I recently received the EcoSlate Bluetooth speaker by ECOXGEAR for testing. It is designed to fill a middle market budget category for portable Bluetooth speakers, while purporting to deliver some decidedly upmarket features. It can be found at most respected online outlets and many brick and mortar retailers as well. The basic manufacturer stats for it include:

  • Rugged, Waterproof and Floating Bluetooth Speaker
  • Integrated Full Range Stereo Speakers, 20W (2 x 10W)
  • Bluetooth 4.2 streams audio wirelessly from up to 100 feet away via your Smartphone, tablet or any Bluetooth enabled device.
  • Backlit Top Panel Control Buttons for easy day or night viewing
  • EcoConnect – wirelessly connect two speakers for stereo surround sound
  • Voice Assistant enabled – Hold down PLAY button to activate ’Siri’ or ‘OK Google’
  • Built in Battery: Lithium Rechargeable, 12 hour play or talk time (actual time varies)
  • Powerbank feature: charges all USB devices, (5V 1.0A)
  • Answer calls with built-in speakerphone
  • Power Adapter (AC): USB to AC 100-240V, 5V 1.0A
  • Includes carry lanyard and carabiner.
  • Aux-In
  • Depth: 2.2”, Width: 8.6”, Height: 5.5”, Weight: 1.8 lbs

Bottom line up front? It seems to deliver on everything it promises and more. Good sound quality, good Bluetooth range and 12 hour battery life hold true to expectations. The unit’s ruggedness and waterproofness is where it shines. It will handle most household and outing requirements easily, but more impressively, if it falls in the pool or the lake, or gets dropped off a picnic table, you can pick it back up, put it on the table and drive on. Read on for more details.

Review

ECOXGEAR is the brand name of a line of audio products sold by Grace Digital, founded in 2007 in California to produce wired and wireless home audio solutions. They design their products in California, and do R&D and manufacturing overseas.

The EcoSlate is well designed, pleasant looking and easy to use. It comes with basic instructions, but out of the box it is easy to use. It was fully charged and paired almost instantly with my iPhone. From that point on, every time I turn it on it instantly connects with my phone (a pleasant woman’s voice informs me it’s connected so I don’t have to look). The speaker has a rubberized coating on it, with reinforced corners for drop protection, and a lanyard with a small karabiner to hang it. The backlit controls are relatively large and easy to use, all on the top of the speaker.

Sound quality – The sound quality is good, though not quite as much range or clarity as our Bose mini-Soundlink. It’s volume levels are connected to your phone’s volume, rather than independent of the phone like the Soundlink, a limiting factor. Clarity at the upper volume ranges are slightly degraded, but for most of us it is more than adequate. It is not quite as loud as some of the comparison speakers we used, but again, both in the home environment and at an outdoor beach party, the volume levels were perfectly adequate.

Battery life – The company claims battery life of 12+ hours on the rechargeable lithium battery at average volume levels. So far, that seems to hold true. I’m at 12 hours of usage so far, at well above average volumes, and still running it on the original charge it shipped with.

Range – Range is advertised at 100 feet, and, with no obstructions, it seems true to claims. But even at 50 feet, range is easily degraded by trees, walls or even bodies in the way. This seems a common issue with blue tooth speakers and in comparison to others we have used, the EcoSlate signal is stronger than others.

Ruggedness/Waterproof – This is where the EcoSlate shines. Whereas with other speakers we have always felt the need to be ginger handling them, the EcoSlate’s robust design gives you confidence that it can be used without needing to be babied. You don’t worry about it falling over, or even falling off the table, as the rubberized coating and bumper corners provide good protection (I have not yet subject it to specific fall testing though).

This is not just a splashproof device, the flotation and waterproofing works as advertised. I literally dropped it in the local lake, while it was on and streaming a Spotify playlist. When it first hit the water, the sound became somewhat muffled as the water covered the speakers, but after a few moments it came back. One interesting thing we noticed on taking it out of the water was that as the water drained, the droplets that remained around the speakers would bounce in beautiful patterns (rooted in a phenomena called Faraday waves), fascinating everyone in our group. The IP68 ingress rating means that the device should keep water out for 30 minutes down to 30 meters depth. No worries though, as the EcoSlate floats on the surface, making it incredibly easy to recover if it accidentally falls in the drink.

The unit is completely sealed with the exception of an access panel on the back that twists closed with an o-ring to waterproof it. The cap/panel feels flimsy, the only part of the device that feels that way, and care must be taken to ensure it is tightly close or you will undermine the integrity of the entire unit. In our multiple tests in the lake and at home, the back stayed tightly closed and never leaked.

Other features – Behind the access panel are some of the other features you might occasionally need to access, including the micro-USB to charge the speaker, a USB charging port to allow you to charge your cell phone or other device, and an aux-in port to connect to another device. One interesting feature that we were unable to test is the EcoConnect feature, which allows two speakers to be paired for surround sound. The 200 lumen flashlight feels like a gimmicky add on, and, frustratingly, the control button is on the tope panel with the rest of the speaker controls, and so we regularly accidently turn it on when manipulating the other controls. That said, the light is handy and, particularly in a camping environment, would be useful. It is unclear how much flashlight usage might degrade the battery life.

Overall

Cost – At list price, I’d give this a 4. But since it can be found from many detailers at 30% or more off, at those prices it is a 5, particularly compared to its competition.

Comfort – Not really applicable, but it is designed to be easily carried and nice to look at. 4.5

Durability – Given the robust casing and waterproofing, an easy 5.

Functionality – Very functional, only negatives being the slightly lower volume levels and range compared to the peer group. 4.8

Weight – Comparable to it’s peer group. 5

Overall rating – 4.86. I don’t know that I would have looked at the EcoSlate if I were looking for a Bluetooth speaker. It just doesn’t have the brand recognition that a Bose or JBL does. But not giving the EcoSlate a try would have been a mistake. For our active lifestyle, the ruggedness and waterproofing are key characteristics and the EcoSlate delivers in spades. Excellent value for cost and I don’t worry about it outside in the yard, or falling in to the lake, knowing it will keep on keeping on.

Material Disclosure

I received this product as a courtesy from the manufacturer via Spotter Up so I could test it and give my honest feedback. I am not bound by any written, verbal, or implied contract to give this product a good review. All opinions are my own and are based off my personal experience with the product.

*The views and opinions expressed on this website are solely those of the original authors and contributors. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of Spotter Up Magazine, the administrative staff, and/or any/all contributors to this site.

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About The Author

Doug is a former CIA officer with extensive overseas experience in Asia, Europe, Latin America and the Middle East. He has an MBA from Wharton and worked in high tech, private equity and manufacturing. He regularly writes on business and intelligence topics for both web and print publications and advises on film and TV productions

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