Nokia JBL PlayUp Wireless Speaker [Review]


Along with the recent review units Nokia Pakistan has sent the Nokia JBL PlayUp Wireless Speaker that supports almost all (as much we tested) Bluetooth smartphones. Plus the feature from the recent era, the NFC (Near Field Communication) is also added into this portable desktop speaker. Here we have it for testing purpose.

JBL PlayUp Wireless Speaker

Nokia JBL PlayUp Wireless Speaker for
Bluetooth and/or NFC capable smartphones

[Nokia x JBL] PlayUp Speaker is the sequel edition of Nokia Play 360 released last year. That was also pretty impressive. Nokia has always played well with bringing accessories to its mobile customers. Nokia JBL PlayUp speaker was announced in the last year’s IFA where Nokia has also introduced a bigger version of it, the JBL PowerUp with wireless charging feature. We haven’t yet seen the JBL PowerUp but here we have the JBL PlayUp for review, so let’s start with it.


Nokia x JBL (by Harman Int.) co-branded wireless speaker is packed the same way, a premium quality product normally would. Almost squared black box with red theme taken from the JBL colors is printed with the picture and illustration of the speaker along with the features supported by it.

JBL PlayUp Wireless Speaker JBL PlayUp Wireless Speaker

Unpacking is almost the same as Nokia’s blue box would open. Drawing the box out of its cover reveals it to be like a savings box in black color. Now that shows what it got inside. The speaker of course. A pouch is also in it. The side box contains user guide, a battery, 3.5mm audio cable with male pins on either sides, and a Micro USB charger.

JBL PlayUp Wireless Speaker JBL PlayUp Wireless Speaker JBL PlayUp Wireless Speaker

Breakdown of Box Content

  1. Nokia JBL PlayUp Wireless Speaker MD-51w.
  2. Battery BL-5J – (3.7V 1430 mAh.)
  3. Micro USB Charger.
  4. 3.5mm audio cable.
  5. Carrying pouch.
  6. Quick User Guide.

JBL PlayUp Wireless Speaker JBL PlayUp Wireless Speaker JBL PlayUp Wireless Speaker

Design and Features

While we got the “black” variant in house, the JBL PlayUp speaker is available in three more colors, yellow, cyan and white to buy. JBL PlayUp speaker inherits the NFC and Bluetooth features from the predecessor “Nokia Play 360”. The accessory is to complement the current Lumia range of smartphones with Windows Phone 8.

From manufacturer’s details the JBL PlayUp speaker weighs 760 grams which is almost 48% heavier than the Play 360. With the dimensions 128 x 118 x 118 mm, the JBL PlayUp is built up with plastic holding rubberized finish around leaving the top grille covering the driver. The size of the speaker is enough to fill up your hand allowing nothing else to carry. The build is quite premium if compare with the regular speakers of the same size. That actually defines the name “JBL” in making audio equipment. Nokia chose the right partner for it.

Following picture is showing Nokia Lumia 920 being paired with JBL PlayUp via NFC & Bluetooth.
JBL PlayUp Wireless Speaker
In the above shot, the phone has been moved further after once detected via NFC for taking the picture of it.

The top panel of the JBL PlayUp serves driver outlet in omnidirectional shape for 360° sound delivery. Covering the driver below the same shaped metallic grille is holding the JBL logo in the center and volume control key at the boundary. The volume key is also hosting the battery indicator for indicating the “low battery” or “battery charging” status.

JBL PlayUp Wireless Speaker JBL PlayUp Wireless Speaker

Front side of the speaker is hosting Bluetooth pairing key encircled with the status indicator at the bottom. The stand-by mode of Bluetooth is indicated with the “white light”. Pressing and holding the button for 2 seconds turns the Bluetooth pairing mode on and the light indicator turns “blinking blue light”. That’s when a Bluetooth device can be paired with the speaker. Once a device is paired successfully the light indicator turns to “blue light” and remains intact until a connection is broken.

JBL PlayUp Wireless Speaker

Bluetooth pairing is just as simple as it always was, going through your phone’s Bluetooth settings and searching near by devices (JBL PlayUp in this topic) and pairing with it. The JBL PlayUp speaker also features NFC connectivity that helps pairing NFC capable devices quickly pairing without prompting and asking pairing-codes. Pairing via NFC is even more simpler as “tapping” your NFC capable smartphone to the NFC labeled area on JBL PlayUp speaker. That’s right on the top-front above the Bluetooth button. – “Tapping” is the term widely referred along with the explanation of the NFC, however the function is even performed if the NFC area of the device is brought nearer than 15 mm to the other device’s NFC receiver.

JBL PlayUp Wireless Speaker

During our tests with various devices, The NFC on JBL PlayUp worked seamlessly with all the Nokia NFC featured smartphones including the in-house Lumias and Symbian powered NFC devices. It failed with an Android device we had, the Samsung Galaxy SIII. We have heard that the NFC on PlayUp has worked with a select Android devices, which tells that it might by dependent to hardware instead of the Android.

Apart from the NFC connectivity, the PlayUp worked just fine with any in-house device including iPhone, Android, Symbian, Windows Phone 7 and Windows Phone 8 when paired with Bluetooth directly in old-fashioned way.

The back side hosts the power and connectivity panel at the bottom. The clickable button needs to be pressed longer for 2 seconds to turn the speaker on. Along side the micro USB connector is hosted for power input and 3.5 mm standard audio connector.

JBL PlayUp Wireless Speaker

3.5 mm connectivity on JBL PlayUp is the complementary feature for almost any device out there that won’t support Bluetooth and NFC.

On one side of the speaker at bottom, (from another perspective) between the Bluetooth button and power panel, the moderate sized bass port (air duct) is provided. Although there is no disclosure of the woofer or sub-woofer in the official specification by Nokia, the bass reflex system in the speaker is a good addition.

JBL PlayUp Wireless Speaker

As per the official specifications, the maximum output of the sound is 89 dB. Listening to it in a living room was really appreciable considering the diminutive size of the portable speaker.

The bottom surface of the speaker keeps the battery compartment safe under a twist-able cover. One needs to push the cover down on the finger points given parallel on the boundary of the cover and twist counter clock wise. The cover itself holds the 3.5 mm audio cable wrapped around underneath and the battery compartment down there.

JBL PlayUp Wireless Speaker JBL PlayUp Wireless Speaker

The BL-5J is the generic Nokia battery that is recharged via the JBL PlayUp power panel with the micro USB connector. The micro USB charger comes with the box.

Audio and Sound Quality + Battery Life

With maximum output of 89 dB, JBL PlayUp speaker fills easily the living room. The sound quality is much better than any same sized portable speaker. That can be a favor of the bass reflex chamber provided in the speaker. Bass is not up to the level comparing with a sub-woofer – well that’s just not the class to compare a portable speaker anyway. Not for the whole party in the house of course. But in a room with a few friends enjoying with pizza, the JBL PlayUp can be good partner.

In addition to the 360 degrees omnidirectional sound, the official specification also adds apt™-X, Sub Band Coding SBC, Digital Signal Process DSP.

JBL PlayUp Wireless Speaker JBL PlayUp Wireless Speaker

Of course the “JBL” is obvious in the sound quality of the PlayUp. The speakers of this size normally won’t let you even comment about them. No one – here around – objected about the sound but instead complemented for its little size and the loudness it produced. Vocals were pretty clean and clear provided that the original stream quality of the playback was good.

The JBL PlayUp comes with the BL-5J removable battery of capacity 1430 mAh providing the playback time of up to 10 hours. 10 hours long are enough I guess for little in-house party.

Hands-on demo

Have a look at the quick demonstration of pairing the Nokia Lumia 920 with JBL PlayUp via NFC and Bluetooth

Price and Availablity

Nokia JBL PlayUp Wireless Speaker is available from Nokia Care Centers all over Pakistan. And the price is Rs. 17,500/-

The Conclusion

Choosing JBL for making the audio accessory, Nokia has made a good decision of course. When talking about sound quality, there are no words to object. The size of the speaker, with the sound quality, takes it long way ahead of any other speaker of the same size. But before giving the final words, the price is needed to be mentioned. While the global price is $149, it costs around 17,500/- in Pakistan which is not a small amount for just single speaker. We tag it under “audio junkies” category. If you are an audio and sound lover, you should give it a try. Or if you own a compatible smartphone specially with NFC feature (Lumia preferably), This accessory will be a good addition.


Edit: video privacy fixed, price and availability information added.

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