Arctic S113BT Portable Bluetooth Speaker with NFC Pairing review

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The popularity of portable Bluetooth speakers is pretty obvious if you’ve been keeping track of all the reviews we’ve been doing for the past year or two. Guess what? We have another one for you today. It’s the S113BT from Arctic. What makes this speaker any different from all the others on the market? This one has a new feature that has only just recently started appearing in speakers. Want to learn more? Then keep reading.

Note: Images can be clicked to view a larger size.

Specifications

Bluetooth Version: V4.0 + EDR (Class 2)
Speakers: 2 x 1.5” Full range Drivers + 2x 1.5” Bass Radiators
Microphone Sensitivity: -44 ±3dB
Battery: Rechargeable 1,200mAh Lithium Polymer Battery
Product Dimensions (L x W x H): 58mm x 46mm x 157mm
Playback Time: 8h
Frequency Response: 30Hz – 20kHz
Impedance: 4Ω
Output Power (RMS): 2 x 3W

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Package Contents

S113 BT Speaker
3.5 mm Cable
Micro USB Cable
Travel Pouch
Manual

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Available in 6 colors: white, black, blue, green, pink and orange, the S113BT is one of the smaller speakers I’ve had the opportunity to try. It will have no problem finding a place in a medium or even a smaller gear bag. The outer covering is made of thick rubber or silicone and should provide a decent amount of drop protection.

The front of the speaker has a thin metal grill with 3 control buttons positioned between the two speakers. The – and + buttons pull double duty as volume adjusters and prev / next track navigators. The center button also has multiple functions. It is used for pairing as well as call answering / hangup and a  play/pause toggle for audio.

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The right side has a 3.5 mm auxiliary input, micro USB charge port and a power switch.

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The most unique feature of the Arctic S113BT speaker is the NFC pairing feature. If you’re not familiar with NFC, it stands for Near Field Communication and is built into newer Android and other phones / devices – except for the current models of iPhone/iPads. In the past NFC was used to send little snippets of information like contact info, web addresses, etc. Then people started using it to perform tasks using special tags. Now we’re starting to see it built into speakers where it’s used to make Bluetooth pairing easier.

What happens is that you make sure NFC is enabled on your device and then set that device on top of the S113BT. Communication will be established and will initiate Bluetooth pairing without you having to go into your device’s settings to scan or enter passcodes. If Bluetooth was turned off, it also toggles it on. During my testing this method of pairing didn’t seem to work any better than manually pairing. And I had some trouble pairing this way till I realized that only one device could be paired to the speaker at any one time. Try to pair another and it fails even though it tries to make a connection. But after the speaker and the device are paired once, you don’t have to repeat the process because they will automatically pair just like any other two Bluetooth devices. So the NFC feature really only saves you a few seconds vs. pairing manually.

I tested the S113BT with my Samsung Galaxy S3 and my Samsung Galaxy Note 2. Audio quality playing music was only ok and didn’t impress me. But what can you really expect from such a small speaker? What the speaker offers in good volume and clarity, it completely misses with warmth and rich tones that make music more enjoyable.

However, as a speaker phone it worked very well. Music automatically paused when a call would come into the phone. At that point pressing the middle button on the speaker would answer the call and would then be used to end the call. After the call would end, music would resume where it left off. Audio on both sides of the conversation was better than some Bluetooth speakerphones I’ve tried in the past even when I was testing it in my basement where I usually only have 1-2 bars signal strength on my phone.

I haven’t tried playing music through the speaker for more than 30 – 60 minutes at a time, but I’m still on my initial charge after several days of testing it. So battery life is pretty good. It doesn’t appear that the speaker has an auto shutdown feature, so you have to remember to switch it off after using it.

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The S115BT even has its own zippered padded carrying case which is a nice touch that most speaker manufacturer’s skip.

When it’s all said and done, the Arctic S113BT Portable Bluetooth Speaker is an average performing speaker. It offers ok sound for music playback, good speakerphone performance, a small size and a zippered pouch. The only thing that really makes this speaker unique is the NFC pairing feature which I’m not fully convinced is really all that useful. I was excited about trying a speaker with this feature and now that I have, I’m sorta left feeling a little meh.

 

Product Information

Price:$79.99
Manufacturer:Arctic
Pros:
  • Nice size
  • NFC makes pairing slightly quicker than doing it manually
  • Good speakerphone
  • Zippered pouch
Cons:
  • Can only pair with one device at a time
  • Audio quality playing music is only average
Posted in: Audio, Video, TV Gear, Bluetooth Gear, Reviews

13 comments… add one

  • Matt Perry August 22, 2013, 2:16 pm

    The NFC is a nice touch. You will see much more of this in the portable audio area. It is just very convenient.

    1
  • Memes August 22, 2013, 9:50 pm

    yes, the NFC is just saving few seconds on the initial pairing, but is nice if you use several Bluetooth devices as I do (2 speakers at home, 2 different headsets) in that case, the automatic reconnection is not given if it was not the latest device used, the NFC helps greatly there, just a tap and you are set.

    2
  • Hammer August 27, 2013, 2:19 pm

    The reviewer’s comment is sadly biased and with unrealistic expectation.

    First of all, any external speakers are upgrade to the phone’s/tablet’s own speakers, doesn’t matter whose phone/tablet you have.

    Secondly, reviewer failed to mention about how much more will consumers have to pay to get “above-average” sound from a portable speaker. I’d love to have a Bose Soundlink but do I really want to pay $200 for the sound? I think not. We have to work hard to earn a living here and don’t get gadgets for free!

    Thirdly, what speakers like this one can do is to allow more people to share and enjoy music together. Portable speakers are tools for social networking, not isolation, for Pete’s sake!

    Most viewers have to work and socialize. We’d like to know what these gadgets can do for US. Please come down from your high horse and set your point of view from the level of US THE PEOPLE. It helps to get out of that basement once in a while, too.

    3
  • Julie Strietelmeier August 27, 2013, 3:00 pm

    @Hammer I have no idea what you’re going on about… What comment did I make that is sadly biased and with unrealistic expectation?

    4
  • Hammer August 28, 2013, 9:09 pm

    @Julie,

    1. Just read the post above mine. Real people actually think NFC is pretty useful in real life situation.

    2. You said it yourself, “what can you really expect from such a small speaker?” Saying “it completely misses with warmth and rich tones that make music more enjoyable” is kind of biased and having an unrealistic expectation. What were you expecting?

    3. Perhaps the sound quality is “average”, but I believe it still outperforms the speakers in your Samsung Galaxy S3 and Note II by miles. Average comparing against what?

    4. I hope Bose Soundlink scores higher in your review, at $200, 244x130x48mm in size and almost 3 pounds, it still can only paired with one device at a time.

    Viewers like myself rely on your expert opinion when making buying decisions. Everyone knows BOSE is good, but not everyone has extra $200 to spend. Meh?

    5
  • Julie Strietelmeier August 28, 2013, 9:17 pm

    @Hammer I’ve never reviewed a Bose speaker so I can’t comment on them. I don’t think they make a little speaker like the S113BT. What was I expecting? Better sound quality obviously. Speakers like the RockSteady from Killer Concepts sounds better and is about the same price. The Divoom Bluetune also sounds better and is quite a bit cheaper.

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  • Hammer September 11, 2013, 6:38 pm

    Bose does make Soundlink Mini, it seems a tad bigger than S113BT and of course delivers awesome sound as expected from Bose. However, a $199.99 without NFC kind of put it back at the technology curve. Well, they’re Bose, they can do whatever they want anyway.

    You may not want to bring RockSteadyXS to beach/outdoor because without moist-resisting cover, it will get butchered pretty soon. It also doesn’t have NFC so no headroom to grow. I don’t think you can pair more than one RockSteadyXS with your mobile device at a time either.

    While Bluetune is perhaps cheaper, it only one speaker, i.e. single channel mono sound no matter how they spin it. Again, a legacy item without NFC = no headroom to grow. You may not want to get it close to moisture as well, definitely not an outdoor product.

    Rocksteady and Bluetune are good speakers for yesterday’s mobile devices. You buy gadget with headroom to grow, i.e. compatible with future devices, so you don’t have to keep buying them. With just about every conceivable Android devices now supporting NFC, it’s time to pay NFC a little more deserving attention just like @Matt Perry and @Memes said before me. Keep discounting impact of NFC is not going to stop the technology from advancing.

    7
  • Niccolo October 2, 2013, 7:46 pm

    Hi thank you for this useful review. I’ve got it this speaker and it work very well.
    The only point is I don’t understand how is the procedure to get work the NFC feature with my samsung S4.
    Help me to understand it please :-)

    Niccolo

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  • Julie Strietelmeier October 2, 2013, 8:14 pm

    @Niccolo On your S4, turn on Bluetooth and turn on NFC. You should find both in the settings. Then just tap the phone to the top of the speaker. You should then see a popup on the phone asking if you want to pair the speaker. Once paired, you shouldn’t have to do this again as long as Bluetooth is turn on for your phone.

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  • Niccolo October 3, 2013, 1:16 am

    I’ve already tried several times, but nothing is happened :(

    10
  • Julie Strietelmeier October 3, 2013, 7:26 am

    @Niccolo can you pair manually by searching for Bluetooth devices?

    11
  • Niccolo October 3, 2013, 7:59 am

    yes and it work very well…

    12
  • Jackie February 13, 2014, 8:05 am

    Has anyone managed to actually get the NFC to work on this?

    13

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