Review: Westinghouse Unplug is a solid, affordable portable Bluetooth speaker
At a Glance
Westinghouse’s $100 Unplug Wireless Bluetooth Sound System UM100 is a portable, rechargeable speaker that streams audio from your phone, tablet, or computer over a Bluetooth connection. The one-pound unit measures 2.9 inches tall, 2.4 inches deep, and just under 6 inches wide.
The Unplug’s rounded-rectangular body sports a rubbery casing, a glossy back, and a metal front grille. (The Unplug is available in black with a black grille, white with a gray grille, or gray with a gray grille.) The rubbery casing on the Unplug is a scuff and dirt magnet, and the whole thing feels a bit more delicate than, say, Jawbone’s similar Jambox.
On top of the Unplug sit three buttons: a touch-sensitive play/pause/phone button and two textured, rubberized volume controls. A small hole near those controls reveals the Unplug’s built-in microphone.
On the back of the unit are an On/Off slider switch, a Micro-USB port, and a 1/8-inch (3.5mm) auxiliary-input jack. The speaker’s face includes a Westinghouse logo that does double duty as an LED that reflects the speaker’s current state. There are numerous modes to keep straight: It’s blue when on but not paired, flashes red and blue in pairing mode, flashes red when charging, flashes red more rapidly when the battery is low, flashes blue when paired and not charging, shines solidly blue when using the auxiliary input, and turns off when the speaker is off or fully charged or asleep.
Pairing with the Unplug is problem-free. The unit enters pairing mode when you first turn it on, or when you hold down the play/pause/phone button for four seconds. I successfully paired the speaker with several iOS devices and my Mac.
Inside the Unplug is a lithium-ion battery, which Westinghouse says takes four hours to charge from empty. The company says you should expect ten hours of battery-powered listening, and that matches my experience. The Unplug ships with a Micro-USB cable and USB-AC adapter, along with a two-foot-long, 1/8-inch-plug audio cable. Westinghouse’s promotional material states that a “travel pouch” is available as an option; the unit I received did not include a pouch.
There’s a short, wide vent in the face of the speaker to maximize the effect of what Westinghouse calls the Unplug’s “ultra bass booster passive radiator subwoofer.” Obviously, the Unplug is far too small to house a true subwoofer; in reality, the speaker’s design aims to coax what bass presence is possible from a unit this size. The Unplug also employs a pair of 3-watt, 40mm, full-range drivers.
At normal and reasonably loud volumes, the Unplug offers pretty good performance across the frequency range; dial the Unplug up very loudly, though, and you’ll start to hear some distortion. But even at its best, the Unplug—like most similarly sized speakers—sounds a bit small. Still, the Unplug fares well when compared with the popular Jambox Bluetooth speaker, which is similar in size and portability. The Unplug can get significantly louder than the Jambox, and its bass presence, at least at louder volumes, outshines that of the Jambox.
The Unplug works acceptably as a speakerphone. Callers immediately knew I was on a speakerphone, but they said the quality was passable. On my end, I could hear callers loudly and clearly. You can answer calls from the speaker, but you can’t initiate calls (or trigger Siri) from it.
If you’re looking for an affordable, portable, rechargeable speaker, the Unplug has plenty going for it. It’s not as stylish or rugged as Jawbone’s Jambox, but the Unplug offers sound that matches that of the Jambox at moderate volumes and surpasses it at reasonably loud ones. What the Unplug lacks in sleekness, it makes up for with solid performance.