Sometimes a headphone is not the best solution for listening to audio. For instance when you want to share some music from your phone with others. Or when you're doing some manual work where headphone wires will get in the way. I'm often in that last category when I like to listen to an audio book whilst doing some menial task that doesn't require much brainpower.
A Bluetooth speaker that easily connects with your phone is a pretty proposition for me.
The Arctic Sound S113BT is a handsome looking device but can it deliver?
A few years ago we had a look at the Arctic Sound S111 Notebook Speakers
– very inexpensive but quite decent (and still in use in our family!) so we are reasonably acquainted with the "House of Artic"...
There isn't much that the folks of Arctic in Europe don't know about Personal Sound systems, like headphones, earphones and small speaker systems. That knowledge translates into really useful accessories that everyone could use.
Let's look at the S113BT where BT stands for Bluetooth, of course.
I just love the design of this diminutive box! Smart with two metal grilles front and back and a rubberized surround with the Arctic logo splashed on the top. Bold yet subtle in black on black.
Three multifunction buttons on the front and the power switch and micro USB and Line In ports on the side. That's it. But inside is what counts: It's got 2 Full Range Drivers (1.5" each) with 2 x 1.5" Bass Radiators. For an output of 2 x 3W RMS.
For the average person that doesn't mean much but my experience with this unit is an above average sound – much better than expected from such a small box!
And it makes an amazing difference with the teensy speakers you have on your smartphone!
Speaking of which... Pairing a new device used to be a hassle, certainly with older versions of Bluetooth. The new 4.0 BT makes it all that much easier and particularly the NFC method. Near Field Communication is found on most smartphones and it literally makes for one touch pairing! Love it.
So, with Bluetooth streaming of audio and no power cables it is a place-it-anywhere device.
After about 8 hours playing music you might want to recharge but it has a 700 hours standby time.
I mentioned the multifunction buttons. They can answer calls and end or reject them. You can even use the S113BT with voice recognition.
Three words: Just Get One!
It's one of these purchases that is a no brainer for most folks. In Australia you can find them from about $83 in 6 funky flavours. I'm glad they send me the black one (it's more in keeping with my age, I guess...) but choose any of the bright colours if you don't want to lose your speakers!
You can find them here.
Great for the spoken word, very decent for music and just very handy all around.
Arctic Power Bank 4000
We've reviewed a fair few fuel tanks or power banks over the years.
So there's not a lot of excitement to report or new features as a power bank is – essentially – just a glorified external battery for your devices that can be charged via USB.
Main thing to look for is capacity. This one is designated the "4000" indicating it has a capacity of 4000mAh. Most smartphones have a battery of around 2000mAh so in theory so can recharge your dead flat phone about twice with this unit. More likely you'll use it for quite a few top ups when you're travelling.
In fact, that's what this one will be used for when our daughter and her husband are travelling to Canada in a few weeks' time. That's the ultimate test for this device as they will be away from power points for days on end.
The form factor is important too. I gave them a few different units to choose from and they chose the Arctic 4000. It's a svelte little unit, about the same size as a small smartphone. In fact, it is just about the same size as an iPhone 5 but with 3 times the capacity.
It comes in my favourate colour (you guessed it: black) and has the standard USB and micro USB ports. The on/off button has a red/green LED light that indicated the level of charge and discharge in 25% chunks.
As usual I am always pleading with manufacturers to add one or more bright white LEDs to the unit so that it can be used as an emergency torch so that would be the only feature I would miss on this power bank. That would be quite handy as the "shelf life" of this unit is about 3 years. So the discharge over that time is extremely low and that gives such a great standby time!
Kudos to the Arctic team for their design. And for about 40 bucks you can choose from 4 colours.
Last good bit: this unit comes with a travel pouch (so does the S113BT speaker unit above) and it has both a micro and mini USB charge cable.
I would not be caught travelling without one of these fuel tanks!
You can get them at Amazon.