Lenco PlayLink4 portable wireless speaker

Add this speaker to a multi-room, Wi-Fi music ecosystem, or pick it up and take it outside with Bluetooth

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Lenco PlayLink4
  • Lenco PlayLink4
  • Lenco PlayLink4
  • Lenco PlayLink4
  • Expert Rating

    3.50 / 5

Pros

  • Small and portable
  • Wi-Fi and Bluetooth
  • High quality sound

Cons

  • Power and volume buttons too stiff
  • Volume control through app isn't great
  • Can't put the speaker into standby through the app

Would you buy this?

Lenco's PlayLink4 is a small, portable, and versatile speaker that can serve a few different functions. It can be used as a Bluetooth speaker, as part of a multi-room speaker system, and it can be placed and listened to anywhere in and around your home if you have a battery for it.

Primarily, the PlayLink4 speaker serves as one part of a Lenco's PlayLink multi-room ecosystem, meaning you can connect it to your Wi-Fi network and play stored or streaming music through the Lenco mobile app only to this speaker, or to a group of speakers. However, if you just want to use it as a Bluetooth speaker and forego the specific app, you can do so easily.

There are four modes that the PlayLink4 supports: Wi-Fi, Wi-Fi Direct, Bluetooth, and auxiliary. Setting it up is mostly a breeze, once you read the instructions. After switching on the speaker, its power light will flash amber, indicating that it's booting. The mode the speaker is in will be represented by the colour of the light. Blue is for Bluetooth, white is for Wi-Fi, and green is for auxiliary. A mode button at the back helps you change to the one you're after, and there is a direct mode/reset button for Wi-Fi Direct.

In order to use Wi-Fi, your router must support Wi-Fi Protected Setup (WPS). Enter WPS mode on your router, either by pressing a button, or through its Web interface, then press the 'quick connect' button on the speaker. This will give the speaker your wireless network's name and password. There is no way to enter it in manually. We had no problems at all getting it to work on our network.

An app called PlayLink needs to be installed on your mobile device if you plan to use the speaker conveniently in Wi-Fi mode. It's an app that's based on Qualcomm's AllPlay Jukebox app, and Lenco's ecosystem is indeed based on the Qualcomm AllPlay specification. This means that you can play music through any app that supports AllPlay, and you can control any other speakers from other brands using the same apps, as long as those speakers feature AllPlay.

The app is simple to use, and it supports playing music from network locations such as NAS servers, the music libraries on your computers (the speaker is a DLNA device), as well as locally stored music on the mobile device that you're using. Furthermore, you can stream through Spotify, and you can use AllPlay Radio to tune in to Internet streams, such as those from Digitally Imported, as well as use other supported media players (doubleTwist is one) to play your local music.

While we found the Lenco PlayLink app to be mostly simple, we think its volume control is too hard to use. Its slider is not as smooth and responsive as it should be, meaning it can be hard to fine-tune the volume, especially at the quieter end of the scale (which is important for apartment living). Using the physical volume key on your device will cause the volume to skip in large steps. We also wish there was a way to put the speakers in standby mode using the app. We couldn't find one and had to press the power button on each speaker manually.

Additionally, the way you play music is a little unintuitive. If you select the first song in an album from a server on your NAS device, only that particular song will play and then the music will stop. You have to click on the 'play all' option at the top in order to play all the songs in a folder.

Every time you play a song, you add it to the current playlist. Any subsequent songs can be set to play next, or to play last. It's not a bad way of doing things, but we do wish the playlist had a bit more flexibility. For example, you can't remove individual songs from the playlist, and you can't edit the order in which the songs are played. You have to clear the whole list in order to start again, rather than edit it.

What the app is great for is selecting the speaker (or group of speakers) you want to use (if you have multiple Lenco speakers in a multi-room set-up), as well as sharing the playing duties between multiple people in your home. Friends who are connected to your wireless network will be able to access the speaker and its playlist from their phone as long as they have the app installed, which can lead to an interactive and more social listening experience (in the real-life sense, that is) rather than passive listening.

You aren't able to play music from just any streaming services, though, and this could be a dealbreaker for those of us who use services such as Google Play Music and Bandcamp, just to list a couple of examples. But at least the speaker can be switched to Bluetooth mode for the times when services as yet unsupported by AllPlay are required.

Sound quality from the speaker itself is clear and robust. It serves up sound that is a little heavy on the mid-range, but there is enough low-end there to make for an enjoyable listening experience, especially considering the small size of the speaker; it's 210mm wide, 129mm tall, and 102mm deep. Within these confines reside two mid-range/tweeter drivers, and a woofer in a ported design. When you compare the sound of the small PlayLink4 to the larger PlayLink6 speaker, it understandably has less range, but on its own is still a high quality speaker that can fill a small room with sound (it has a 40W RMS rating).

We mostly tested the speaker using CD-quality (16-bit, 44.1KHz) FLAC files that we have either ripped ourselves or downloaded from services such as Bandcamp, but the speaker also supports high-resolution FLAC files, and we played a few of those, too (24-bit, 96KHz), from the HDTracks Web site. For high-resolution audio, you will need a fast, dual-band router. In a multi-room set-up, the number of speakers you have can affect the bandwidth and limit high-resolution playback. Lenco recommends no more than two speakers for grouped playback.

Read more: Harman/Kardon Aura wireless speaker

An optional battery is what makes the PlayLink4 a convenient speaker for use around the home (and even while out at a picnic, as long as you don't stay out too long), though the life of the speaker is limited to a handful of hours at most, depending on the volume level. If you want to listen while out of the range of your Wi-Fi infrastructure, that's when the Wi-Fi Direct and Bluetooth functions and your mobile device come in handy. Another cool feature is that you can have two of these speakers set up as left and right channels in order to provide a fuller, and more separated sound for your room.

Consider the Lenco PlayLink4 a small building block to a larger wireless music system. It works fine on its own because of Bluetooth and Wi-Fi Direct, but will be best suited as a part of Lenco's multi-room ecosystem. The $399 price includes the battery.

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