Braven Bridge HD Wireless Speakerphone Review

Braven Bridge HD
The Braven Bridge HD in its various colors. Braven

Ah, yes, the conference call speakerphone, a fixture in offices everywhere.

For the most part, they look like weird, triangular UFOs with an assortment of buttons, perhaps even a tiny display monitor for your perusal. These days, many portable speakers also double as mini speakerphones, thanks to built-in mics that allow users to take calls straight through the speaker.

For its part, the Braven Bridge looks like the love child of both aforementioned gadgets.

It has the flatter dimensions and omnidirectional mics of a traditional conference call speakerphone but the size and ease of use of a portable speaker with a built-in mic. It’s a design choice that allows it to exhibit some of the strengths of both designs but also comes with the drawback of not being as good as either in some departments.

The Packaging

One of the first things you’ll notice upon unboxing the Bridge is its packaging. Braven does a good job when it comes to housing the speakerphone, which not only comes in a nice box but also includes a leather-style carrying case for the Bridge and its cable connectors. The speaker itself sports a design that’s different from your typical portable speaker.

Although most small speakers come in either a boxy or cylindrical shape, the Bridge almost looks like a flat wallet with the actual speaker facing upward. This allows better 360-degree coverage in case you use it while having, say, a group gathered in a circle, compared to a one-directional speaker that churns out audio in one direction.

Build quality, meanwhile, looks solid. I like how the Bridge uses a mix of plastic, metallic and leather accents, which evokes a more premium look regardless of which color scheme you choose for it. Turn it upside down and you’ll see three rubber grips, comprising of two tiny ones as well as a long horizontal one that stretches across its body.

The grips are quite sticky and can be dust magnets but they do a good job in preventing the Bridge from slip-sliding away.

The Features

One one side, you’ll notice indicator lights for showing how much battery power the device has left as well as two connector slots. There’s a microUSB slot for charging the device as well as a regular USB port that can be used to charge other devices with the Bridge’s built-in battery. With a capacity of 2.600 mAH, the Bridge has about the same amount of power as a small USB charging stick but it’s still enough to charge most smartphones in a pinch.

On the opposite side are buttons for powering on the device, skipping tracks and adjusting the volume. Volume adjustment is separate from devices that can be paired with the Bridge via Bluetooth such as the iPhone or iPad. This means you can increase the volume on the speaker and then increase it again with the volume controls on your smartphone or tablet. It also includes a button for taking and ending calls when paired with a device like the iPhone.

The built-in pair of omnidirectional mics is a strength for the Bridge. Thanks to a noise-reduction function that minimizes background noise, the Bridge transmits good voice audio to the party you’re talking too.

Battery life is also solid at about eight hours.

At the same time, its jack-of-all-trades approach means it doesn’t do certain things as well as a dedicated conference call speakerphone or a portable speaker. Sound, while fine for a speakerphone, isn’t as robust or dynamic as some full-on portable speakers like the House of Marley BT Liberate or even Braven’s own BRV-1 for audio. It also doesn’t have a 3.5-millimeter port for directly connecting, say, an MP3 player to it.

Potential Drawbacks

Charging time is also on the long end for a device with its battery capacity. The first time I tried setting up the review unit I tested, I had an issue where the mic worked so I could speak through it but the audio didn’t come out from the other end and I couldn’t hear what the person on the other line was saying.

The Bridge is also quite expensive at $249.99.

Overall Assessment

Overall, this device won’t be for folks who only plan to use it for listening to music. If you need a gadget with better speakerphone capabilities than your typical portable speaker, however, then the Bridge might be a more viable option, provided you can swallow its high price tag.

Rating: 3 out of 5

Jason Hidalgo is About.com’s Portable Electronics expert. Yes, he is easily amused. Follow him on Twitter @jasonhidalgo and be amused, too.