Thursday, January 21, 2021

Bang & Olufsen Beolit 20 Bluetooth speaker

The Beolit series made its debut in 2012 with the Beolit 12, which was an AirPlay enabled wireless speaker. Bang & Olufsen shifted gears to Bluetooth technology with the Beolit 17 that came out in 2017, and continuing with that is the 2020 model aptly named Beolit 20.

Amongst other advancements Bang & Olufsen has made, the one that stands out the most is the ability for Beolit 20 to wireless charge your mobile phone.

Pricing and availability

The Beolit 20 was released towards the end of 2020 and comes in two colors - Grey Mist and Black Anthracite. Bang and Olufsen has priced the Beolit spear at AED 2,525 which, like most B&O products, puts it in the luxury category.

Bang & Olufsen Beoli 20

(Image credit: Future)

Design

We don’t expect anything other than a classy design from Bang & Olufsen products, and the Beolit 20 fits right in. The size is somewhat similar to old-school transistor radios, but the design is modern and minimalistic.

The leather strap on top allows you to easily carry the speaker in style - though at 2.7kgs, it is on the heavier side to lug around. There is a USB Type-C port at the back for charging the Beolit 20 as well as a 3.5mm port for connecting wired devices.

The buttons for operating the unit are small and placed on the top of the speaker and have minimal markings around them. They’re not backlit - which would have been a nice addition -  but there aren’t many of them. You can basically control volume levels or play/pause music. 

There is a power button and a Bluetooth pairing button here too, though these could have been moved to the back next to the charging port. This could have allowed for larger button sizes or even buttons for skipping through media. 

Bang & Olufsen Beoli 20

(Image credit: Future)

Features

Given the price of the Beolit 20, it’s lacking in the features department. You only get Bluetooth 4.2 for connectivity, and there’s no WiFi mode as found on similarly priced speakers from competitors such as Sonos.

That’s a shame, as that means you won’t be able to use protocols such as AirPlay on the Beolit 20. While Bluetooth is more universal, it also comes with its set of limitations such as range and multi-room connectivity.

You could make the argument that battery life might not allow a lasting experience on Wi-Fi, but the original Beolit 12 did support AirPlay. Such features could have potentially been limited to only when the unit is plugged in, so you get the best of both worlds.

We do like the Qi wireless charging present on the top of the Beolit 20, which provides 5W of wireless charging. While that’s not super fast, the idea is more on the lines of not draining your phone’s battery instead of quickly charging it.

Bang & Olufsen Beoli 20

(Image credit: Future)

Performance

The Beolit 20 Beolit 20 features a 5.5-inch long-stroke wideband woofer, combined with three 1.5-inch full-ranges and two 4-inch passive bass radiators that, according to the company, gives you a 77dB bass capability and 93dB in mid-range loudness. If that's not quite enough power for you. you can pair the speaker with another Beolit 20 (or a Beolit 17 if you have one already) for stereo sound.

We played a variety of 90s music on the Beolit 20 and the sound was loud and punchy without any audio crackling, even with the phone 20 feet away from the speaker. Bass was punchy and the lyrics were clear enough to fill our office.

The Bang & Olufsen app allows you to change listening modes between optimal, ambient, party and speech. There isn’t an equalizer option, but you can move between warm and bright as well as relaxed and energetic. You can also disable Qi wireless charging from the app.

The Beolit 20 has a 3,200 mAh battery with an advertised battery life of eight hours on a full charge. We managed to get that out of the unit, though keep in mind that your mileage may vary if, for example, you’re blasting it at full volume or charging a phone.

Final Verdict

The Beolit 20 is a fantastic-sounding portable speaker with good battery life and support for wirelessly charging phones. However, it's priced to compete with other speakers that offer more connectivity options such as Google Cast and AirPlay 2 or voice assistants. Those kinds of smarts have become somewhat default features and not having them on the Beolit 20 puts it at a disadvantage.

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