Since the launch of this site, people have been asking us which is the better of two given products. We’ve given the answers via replies to comments on videos, articles, and in the forums. We’ve even given more in-depth answers in our monthly news show. We’ve come to realize that sometimes the quick answer just isn’t enough. Sometimes, we need to go further in depth.
To kick off this new feature, we decided that we would revisit one of the most common questions we see: “which should I buy, the Beats Pill or the Bose SoundLink Mini?” By the end of this article, the answer should be more than obvious.
Update 7/15: There is a new version of Bose – See our Bose SoundLink Mini 2 review
Build & Design
There are a lot of bad things about the Beats Pill 2.0, and don’t worry, we’ll get to those in a little bit, but one thing you can’t knock is the design. It does indeed look like an oversized pill, only with a flat foot on the bottom to keep it from rolling off the table. It’s sleek, slightly hip, and it’s available in a bunch of fun colors.
The Bose SoundLink Mini on the other hand, well, is a Bose product. The company isn’t exactly known for their bold design choices, opting for the more safe and reserved look in nearly every example. When the company does try to go for a more “fun” look, you end up with something like the company’s FreeStyle earbuds which sounded nice sure, but looked more like a pair of pants from the 1990s than something you wanted to wear on your head. Looking at the SoundLink Mini, let’s just be happy the company decided to keep it simple.
While Beats may have the advantage when it comes to looks, it doesn’t take the win in the build department. The Pill might be flimsy, but it’s nowhere near as solid as the SoundLink Mini. Sure, this has a slight downside in that it’s heavier, but you could use the SoundLink Mini in lieu of a hammer all day, then turn it on to blast some tunes. It might look a little scuffed up, but it would survive. The Pill wouldn’t be nearly as lucky.
Winner: Bose SoundLink Mini
Both speakers offer Bluetooth connectivity with roughly a 30 ft range. Both also offer a 3.5 mm aux-in jack for plugging your favorite non-Bluetooth devices in. Pairing is fairly easy with both, though Beats does get a point for allowing NFC pairing — something you can’t do with the SoundLink Mini. While reviewing both speakers, dropouts and stutters were rare, even while pushing the limits of the 30 ft range, though the Beats Pill 2.0 tended to completely drop the connection for a moment, while the SoundLink Mini would simply stutter a bit until I got back into range.
Looking at the controls, the race heats up. While the Bose SoundLink Mini offer more buttons, even to the point of providing dedicated mute and Bluetooth buttons, it completely lacks playback controls. The Beats Pill 2.0 on the other hand has fewer buttons, but it packs more functionality into its multifunction button which controls playback via a system of double and triple taps. The Beats Pill 2.0 also offers speakerphone functionality which the SoundLink Mini lacks, but call quality was so rough using the Pill that it might as well not have offered the functionality at all.
Bose chooses to do less with the SoundLink Mini, but is generally better at the few things it does do. Beats offers more options, but is generally more problematic when it comes to dropouts and call quality.
Both the Pill 2.0 and the SoundLink Mini claim up to 7 hours of playtime, so for once, we’re starting on fairly equal footing. With playback time being the same, it’s going to come down to charging. Let’s start with Bose.
The SoundLink Mini does a whole lot of things right, but it pulls a classic Bose when it comes to charging. The only charging method is via the included wall charger, meaning whenever you’re out of juice it’s time to look for an outlet and hope you packed the charger.
The Beats Pill 2.0, on the other hand, does the sane thing and allows USB charging, using the micro USB standard that at this point is so ubiquitous that the included USB cable is barely even necessary. Sure, the Bose SoundLink Mini does have a micro USB port on the back, but it’s only use it to plug the speaker into a computer to update its software.
Beats even goes a step further and includes a standard sized port on the back of the speaker, allowing you to use the Pill to charge your mobile devices. Sure, this will drain the device’s tiny battery even faster, but it’s still nice to have if you’re in the middle of nowhere with a dead phone and a charged speaker.
Winner: Beats Pill 2.0
We’re three rounds in, and so far, it seems like a close game. Unfortunately, this is the point at which things begin to snowball.
Both of these speakers are fairly small in size and therefore can’t hope to compare to their larger siblings, but there’s a very clear difference between the two: the Bose SoundLink Mini sure doesn’t sound small. Bass is obviously limited by the physical size of the speaker, but between mid-bass and the lower midrange, there is a nice depth to most of the lower range of frequencies. Highs are free of the rolloff that is so common on speakers in this size, but still, they never sound harsh or overbearing even as you push the volume higher. And that reminds me, the SoundLink Mini can get pretty loud; impressively so, considering the size.
The Beats Pill 2.0, on the other hand, sounds like what I always expected those kits to turn a cigarette pack into a guitar amplifier would sound like. I’ve actually defended Beats on quite a few occasions, but when I tried this speaker for the first time, I was simply blown away but how utterly, unashamedly ba dit sounded. Bass is nearly non-existent, mids are alternately honking and woofy-sounding, and the highs are simultaneously harsh and lacking in detail. For the final nail in the coffin, it doesn’t even get loud.
Simply put, there is no contest here.
Winner: Bose SoundLink Mini
Both companies in this comparison have their fair share of detractors. There are those who swear that anyone who buys a Beats product is doing so as a fashion statement, and there are those who merely need to hear a single mention of Bose to trot out their favorite tired epithet: “No highs, no lows, must be Bose.” Both of these types of people are very wrong: the former probably hasn’t heard a Beats product since the company split with Monster and the latter probably hasn’t heard a Bose product since the ’90s.
Still, in this case, Bose is clearly the winner. We’ve seen plenty of speakers in the Bose SoundLink Mini’s price range that challenge it in terms of features, sound quality, battery life, or build quality, and some of them are even better in every way. The Beats Pill 2.0 is not one of those speakers.
Overall Winner: Bose SoundLink Mini
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