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article imageReview: Inateck's stylish, tough, go-anywhere MercuryBox speaker

By James Walker     Jul 13, 2015 in Technology
The Inateck MercuryBox is a rugged, go-anywhere Bluetooth speaker that packs a stylish construction and extraordinary sound quality into a tiny metal form factor, making it a great option to consider for any usage whether indoors or out and wet or dry.
Introduction & Unboxing
The MercuryBox, also known as the BP2101, is by far the most attractively packaged of the Inateck products that I have seen. A tastefully designed outer box wraps around a dark, soft-touch inner casing. Lifting the lid on this reveals the speaker itself, set into its own indentation in the box, surrounded by a set of high-quality accessories.
The Inateck BP2101 MercuryBox Bluetooth speaker
The Inateck BP2101 MercuryBox Bluetooth speaker
This makes for some very positive first impressions. Everything is packaged securely and neatly. The short instruction manual is clear and self-explanatory, simply stating how to get started using the product if you are new to wireless devices.
Accessories
The Inateck BP2101 MercuryBox Bluetooth speaker
The Inateck BP2101 MercuryBox Bluetooth speaker
The included carry case is the perfect size to snugly protect the speaker, made of an imitation-leather material with a soft inside. It feels well-made and looks stylish, carrying the Inateck name on the side. It looks strong enough to protect the speaker from any possible knocks or scrapes in bags.
Durable, braided 3.5mm audio and USB cables are also included. They seem tough and flexible and are stronger than standard cables, ideal for taking with you for use outside.
Inateck does not supply a mains charger because the speaker can be powered using any standard USB supply. Your phone charger will likely be able to charge the MercuryBox, or you could just plug it into a USB port on your computer.
A carry strap is provided which attaches to the left side of the speaker. This addition seems a little odd because the speaker seems slightly too heavy to carry by hand for long. It is still nice to see the option included though and it adds to the outdoors credibility of the MercuryBox.
Design & Construction
The Inateck BP2101 MercuryBox Bluetooth speaker
The Inateck BP2101 MercuryBox Bluetooth speaker
With the accessories placed aside, the attention moves to the speaker itself, snugly placed inside its soft-touch box. The MercuryBox is made out of anodized silver aluminium which looks good and feels very durable. The front of the device is dominated by the large speaker grille.
It fits easily into the palm of the hand and is actually slightly smaller than the box illustrations, making it portable enough to sling into a bag and take with you anywhere. Its weight is noticeable but not excessive and adds to the feel of a solid build.
The Inateck BP2101 MercuryBox Bluetooth speaker
The Inateck BP2101 MercuryBox Bluetooth speaker
The speaker is designed for use in any environment and its construction reflects this. The top-mounted buttons are covered with one piece of soft material so that they can still be pressed when wet without water seeping into the speaker's internals.
A protective side-panel covers the speaker's USB charging port and 3.5mm aux-in connection, an alternative to wireless Bluetooth. The panel fits tightly with the main body so water shouldn't get to the connections here easily either.
This protection matters because the speaker is rated as IPX5 waterproof. Officially, it should be able to survive a strong water jet coming at it from any direction for at least three minutes. In practice, it means that you don't need to worry too much if it starts raining outside, or if you feel like listening to some music in the shower — an ability that Inateck also touts on the packaging.
Features
The Inateck BP2101 MercuryBox Bluetooth speaker
The Inateck BP2101 MercuryBox Bluetooth speaker
Connecting to the speaker is as trivial as with any modern Bluetooth device. I tested it with my Windows Phone, a Nokia Lumia 1520, and the two were paired within seconds. The MercuryBox will automatically reconnect to the last used device once paired successfully for the first time. It uses Bluetooth 4.0 which should minimise battery usage on both the speaker and paired device.
The MercuryBox has buttons for play and pause and next and previous track, which also double as volume up and down when long-pressed. An integrated microphone makes it possible to handle calls through the speaker, when connected with Bluetooth, by simply pressing one button.
The speaker is powered by an internal 1,800mAh Li-ion battery which promises 9-15 hours of playback time. The range is large because power usage will depend on connection strength. I haven't exhausted it yet after several hours of listening straight out of the box.
Sound quality
Disclosure time: the MercuryBox that I used was provided by Inateck. Regardless, the opinions presented in this review are entirely my own. I tested the speaker as I would a device I had bought myself, taking it into the garden on several hot afternoons last week to enjoy a selection of different musical styles including classical, soundtrack, pop, country and new age.
The Inateck BP2101 MercuryBox Bluetooth speaker
The Inateck BP2101 MercuryBox Bluetooth speaker
The MercuryBox has two 5W speakers, giving it a total output of 10W. This makes it as loud as a decent home stereo system. You won't be wanting for more volume when using the MercuryBox, whether inside or out. The sound quality also holds up well at higher volumes, although the treble slowly progresses to a hollow screech when pushed to the very top. The very top isn't a place that you will be going very often though; it is quite loud enough even in the middle of the volume range.
At a sensible level, the MercuryBox is by far and away the best wireless speaker that I have tested. It beats both the other devices that I have reviewed this year, the Inateck BTSP-10 Plus and my former favourite, the tiny but amazingly powerful iClever IC-BTS02.
The Inateck BP2101 MercuryBox Bluetooth speaker
The Inateck BP2101 MercuryBox Bluetooth speaker
The 5W stereo speakers of the MercuryBox place it in a different league to the others, even above Inateck's other slightly larger offering. I've always been sceptical of portable wireless speakers, their tiny drivers placed right next to each other in a restrictive case, but here Inateck has created something that can be held in the palm of the hand whilst still producing crisp and clear sound — even if you still won't notice true stereo from such a tiny speaker.
The output seems measured and refined, creating an enjoyable listening experience. Regardless of the musical style, in my experience the MercuryBox consistently delivers.
The treble can be a little harsh in demanding pieces, such as when listening to classical or orchestral music, but it generally holds up well, only splitting when pushed to the limit or at high volumes. Bass is consistent and punchy, adding sufficient definition to music that requires it.
The Inateck BP2101 MercuryBox Bluetooth speaker
The Inateck BP2101 MercuryBox Bluetooth speaker
Overall, I feel that the MercuryBox would satisfy anybody who wants to listen to music wirelessly inside or out. As long as you don't raise the volume to excessive levels, you can be confident that whatever you play will sound natural and rich, accompanied by a surprisingly deep bass line.
Clear classical music coming from the MercuryBox made those hot afternoons in the garden even better — as Inateck set out to do. Later in the day, the speaker repetitively delivered again with more modern pop songs.
Being able to clearly identify individual instrument parts in dramatic orchestral pieces such as Edvard Grieg's "In The Hall of the Mountain King" was something I hadn't noticed so much on either the iClever or Inateck's BTSP-10 Plus. Hearing such complex melodies that require measured bass and treble coming from a speaker the same length as a book was a pleasant and welcome surprise.
Conclusion
The Inateck BP2101 MercuryBox Bluetooth speaker
The Inateck BP2101 MercuryBox Bluetooth speaker
The Inateck MercuryBox is a fantastic Bluetooth speaker for use in any situation. Its small form factor and rugged durability don't compromise on style, allowing it to fit into any location — inside or out.
The shiny all-metal body is eye-catching and yet unobtrusive. The included accessories are of a notably high quality, the carry case in particular being a welcome addition.
The speaker has enough volume to make itself heard consistently and the sound quality only suffers when pushed to the limits. It proved itself to be adept at playing back several very different genres of music for hours at a time during my testing and I intend to keep using it regularly throughout the summer.
The Inateck BP2101 MercuryBox Bluetooth speaker
The Inateck BP2101 MercuryBox Bluetooth speaker
The Inateck MercuryBox BP2101 isn't cheap at $99.99 in the US or £99.99 in the UK but if you are looking for a premium-quality, small form-factor Bluetooth speaker then it should definitely be on your list. Inateck is currently running a promotion on both sides of the Atlantic which cuts the price by around 45 percent to $54.99 or £52.99, making it an even better buy.
More about Bluetooth, Speaker, Product, Review, inateck
 
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