Over the summer, we had the chance to review Inateck's portable, sturdily-built BP2101 Bluetooth speaker. We were very impressed with the overall package when considering its price tag, its physical size and the amount of pack-ins you get. Now though, we have the Mars Box, model number BP2002, which is a larger Bluetooth speaker designed to be more stationary than portable. Considering that the BP2002 featured here, and the BP2101 feature the same sort of specs (more on this later), is this more colorful affair a better speaker, or does it fall short of the mark?
Design and Build
The Mars Box has been designed with a more playful design than the BP2101's metal construction, and it's clearly not designed to be taken on the move quite so much. It measures 185.4mm x 61.5mm x 61.5mm, the easiest comparison is that it has a footprint similar to a 5.7-inch smartphone, but is much, much taller and thicker. Not to mention heavier. The black and red color scheme here is, interesting, and the angular construction reminds me of two Lego bricks on top of each other at funny angles. It's covered in soft-touch material and is definitely easy to grip, speaking of which there are two large pads on the bottom of the speaker to keep it steady on surfaces, and these do a good job of keeping it still. On the back of the speaker are microUSB and 3.5mm-in ports as well as power button and a reset hole. On the top, there's a take call button, a volume up, volume down and then a play/pause button. The whole layout is simple and easy to follow and the buttons have a tactile click to them, which is pleasant.
I can see what Inateck have tried to do here, this is a more playful design than you'd find on other Bluetooth speakers out there, but it comes across as a little simple, sadly. Younger users or those looking for a simplistic, yet colorful approach will take to its angular, minimal aesthetic, but this isn't for everyone.
As far as build quality goes, this does leave a little to be desired, but it does feel solid and sturdy in hand thanks to its decent heft. Still, there's none of the IPX5 splash resistance found in other Inateck products, and it just doesn't feel as sturdy as the BP2101. I'm confident it'd take a few drops of course, but with some of the plastic panels not lining up neatly I'm not sure how long this would last when mistreated a little. Either way, the build quality here is fairly good, but it could be better, and the same can be said of the overall design.
Now, the Mars Box from Inateck is quoted as having the same 2 x 5 Watt output as the smaller, BP2101 product, as well as the same 15-hour long battery life. This is interesting to me, because it basically confirms that this is the same speaker that Inateck put in their previous product. Here however, things are not quite so rosy. There's the same sort of warm and depth that the smaller speaker exhibits, but things sound a little muffled here and it goes beyond warmth into a sort of muddiness. For the majority of music I played through it, like the new album from CHVRCHES sounded okay, but that's all it was. There's not much in the high-end at all, and if you pump some really complex songs through it - like Bullet for Valentine's latest album for instance - things start to fall apart, and detail just floats away into a mush.
This isn't to say the Mars Box is all bad though. The sort of bass and loud volumes this little guy can produce at this sort of price point shouldn't be ignored. It's not the clearest out there, and at times it can be a little muddy, but to fill a small room with at least half-decent sound, this latest from Inateck gets the job done.
The Mars Box is rated as having 15-hours of battery life from a single charge, and while I wouldn't quite go as far as that, you're looking at a good 12-hours or so at a decent volume. Charging doesn't take too long either, provided you have a fairly high-power USB charger, and the cable that's included with it has good length to make charging a simple affair as well. Turn things up pretty loud however, and you'll be burning through that battery life at a much quicker rate. For a good afternoon's worth of listening away from an outlet or filling a room without the need to plug in for an evening, the Mars Box should do just fine.
Overall, the Inateck BP2002 Mars Box speaker just isn't as good as the company's other products in this category, which is a shame. Even more so that they're all similarly priced. This model doesn't have the same IPX5 water-resistance as the BP2101, nor the same rugged construction and more portable footprint. At this sort of price point however, the Mars Box is more than an admirable effort at an affordable, loud and versatile Bluetooth speaker. It is however, a shame that the overall sound signature is one that's overly-warm and a little muffled. Again, for this sort of money however, we cannot expect too much more from such a product.