Asus uBoomQ Notebook Speakers Page: 1
Introduction
 
In the computer industry, smaller is normally better. This is especially evident in Processors, where the smaller manufacturing processes allow more powerful and cooler running chips to be produced. Unfortunately, speakers don't follow this trend, which is why notebook speakers tend to offer woeful quality and are best left unused.
 
The obvious solution to the problem is to wire up your laptop/notebook to a set of external speakers, but this then defeats the point of a laptop: portability. Asus are obviously aware of the problem, and have come up with a solution to save your ears from torture; the uBoomQ. The uBoomQ is a portable sound bar which houses a pair of stereo speakers and subwoofer. Unfortunately Asus have no official specifications on their site, so this is the best I could find:
 
Speaker Impedance: 5 ohms
Speaker Frequency Response: R/L 150-15KHz, Woofer 20-500Hz
Total RMS: 2.4 Watts
Power Supply: 500mA ; powered by USB ( adapter- free)
Connectors: USB x1 and AUX in x 1
Dimensions: 290mm x 110mm x 72mm ; Weight: 400g
 
Being powered by USB is obviously an incredibly useful feature for a portable product, which allows you to listen and work away from the mains. The only problem I can see with this is the probable affect on battery life, which could lead to an early night for your laptop. It would therefore have been nice to see an optional battery solution for the uBoomQ, for those of us who like our audio but find battery life precious. Apart from that, the remainder of the specification is pretty much what is to be expected - nothing outstanding or particularly poor for a product of this size.  


Asus uBoomQ Notebook Speakers Page: 2
Packaging and Appearance
 
The uBoomQ arrived in a thick, rectangular box, which protected it's cargo well - everything arrived in pristine condition. The front is split into two distinct sections, with a large product image on the left and a small features list on the right. Just above the image is a phrase worth quoting; "Mobile Bass Powerhouse". It's too early to say whether this is true or not, but for a unit this size, I highly doubt it will reach 'powerhouse' credentials. On the reverse we have a multilingual features list and a contents list.
 
Asus uBoomQ Packaging front Asus uBoomQ packaging back
 
Packaging isn't usually a product highlight, but with the uBoomQ I was pleasantly surprised. Opening the lid of the box reveals the speaker wrapped in a foam bag, with a small quote below. The quote reads "The statement of acoustic aesthetics" - a nice touch indeed. The lid is also covered in around 1cm of foam, adding to the protection and quality feel of the packaging. The bundle was a bit sparse; there was just the speaker, user's guide and USB cable inside the box.
 
Asus uBoomQ Packaging internally Asus uBoomQ Bundle
 
The speaker itself is an ovular shape, with the ends angled forward. The top edge holds the subwoofer, which is protected by a fine grill. The same grill is used to protect the left/right speakers which are recessed just inside the main body. The main shell is made of a glossy, thick plastic, which has a solid sound and feel to it. The overall look of the product is incredibly smooth, and something that I rather like.
 
Asus uBoomQ Asus uBoomQ Front
 
Turning the device over gives you access to the connection side of things. On the left is the USB connection, which provides power and transmits the audio when plugged into a pc/laptop. The 3.5mm jack can be used for plugging in auxiliary devices, such as iPods and MP3 players. It's worth noting that when using the Aux Jack you will also need to supply the uBoomQ power through the USB port. The USB cable supplied with the uBoomQ is a standard USB A-B cable, although it has nicely rounded connectors and is more flexible than most. There is also a few 'breather' holes for the speakers located on the bottom.
 
Asus uBoomQ Ports Asus uBoomQ Cable      
 
Aesthetically I think Asus have done a sterling job. The smaller touches in the packaging make a great deal of difference to the overall impression given, and something that a lot of companies overlook. The device itself is simple yet elegant, with the ports hidden nicely out of the way and solid construction. It's about time we found out how well it performs it's primary purpose, audio...   


Asus uBoomQ Notebook Speakers Page: 3
Testing
 
For testing I connected the uBoomQ to my laptop, a Sony Vaio FW running Windows 7 Pro x64. The laptop is aimed at multimedia users so should offer better than average audio quality. My day to day speakers are Logitechs' z5500 5.1 speakers, which I will use in the review for comparison with a fixed audio setup. Audio files were played through iTunes, whilst films were handled by Windows Media Centre.
 
Volume
 
One of the obvious reasons for upgrading speakers is to get a bit more volume. It's no good trying to watch a film or listen to music if it sounds like it's being produced by a mouse. Testing against the speakers in my laptop it was clear the uBoomQ had a distinct advantage, and I would say they were 2-3 times louder. It was still evident that the source was only of low power, and offered nothing like the volume that z5500's have on tap. However, it was still enough to give a small to medium sized room comfortable listening levels.
 
Sound Quality
 
With 'bass powerhouse' credentials, there was a lot to live up to in the sound quality test. Fortunately for the uBoomQ, I was pleasantly surprised.  Whilst I wouldn't go so far as to say it was a 'bass powerhouse', it did offer a very noticeable improvement over my Sony's built in speakers. The high and middle ranges are the uBooms strongest point, with lyrics and speech sounding crisp and clear. This was particularly evident in films, where the uBoomQ was leaps ahead of my Vaio's built in speakers. The uBoomQ wasn't a million miles behind the z5500's in that range either, but the difference in quality was still evident. 
 
Unfortunately the low end is where the uBoomQ really suffered. Although it's obvious that Asus have tried quite hard in this area, you simply can't get a decent amount of bass out of something so small, especially when you compare it to the likes of z5500's. The real beat and feel of music was dulled (but not lost entirely), and action scenes/explosions in films seemed lifeless and dull. However, I would say the uBoomQ offers more bass than other speakers in it's class, so Asus's work has paid off to an extent.
 
Cranking up the volume doesn't really improve things - quite the opposite. Sounds become distorted as the speakers were pushed further than they should really go, and therefore I wouldn't recommend using the uBoomQ above around 80% volume.   


Asus uBoomQ Notebook Speakers Page: 4
Conclusion 
 
Having read the previous page you're probably thinking 'actually, it's not a bad product'.  I was pleasantly surprised when testing the uBoomQ at the level of sound quality for such a small device. Granted it's never going to beat a half decent bookshelf or surround sound setup, but it holds it's own. Unfortunately for Asus though, I just can't see where this fits into the market. If you're looking for sound quality on the move then I personally would take a decent set of cans/earphones - not only do they produce much higher sound quality but they will also reduce the power draw on your laptop. 
 
Therefore the only place where I can really see this fitting in is if you are presenting from your laptop/notebook and need the extra volume, or have a desk that is used for a number of purposes, necessitating the regular removal of your laptop and speaker system. Although I'm sure there is a market for such a product, I just can't see it appealing to the mass market.
 
Priced at £44.77 from Scan.co.uk pricing is reasonable, and certainly wouldn't break the bank. Even though the Asus performs well for it's size, it would need to be something truly amazing for me to recommend it over a decent set of headphones or a dedicated setup. If you're looking for a way of projecting audio to a small audience, without breaking your arm carrying it round all day, then the uBoomQ could be for you, but it still falls short of mass appeal in my opinion.
 
The Good:
+ Good sound quality for a product of it's size - much better than laptop speakers
+ Very nicely packaged
+ Power through USB - No AC adaptor required
 
The Mediocre:
* Quality still not a patch on a dedicated setup or a decent pair of headphones
 
The Poor:
- Is it something the market really requires?
 
 
Overclock3d would like to thank Asus for todays review sample. Discuss in our forums.