The JBL Charge 3 was released on the 5th February 2016, so currently as we’re writing this, it’s almost 5 years old which in technology terms often means outdated. Since it’s release, there’s been another addition to the Charge line, the Charge 4, which was released on the 30th August 2018.
Naturally, you would think that Charge 4 is better right? Well, you’d like to think so, but it’s more to the point of whether it’s actually worth the upgrade, which is what a lot of people are questioning.
That’s why we’re here, let’s dig in and find out more, you can quickly navigate through the sections using the links below:
- Overview of JBL Speakers
- Is JBL a Good Speaker Brand?
- Side By Side Comparison – JBL Charge 3 vs 4
- Pro’s & Con’s of JBL Charge Speakers
- Is the JBL Charge 3 Better Than The Charge 4?
- Are There Better Alternatives?
- FAQs About The JBL Charge
Ever passed by a field on a warm day only to hear booming music with crystal clear clarity? It’s probably a JBL Bluetooth speaker, well, at least it would have been back in the day, Bluetooth speakers are commonplace now, but JBL were one of the first to the party, and typically sat at the higher range of the products.
JBL is a brand that produces high-quality wireless Bluetooth speakers, with a large range to choose from including names such as the Charge which we’re featuring today, but also the Flip, Xtreme, Link & now they’ve even strayed into soundbars for your TV.
Although JBL is known for their higher-end and more expensive speakers, they do now have budget options in their range and you can pick up the cheapest ones for around $30. Generally, with JBL products, you find as you would maybe suspect, the more you pay the clearer the sound quality and the longer lasting the battery.
The quality of their range in terms of ranking for the Charge sits something like this:
You’re looking at whether you should buy the Charge 3 or Charge 4, but before jumping in and doing so you’ll want to know if JBL speakers are actually any good.
When it comes to portable speakers JBL has a very good reputation of consistently releasing high-quality audio products and they’re known for having some of the top of the portable speaker range products. Their unique element with their Charge design is that they have bass coming from both ends of the device, which is preferred by many and is often the choice over popular names like Bose & Beats.
In summary, yes JBLs are a top quality speaker brand, at that high end of portable speakers, it simply depends what your preference is. They have lots of different options when it comes to the range of speakers, which we’ve touched on above, and the top speaker will set you back a cool $350, but the lowest in their range are only priced around the $30 mark.
Let’s get into it then, a side by side comparison of the Charge 3 vs 4, looking through all the main features, battery life, connectivity and more.
In this section we’ll provide a bit of a brief overview of the main features for each of the devices, so you can get a like for like comparison of the unique selling points as detailed by JBL for each device:
- You can wirelessly connect up to 3 Bluetooth devices
- IPX7 Waterproof
- Takes phone calls with crystal clear clarity & noise cancellation
- You can connect it to other JBL connect speakers to create a speaker eco-system
- The speaker can access your phones voice assistant
- 20 hours of playtime
- IPX7 Waterproof
- JBL Bass Radiator – which is a dual passive radiator to deliver a more powerful and clearer sound
- You can connect it to other JBL connect speakers to create a speaker eco-system
- Can produce a louder sound than the JBL Charge 3
- Only marginally larger and heavier than it’s predecessor
Verdict: In terms of features we actually think that the Charge 3 trumps it, yes you don’t have the JBL Connect+ so it won’t be compatible with newer JBL models, but it’s the microphone for phone calls and access to your phones voice assistant that makes it a better option than the Charge 4.
How easy is it to use and what kind of functionality differences are there between the two? We’ve answered that for you in this section below:
- Play / Pause button
- Power button
- JBL Connect button
- Bluetooth pairing
- Answer calls / voice assistant with the same button as play & pause
The only difference between the Charge 4 & the Charge 3 in terms of the interface is that the new iteration, the 4 doesn’t allow you to answer calls or use the voice assistant from your phone. Everything else is the exact same.
Verdict: There’s nothing in it here, the interfaces are almost identical, so we can’t really pick a winner.
Want to know a bit more about the tech side of it, the types of connections they each have? How they charge? What Bluetooth versions they are? & We’ve got all that good stuff here:
- Bluetooth version 4.1
- Single USB output in which you can use for charging other devices like your phone
- 3.5mm headphone jack, so you can plug an AUX cable in and play music directly from another device
- Micro USB cable to charge – The older one!
- Upgraded Bluetooth version 4.2
- The same USB output which can charge other devices
- Also comes with the 3.5mm audio jack
- USB-C charging – The newer one!
Verdict: We actually think the Charge 4 marginally wins this one, mostly for the USB-C charging, Micro USB is old school and isn’t widely supported anymore.
Output & Frequency Range
The technical specifics, what types of speakers are these two packing & what frequency output do they have.
- Two 10W
- Single 30W
Verdict: The Charge 4 has a slightly improved sound profile, in comparison to the Charge 3, so we guess that wins, but we’d stress the word, slightly.
It’s important for a Bluetooth speaker, which of the two boasts the better battery life? We’ve detailed that for you below:
- 20 Hours battery life
- Full charge takes roughly 4.5 hours
- 20 Hours battery life
- Full charge takes roughly 5.5 hours
Verdict: The Charge 3 takes this one, the batteries they have are very similar, but as you can see the Charge 3 charges quicker.
They look pretty similar, but are they? We’ve detailed all the dimensions and weights for you to compare:
- L: 8.4in x H: 3.4in x D: 3.5in
- Weight: 1.76lbs
- L: 8.7in x H: 3.7in x D: 3.6in
- Weight: 2.1lbs
Verdict: There’s very little in it when it comes to size and weight, but the whole idea of the speaker is to be compact and portable so you can carry it around, so we guess we’re going to have to give this one to the Charge 3.
Our Overall Verdict
To summarise all the above, we would actually choose the Charge 3 ahead of the Charge 4. There’s not enough change between the two in order to warrant the price jump for us, you’re getting a fantastic speaker with the Charge 3 that’s going to last and give you almost as good sound quality.
It’s all well and good looking at the individual technical specification, but it can be quite hard to determine which one actually suits you. The best way of doing so is breaking down the pros and cons of the Charge 3 & 4 for you below, that way you should be able to determine which your best option is:
- We absolutely love the fact they both have 3.5mm, it might be somewhat expected of the Charge 3 as it’s the older model, but the Charge 4 was released at a similar time to when they were removing all the audio jacks from phones. Sometimes connecting an AUX can be extremely useful, and it’s not a function you get with a lot of Bluetooth speakers, especially top of the range ones.
- For their size compared to a lot of speakers in the market, they sound brilliant and both really weigh very little. Their build quality is very strong as well, in our opinion better than that of the Beats Pill.
- Price wise, they’re both reasonable, especially for JBL high range Bluetooth audio products, and compared to the competition.
- IPX7 meaning they are completely waterproof, you can throw them under a meter of water and they’ll operate just fine. Drop them in the bath? Not a problem. Again this is a fantastic feature a lot of Bluetooth speakers don’t have, and it would be particularly useful if you use it next to the pool or bath.
- The battery life is impressive, for something of its quality to last 20 hours on a single charge is brilliant. In practice, according to the reviews on Amazon, a lot of people have had it come really close to achieving the on the packet figure.
- You can charge your other devices, which namely, your mobile phone, of course, useful feature!
- Right, so the biggest issue we have here is that we honestly don’t think that there is enough of a difference between the Charge 3 & the Charge 4 for them to have warranted a new device, it’s not that significant of an upgrade. All that being said, there’s only $30 price difference, but still, if you’re going to release a new version you would expect it to be significantly better, and the 4 just isn’t!
- The fact the newer Charge 4 loses the ability for it to be able to be used as a speakerphone is annoying, and if you want this functionality, you’re better off buying the older version, which is poor by JBL.
- JBL Connect which the older Charge 3 is on isn’t cross-compatible with Connect+ which is what the Charge 4 is on, annoying, and it means they’re starting to alienate some of their older devices.
We’ve given our verdict and opinion earlier in the post, but is the Charge 3 actually better than the Charge 4.
Yes, partially and no in some cases, it really depends on the features you’re looking for in a Bluetooth speaker! The single 90mm transducer which is equipped to the Charge 4 makes it slightly better sounding than the two 50mm from the Charge 3. That doesn’t really tell the full story though, it’s fine if you can justify the current $30 price difference between the two with a minor increase in sound quality, however, the Charge 4 is missing some features like the voice assistant.
So is it better? It depends on your personal preference really. We personally would be happy with choosing the Charge 3, and living with the fact it’s only ever so slightly lower quality, but is much lighter and the voice assistance and call answering is a big plus.
There are a few more comparable speakers to the JBL, but as for whether they are better really depends on personal circumstances. Here are a few of your options in a similar range with a little bit about each of them:
Beats Pill +3
The Beats Pill+ is a speaker that is slightly more expensive than the JBL Charge 4, but is it better? In our honest opinion, no it’s not. The speaker has around roughly 12 hours playtime compared to the JBLs 20. The device also is not waterproof and comes with a lightning cable charge port, which for all non-iPhone users is rather annoying.
The one thing it does have going for it is the speaker can be used as a microphone so you can make & receive calls, like the Charge 3 but not the 4.
The sound also isn’t particularly up to scratch when you compare it to the likes of JBL and even Bose, it struggles at the higher volume ranges. I suppose it looks cool though? You can check it out below:
Bose Soundlink Revolve +
The Bose Soundlink Revolve is a fantastic speaker, but it’s almost twice the price of the Charge 3, so it’s hard to offer it as a comparable. If you have the extra money though, it’s definitely a brilliant option with an impressive 360 speaker that offers really immersive sound, quality and water-resistant aluminum body, respectable 12 hours charge time makes it a strong competitor.
The SRS-Xb32 doesn’t quite have the same ring to it as the Charge, Pill or Soundlink Revolve, but it’s a great option as an alternative. Priced very similarly to the Charge 3 this Sony Bluetooth speaker offers a full day of battery life, yes 24 hours! The speakers on it aren’t quite up to scratch of either the Charge 3 or 4, but it does offer very similar features. Essentially with this device, you’re trading a bit of speaker quality for a larger battery, if that’s important to you.
Now we’ve talked about, reviewed and compared the JBL Charge 3 and 4, we hope we’ve answered all your questions and you’re now confident with which one you want to purchase. If we haven’t however, we’ve pulled together some of the most common questions and answered them for you below:
Should I buy a refurbished version of the Charge?
We wouldn’t recommend it. Whilst buying at a refurbished price might seem like a great option because you’ll save a few bucks, the quality of the battery is going to be much lower than if you bought it new. That 20-hour battery life the Charge 3 & 4 boast won’t be achievable with a refurbished or used product as the more you use it, the less charge the battery can hold.
What about buying the JBL Flip 4 instead?
The Flip 4 is the baby brother of the Charge 4, it’s perhaps smaller and more portable, but you sacrifice some of the features like extra battery life and sound quality, however, it’s a fair amount cheaper than the Charge options (both of them) and is still a great Bluetooth speaker with most of the same features – apart from the charging other phones. It’s a good option if you want to save a bit of money.
Which is the best JBL speaker?
Are the Charge 3 & 4 not quite meeting your requirements for a Bluetooth speaker? The top of the range speaker that JBL has on offer in their wireless range is the JBL Xtreme 3. It’ll set you back a pretty penny though, priced at $349.99 currently, you can check it out here.
Can I leave the JBL Charge speakers permanently plugged in?
Yes, of course, you can, and you can use it as just a static speaker in your home. If however, you leave it plugged in for long periods you’re likely to damage the battery, so it may not last as long as it says on the product description. That being said both the Charge 3 & 4 are high enough quality speakers to use around your home.