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Sunday, October 6, 2013

[Review] Beats by Dre Pill

While not a new device, and not technically a "smartdevice," I did want to give my thoughts on the Pill wireless speaker from Beats by Dre. This was a recent gift and something I'd had high on my wishlist for a while now.  If you are in the market for something like this (or if you aren't now, you may be soon) and want to know how it works, what it does, and whether its worth its $199 pricetag (on sale now for $179!), read on!

What in the world is this funky looking thing?  I'm glad you asked...Beats by Dre (the company owned and founded in part by hip hop legend Dr. Dre) has produced a wireless bluetooth speaker they have called (appropriately enough) the Pill.  It functions as a wireless speaker for your Android/iPod/iPhone device, to not only listen to music but also take and make phone calls too.  I own a pair of headphones from Beats by Dre and I love them, so when I wanted something small and portable to play music in multiple different locations (the park, the beach, random birthdays and bar mitzvahs), I gave this a look.  As I was to celebrate a recent birthday, this went on the wishlist and the wife delivered.  Lucky me!

How It Looks:  

It ain't called the Pill for nothing.  It's....well, shaped like a pill.  Oblong and oval, its very much like its namesake.  It comes in a variety of wild and outlandish colors, but I went with a staple in black.  The front is a grill which is broken up by a matte finish band, which houses the control buttons and the ever present Beats logo.  The logo lights up while in use, making it fun to use during day or night activities.

The backside is made up of more of this matte finish, and its got a little rubber "foot" that runs the length of the bottom, allowing it to remain steady on any flat surface.  From an aesthetic, it's really, really cool looking.  I'm not going to lie - this is half of its appeal.  But beyond that, its smaller than you'd think, but this makes it very portable and easy to set up.  The USB charging cable plugs into the port on the back, and is surrounded by a colored LED that's red when charging, and green when its fully charged.  Pretty nifty!

How It Feels:

Everything about this device says "solid."  Its heavy when you first pick it up, and you "wow - this thing is well built."  And it is.  Aside from the paint itself (which may or may not get chipped, depending on your usage) this device feels like it could take the day to day grind with ease.  The included carrying case is soft touch, black like the speaker itself, and completely encases the Pill during transport.  The only down side here is the case fits only the device, not the AC adapter or cable, meaning you got to lug those along separate from the speaker.  A minor quibble, but one that you'd want to be aware of before you take it to a party and leave the accessories behind because you forgot them.

How It Works:

I was looking for something small, portable, and that packed a solidly loud punch to be heard over large, empty spaces like outdoor parks, or even the inside of homes.  And the Pill certainly hits the marks for all these areas.  Its plenty loud, easy to transport, and sets up like a cinch.  Simply turn on the bluetooth connection for your phone/iPod, turn on the Pill, wait for the audio tone that indicates you are paired, and play music.  Its that simple.  The audio tones for the Pill can be a little unusual at first (especially when you first power on the device, its a little like an air raid siren going off) but once its up and running the quality of the music more than makes up for these little quirky things.  The sound is crips, mids and lows come through clean, and while the bass is noticeably missing from bass heavy tracks, its not gone altogether.  Hip hop and rap enthusiasts could feel like their favorite songs are missing that punch, which seems odd from a Beats branded device, but the overall quality of most other types of music is more than acceptable.  

I've used it with both my G2 and iPod touch, and have had great results with both.  I took it to the park on a day when we did an impromptu BBQ, and threw it up on a bench and got it going in under 1 minute.  The music was loud enough and clear enough for me to sing along with, even over the sounds of the general public, and when it was time to leave, I simply threw it in the outer pocket of my backpack and had music on the go while we walked back to the cars.  Bluetooth range can be spotty (mostly noticeable on my iPod after the upgrade to iOS 7, but after the initial pairing the range issues seemed to have mostly gone away.  My G2 plays both music and speakerphone calls (yes, you can use the Pill as a portable speakerphone) quite well, and my only beef is when streaming video to my phone and using the Pill as an external speak, the battery drain is quite significant (probably no real surprise)  The battery is rated at between 4-5 hours off a single charge, and while I'd say this was a little high, I got 3 hours easily off one charge.  Pretty good for its size.
Image courtesy of Beats by Dre
The Pill comes in a wide variety of colors to please almost any palate or interior decorator, a few of my favorites (aside from black) are the silver and neon green - eye catching design and colors make these winners in my book.
Image courtesy of Beats by Dre
The Final Word:

The Pill from Beats by Dre is exactly what I was looking for.  Its small, well built, plays a variety of music types loud and clear, can be used as an external audio device for just about anything with bluetooth, doubles as a speakerphone (for my spur of the moment business meetings) and while its not the cheapest device of its kind, won't break your wallet either.  And the design touches make up for a bit of the cost in my opinion. There's a link at the top, showing the Pill as of the time of this writing on sale for $179 - if you've been on the fence about this device, and/or didn't know you needed one of these things until now, give the Pill a try. It might be just what the "doctor" ordered.  

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