middleton is a fantastic buy thanks to its combination of style and high-performance sound.

Alternatives Sonos Roam

Sonos has quickly become one of the biggest names in audio, capable of pumping out high-quality audio from small speakers. The Sonos Roam keeps things portable, packing that same power into a smaller frame.

At just £179, the Sonos Roam is surprisingly affordable for a speaker of this quality.

It is dust- and water-resistant, capable of being submerged in water – perfect for camping trips or somewhere it might get wet.

JBL Boombox

The JBL Boombox takes the phrase portable to its extent. This massive boombox speaker from a big-name audio brand is able to reach some incredibly loud volumes without forgoing audio quality.

It is also water- and dust-resistant and has a battery life of 24 hours. However, with its bulky size and high price tag, this isn’t going to be for everyone.

Sony SRS-XP500

The Sony SRS-XP500 is a massive outdoor speaker. Designed to get the party started, it is covered in flashing lights, able to pump out plenty of sound for any event.

It isn’t going to be the most finessed audio out there, heavily emphasising the bass, but if you’re appealing to a large crowd, it will be the perfect choice.

Read more:


Best Portable Audio Recording? Zoom H1 Review

Before actually owning the zoom h1, I did do my own research on the product. Everyone’s conclusion was that it felt like a cheap toy. However, I feel as though, while it is all plastic, it still feels sturdy.  I have dropped this mic before and it has yet to crack. (I hope it doesn’t of course!)  And upside to it being all plastic is that it is very light. The build itself is a very small mic intended for on the go usage. It might just be me, but there is something satisfying when you can buy an a product for use, and not have to worry about it getting scuffed up. Coming in an all plastic and cheap form actually makes me want to bring it around more. I toss it into my bag and go. And I think that’s a very important factor when considering this type of product to buy. Just don’t expect a tank when your buying this product. Keep in mind the satisfying buying price of it and you won’t have any complaints.

To be blunt the sound is fantastic.  With an onboard mic that you get with your typical DSLR, you’ll notice the sound levels are not equal. Every now and then I would record a conversation with two people, and while they are at the same exact distance from the camera, every now and then one voice would be extremely high while the other would be low.– Not with the zoom h1. If I aim the mic correctly, the audio is not only equal, but it is also accurate.Another problem that I had before using the Zoom h1 was the fact that my onboard mic picked up a certain humming noise in the background. The h1, as im sure many if not all external mics, fix this problem.  The Zoom h1 mic also removed the audio echo that I received with many other cameras. (Especially webcams)

I do not have a wind filter, as it does not come with one, but I have noticed, to no surprised, that in semi-windy condition, without a wind filter, it does pick up a lot of wind noise.  A LOT. Not a negative thing, that’s typical, but don’t be put off by it and buy a wind filter. (If you intend to work in windy conditions)

The Zoom H1 does cannot be directly connected into your camera. You must manually sync you audio. It could be a major pain, and it is something you definitely want to consider. I believe in the new Final Cut Pro X there is a way to automatically sync the audio, but even then, I would of course rather just have the audio recorded right into our DSLR. If this is a problem, you might want to consider the Zoom H1′s big brother: the Zoom H4n.

The zoom consumes only one AA battery, but I still wish it had a charging feature.  It also does have  tripod screw in so if you have an extra tripod you can mount it equally to your camera.

For a budget mic, I think it is a great product.  I do envy the Zoom H4n, but considering the price this product it is going for, I can’t complain much. It’s a mic, that I use to supplement everything, my DSLR, my webcam, and sometimes even my phone. The only downside I would have to say is, again, you have to manually sync the audio in post production. So do I recommend this mic? Yes, yes I do!

The Zoom H1, your portable audio recorder now the perfect supplement to any DSLR or video recording device. Small and affordable, but what does all of that sacrifice?

Review: Qwerkywriter, The Bluetooth Keyboard That Thinks It’s A Typewriter

I’m old enough to have started writing on a typewriter – albeit, as a kid. I couldn’t imagine going back to one now, but there is something rather lovely about the sound and rhythm of the keys. For creative writing, I actually use an app that creates simulated typewriter sounds, simply because I find that puts me in the right mindset.

So when I spotted the Qwerkywriter on Kickstarter ages ago, I always meant to check it out. A recent post on 9to5Toys reminded me about it. From photos, I loved the look. My questions were whether it would look as good in real-life as it does in the photos, whether it would turn out to be a novelty or a serious keyboard – and whether it could possibly justify that $349 price-tag?

So yesterday I tried it out with my iPad, and today I’ve been using it with my Mac – including writing this review on it – in order to find out …

Let’s start with the looks. At a casual glance, you really could mistake it for a compact typewriter. In fact, I’m pretty sure if you asked anyone who wasn’t familiar with it what it was, that’s what they’d say.

It has those lovely round keycaps with the chrome edging, the carriage-return bar, the paper-feed wheels, the lovely red tab and delete keys, and that proper three-dimensional look of a typewriter keyboard.

On closer examination, it gets a little less impressive. The chrome key surrounds are plastic, not metal, as are the keycaps themselves.

Close-up, then, it looks a little cheaper than it did in the photos. But it’s still undeniably a lovely-looking thing.

There’s a deep slot at the back designed to hold a tablet. It’s a multi-platform device that will accommodate just about any tablet on the market, and with my 9.7-inch iPad Pro slotted into place it really does a most convincing imitation of a typewriter.

The iPad is held securely in place when it’s used on a desk or table.

But I found that after using it for a while, the typewriter illusion had become so convincing that I simply picked it up by the base to move it and almost dropped the iPad in the process! It’s of course not attached in any way, merely resting in the slot.

I mentioned that the Qwerkywriter is not specific to iDevices, and that does pose a few issues. For example, the CMD and Option keys are the wrong way around, while the Fn key is in completely the wrong place.

The upper function keys, too, aren’t properly mapped. For example, F1 and F2 control the volume rather than the brightness of a Mac. Qwerkywriter tells me it has a firmware upgrade that fix the volume and brightness keys, but not the others.

One other minor issue with the usability of the keyboard – which the photo doesn’t capture – is that the Escape key is slightly awkward to reach because the carriage-return bar gets in the way a little.

Oh yes, the return bar. This is one element that isn’t purely decorative: it does actually function as an Enter key!

That’s definitely a fun touch, though I confess that I used it a few times and then just used the normal Enter key after that. You can also program it as a macro key, but with only five characters, it’s of limited use for that.

But enough of the aesthetics: what’s it actually like to type on?

It’s here that the price starts to feel a little more reasonable. The Qwerkywriter isn’t just a visual novelty, it is a proper mechanical keyboard. It has a very similar feel to a keyboard that uses Cherry switches, but the company tells me they couldn’t obtain these in sufficient quantities, so they instead used Kailh ones.

Cherry keys are German while Kailh are a Chinese copy, which of course immediately raises quality questions. In use, however, it felt to me extremely similar to keyboards I’ve used with Cherry switches. The travel is good, the feel is positive, and they have that lovely sound (Qwerkywriter has a recording here). The only question, then, is whether the Kailh switches would have the longevity of the real thing, and that’s not something I can tell from a short review.


The misplaced CMD and Option keys was a real usability barrier when using it with a Mac. I wasn’t so bothered by the numbered function keys as I rarely use them, but those two keys were a pain. However, if someone wanted to use the keyboard full-time with a Mac, there are ways of remapping the keys, so this is not necessarily a dealbreaker.

However, my bottom-line view after using it for most of a day is that, as a Mac keyboard, it’s hard to justify the money. It’s cute and all, but the typewriter illusion is less convincing when looking at a monitor, and there are far cheaper keyboards available with Cherry switches.

As an iPad keyboard, the typewriter illusion is much stronger. It definitely feels fun, and it is a very nice keyboard to use.

However, I rarely type on my iPad when I’m at home. In the home, my iPad is a tablet – used mostly as an ebook reader and Netflix device. It’s on-the-move where it becomes a pseudo-laptop, used for writing, email, messaging and so on. And that’s really where the argument for the Qwerkywriter started to look a little dubious for me personally. It’s a pretty heavy and chunky thing to carry around with you. So, much as I love it as a concept, and it mostly lived up to my expectations, I don’t think it’s actually for me.

However, that’s not to say it’s not for everyone. If you love it enough to want to use it full-time, then the one-time effort to remap the keys would be worthwhile. If you love typewriters but type a lot on your iPad at home, it really is the best of both worlds – giving you a convincing illusion with none of the hassles of the real thing. At $349, it’s a pretty expensive toy, but I can definitely see that some would consider it worthwhile.

The Qwerkywriter is $349 direct from the company’s own website. There are, of course, a huge number of Bluetooth keyboards available on Amazon – including ones with Cherry switches. Check out, too, the SteelSeries Apex M800 mechanical keyboard Jeff recently reviewed.

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Review: Can The Invoke Smart Speaker With Cortana Rival The Homepod?

With Apple’s HomePod set to to be released in stores in just a few days time, I thought it would be a great opportunity to take a look at a competing option, the Invoke by Harman Kardon. This Wi-Fi-connected speaker is powered by Microsoft’s virtual assistant Cortana.

Be sure to check out the hands-on video, especially to get a sense of what Cortana’s voice is like. Then, read on for our full review and opinion.

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Audio quality

If creating a smart speaker wasn’t enough, the Invoke is seemingly aimed squarely at the HomePod. Apple made the conscious decision to go with a more “premium” audio product compared to the questionably sounding Echo devices. Invoke’s audio was crafted by Harman Kardon, which is known for some impressive audio products.

That puts the HomePod and the Invoke in direct comparison as premium audio smart speakers, and differentiated from the swaths of cheap Google Home Minis and Echo Dots.

I was actually quite impressed with the audio from the Invoke, offering a surprisingly deep bass to compliment the solid mids. I did feel the highs could be lacking at times, but never messy.

It also managed to stay in control, even at higher volumes. I’m not sure that rap is the target audio this speaker was tuned for, but rock, classical, etc all sounded well balanced.


One of the biggest questions here is Cortana. I can say that after spending a couple weeks with her, I’m both impressed, and disappointed.

First, let’s talk about why I was impressed. The main reason is simply the quality of Cortana’s voice. She sounded quite pleasant, and more natural than Siri. She had quite a bit of inflection to her voice that was more fluent than competing virtual assistants. This was particularly noticeable in canned responses, like her telling a joke.

She also did a good job answering questions, when they were within her skill set. Sometimes I still had to rephrase queries however, like when pondering how many episodes there have been of The Simpsons.

On the other hand, Cortana’s skill set seemed limited. Especially if you don’t live in Microsoft’s ecosystem.

It can pull calendar appointments from your Office365 account, but that is it. Same with reminders and to-dos.

That is perfectly fine if that is where the bulk of your information is, but I know the vast majority of people are living in iCloud, or Google’s G-suite.

In use

It is capable of making calls, but only using Skype. When I did test out calls, people often said I sounded like I was in a tunnel, or distant. Oddly, you can’t use it for making calls over Bluetooth, like nearly every other Bluetooth speaker.

If you want to listen to music, you can stream your personal library over Bluetooth, or it has controls for Spotify, TuneIn, and iHeartRadio baked in.

I found the controls on the speaker itself quite pleasant, with a tactile ring around the top to adjust volume, and a touch sensitive surface on the top.

If you are worried about privacy, there is a physical button located on the bottom that allows you to mute the microphone so it isn’t always listening.

Wrapping it up

I both like and don’t like the Invoke.

The speaker itself sounds quite good and I would be happy to use it in my home. But on the other hand, while I like Cortana, the fact that reminders, to-dos, calendar appointments, etc all go to my seldom used Office365 account is kind of a dealbreaker.

Of course, we are on a more Apple-focused website so my concerns may be overblown, but honestly that is why I’d still prefer to pickup a HomePod over the Invoke.

The Invoke is in a nice position, squarely between the cheap and poor sounding Echo Dot and Google Home Mini, and the much more expensive Sonos products and the HomePod.

I could easily see Microsoft and Harman Kardon positioning this as more of a business device and leaning into the reliance on Microsoft’s services in the future.

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