So, what do I want out of my next laptop and what must it include?
Logitech Z600 Bluetooth Speakers
This desktop speaker system is targeted at notebook users, and connects via Bluetooth or USB
- Gorgeous, rich sound output
- Bluetooth, USB and analogue inputs
- Attractive design
- Unmanageable cabling
Unwieldy speaker cabling detracts from this wireless system, but sound quality, ease-of-use and attractive design outweigh that single negative. Great for the home or office.
Price$ 199.95 (AUD)
Logitech’s Z600 speaker system does have Bluetooth support, but don’t confuse it with the portable ‘Bluetooth speaker’ devices that have cropped up in the last year or two, aimed solely at smartphones and tablets.
The Z600 is a traditional ‘desktop PC-speaker’ set, with the addition of Bluetooth to support modern Bluetooth-equipped laptops. It has no battery, and runs on mains power only. This is a speaker you plug your laptop in to when it’s on your desk at home, or in the office – you don’t take the Z600 speakers with you.
Though traditional in function, the Z600 speakers are modern in form. The attractive, gently tapered cylindrical casings are clad in speaker-mesh fabric, broken up by a single narrow stripe of purple plastic. On the right-hand speaker, this stripe is home to the controls and inputs.
The top of each speaker is a disc of the same purple plastic. At the base, the downward-facing drivers are unprotected but for a thin piece of cardboard on each. This shouldn’t be a problem, unless your kids or pets knock the speaker over and decide to poke at the interestingly-squishy and decidedly delicate underside.
Logitech has used what it calls like-flat cabling between the speakers: flat, telephone-wire style cables that I suppose are meant to lie flat on the desk rather than flopping around everywhere as cables have a tendency to do.
It does work like that, if your speakers are placed neatly near the rear edge of your desk, with the cables draping over the edge and out of sight. If your desktop doesn’t allow that, I found the cables were actually harder to wrangle than their common rounded counterparts, and created annoying cable-clutter.
Each speaker has a short cable, the two of which join together in a little rectangular block. The power cable also plugs into that block, creating a Y shaped mess of cables. Because of the snap-together rubberised plugs used, it’s difficult – if not impossible – to extend those cables if you need a bit more length.
Setup, inputs & controls
There are two ways to connect to the Z600: wireless via Bluetooth 2.0, or wired by 3.5mm minijack. For PCs without native Bluetooth support, or that do not support A2DP (Bluetooth’s advanced audio distribution features), Logitech includes a USB Bluetooth transceiver in the box.
Connecting via Bluetooth is simple – hold the ‘connect’ button on the speakers for a second or two, then find and pair to the Z600 from your device. Exactly how you do that is device-dependent – we tested connections from Windows 8, Mac OS X, iOS, Windows Phone and Android. All worked smoothly.
The Z600 will stay paired to up to three Bluetooth devices at once. If those devices support A2DP (as above, the included USB adapter does), you can quickly switch from one source to another just by stopping the audio playback on the current device, and starting playback on another.
The multi-device Bluetooth setup is wonderfully useful if you use a tablet or smartphone around the home a lot, as you can connect those up to the speakers and make use of them even when you’re not at your laptop or desktop PC. It saves you having multiple speaker setups in the same room to serve multiple devices, when you’d only be listening to one set at a time.
The controls are minimalist – power button, Bluetooth pairing button and volume. Instead of buttons, the volume is set by moving your finger on the top of the right-hand speaker, either clockwise (volume up) or anticlockwise (volume down). That could easily have been annoying, if implemented anything less than perfectly. As it happens, Logitech got it right – the control provides smooth and accurate control over volume.
There’s nothing on the speaker that reminds you of the volume control, though. It comes with a peel-away instruction sticker, but guests to your home will have no idea how to turn the volume up or down.
This is not a speaker setup pitched at audiophiles. Logitech doesn’t advertise the output power (wattage), frequency response, or speaker technology used. The Z600 is not sold under the company’s Ultimate Ears (UE) brand. It’s a computer accessory, not a piece of sound gear.
All that said, the Z600’s sound quality is gorgeous. From good-quality source material, sound is clear throughout the range, with gently but distinctly reverberative bass and no noticeable tinniness at the top end.
The maximum volume is formidable (enough to provide the background music for a small house-party or office event), without distortion or clipping when turned all the way up.
Sound quality did not seem to be lost over Bluetooth – there was none of those characteristic ‘Bluetooth headset’ compression artefacts or distortions introduced. The same source material played over the 3.5mm analogue connection sounded indistinguishable when played over Bluetooth instead. Audiophiles may notice a difference but again, this is not an audiophile-grade product and is not built, marketed, or priced as such.
It’s not hard to get PC speakers, but it can be hard to get good PC speakers.
At AU$199.95/NZ$199.90 – let’s just call it two-hundred bucks, you’re paying more than you would for a cheap wired set. However, with the Z600’s Bluetooth, you’re not using up a USB port on your port-starved Ultrabook or MacBook Air.
Read more: Harman/Kardon Aura wireless speaker
You can use the same speaker setup for your smartphone or tablet, and switching between audio sources never gave us any trouble. Being able to stay paired with three devices at once was truly useful – we had it setup with laptop, tablet and smartphone, frequently switching between the three.
Finally, audio quality is great. For music, movies, YouTube shows or gaming, it sounded rich and clear – enough to justify the Z600 on that point alone, even if it didn’t have the neat multi-device feature.
The cabling does create a bit more clutter than we’d like, which is notable given this is a Bluetooth system. It’s wireless to your device, but it still needs power and the speakers still have to talk to each other. Hence, cables. Logitech could have handled that a bit better perhaps, with a slightly neater cable setup. Given the advantages of the Z600, that’s a small complaint that shouldn’t put you off too much at all.
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