Hands on: JBL's iPhone-connected Link 20 Bluetooth speaker with Google Assistant

in iPhone
The JBL Link 20 is one of an early handful of smartspeakers bringing Google Assistant beyond Google Home devices.

JBL Link 20

If you ask someone about speakers with Assistant, chances are, most people will still assume you can only get them from Google itself: the Home, the Home Mini, and the Home Max. Much like Amazon though, Google wants to make sure its voice technology is as widespread as possible.

The Link 20 is one of JBL's first wave of compatible speakers. Unlike any of the Home products, though, the Link 20 resembles a pretty traditional speaker. It's tall and cylindrical, available in black or white, and has physical control buttons up top. It's also IPX7 waterproof, and a rechargeable battery provides up to 10 hours of playback if you're not hooked up to micro USB.

Some differences quickly pop up though. For one, there's a Wi-Fi indicator on the bottom, since you'll need to have an internet connection to get Assistant working. Separate indicator lights telling you when Assistant is listening and responding, which are similar to those on the Google Home but not quite as recognizable, since they lack the Home's multicolor light show.

You can trigger Assistant commands by saying "Hey Google" or "Okay Google," or alternately by tapping a dedicated button. A mic mute button is on the back if you want to ensure absolute privacy.

JBL Link 20

Supported voice commands are similar to those on the Lenovo Smart Display or any other Assistant-ready device, though of course missing anything that would require a display. You can control music services like Spotify and Pandora, adjust smarthome devices, or just ask general knowledge questions like "Who is Albert Camus?" or "How far is it to Albuquerque?"

Perhaps the most convenient thing about the Link 20 so far has been the ability to switch between Assistant and Bluetooth audio on the fly. We were able to ask it to "play the news" one moment then have it play podcasts from Overcast on our iPad the next. A catch, it should be said, is that you can't have both sources going simultaneously -- if you start audio on a connected Bluetooth device, it'll interrupt anything Assistant was doing.

We'll have more to say in a full review, coming later in August.


  • Reply 1 of 1
    gatorguygatorguy Posts: 22,826member
    I've been using one for a few months now and generally pretty pleased. Good sound particularly for the size, battery claims seem accurate. All the Assistant features except for making phone calls work well, but making calls with it out on the deck would have been convenient. No biggie tho. 

    What makes it a very worthwhile addition is the portability of course. With a wifi connection it's just as useful next to the grill as it is in the living room. No wifi and there's still the bluetooth option tho you lose the nice Assistant features. Big plus: These sudden Florida downpours won't hurt it.
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