Anker was nice enough to send me this device over the holiday and I have used it for about a week now. These are my first impressions from using it every day during this period of time in both a work and recreational capacity from my home office.
Packaging and Presentation
In my experience from buying what I estimate has been 25+ Anker products over the last few years, this speaker has what you expect – stellar packaging. Where Anker has the bright blue accents on their white packaging, Zolo has a deep yellow. The whole unboxing experience was enjoyable; from sliding the outer paper/card covering to the warm invitation of the soft foam holding the speaker in place. The attention to detail promotes a very premium unboxing experience, and that is one thing that I enjoy most about Anker’s products, complete with the happy/unhappy promise of customer satisfaction.
The Halo uses the ‘Zolo Play’ app to set up the device. From plugging in the speaker to power, downloading the app, and going through the set-up process, I was issuing commands to Alexa in just a few short moments. It is as simple as all Alexa enabled speakers are (very comparable to the set-up process using the Eufy Genie and EufyLife app). Because this is an Alexa speaker, much of functionality relies on the Alexa app, and not the Zolo Play app. I have not opened the Zolo Play app since set-up and I can’t remember much about the app other than the set-up process.
Design, Build, and Interface
The speaker has a great interface and makes using this device at my desk a pleasant experience. In similar fashion the Echo line of devices or the Eufy Genie, when Alexa is activated the speaker lights up letting you know it is ready to work for you. There is a mute button, which I have not used yet, but it’s nice that it’s there. There are physical buttons for activating Alexa, as well as raising or lowering the volume of the speaker. There is a play/pause button that also functions as a means to skip to the next song when doubleclicked. There is also a bluetooth button for turning on the bluetooth functionality of the speaker.
This is an area where the Zolo Halo excels and surpasses the Eufy Genie in particular. Being able to use the speaker as bluetooth speaker aside from simply a smart device is excellent!
The device feels very well built. It has the cold to the touch feel that is always nice and is small enough where you could move it around if you liked and would be easily transported.
The device isn’t an eye sore either. Many speakers try to be a set piece, but this one is very subtle and low profile. It could definitely fit into any room, without question.
Ultimately, this is what matters most when considering the worthiness of a bluetooth speaker of any kind. Even this speaker whose primary function can be argued, does not disappoint in this area. I found myself pleasantly surprised when I began playing music on it. It got quite loud, enough to fill up my home office with no problem. The bass was present, but was somewhat weaker than my ears prefer. The mids were pronounced, but not muffled. And the high frequencies were clear and not tinny. I played a few different genres of music and was generally impressed with each of them.
For comparison, I set the Zolo Halo ($59) alongside the Eufy Genie ($34.99), and Google Home mini ($29 on sale, originally $49.99). In terms of bass, the Halo far outperformed the other smart speakers. In terms of volume, it was comparable to the Google Home mini, but had slightly less volume at max, but was far louder than the Eufy Genie. When at max volume there was far less distortion compared to the Google Home mini despite the mini being slightly louder at max. I can say after testing these three speakers in songs ranging from Rap, EDM, classical, and Rock that the Zolo Halo overall outperformed them in terms of a great listening experience.
All of that being said, this is a strange product, in my opinion. It costs more than other smart speakers. This is an ambitious product attempted to carve out a spot in between the smaller, cheaper smart assistant speakers such as the Genie, Dot, and Google home mini with the larger, louder, and more expensive smart speakers like the Echo, and Google Home.
I don’t know if there is enough of a difference between the Halo and the cheaper speakers to justify it’s existence. For just $20 more you can get a full sized Echo and Google Home at the time of my writing, taking advantage of promotional and holiday deals. Without testing this speaker alongside the Google Home and echo devices, I can’t make a sound judgement, but it is my opinion that the sound stage on those devices are likely better.
Personally, I would choose this device over a cheaper Alexa speaker, and I would suppose that I would make the same judgement if I were speaking of the sister-device, the Zolo Mojo over Google Assistant devices. At $29.99 the Echo Dot and Google Home mini are compelling devices and I’m not sure that the superior sound is good enough to justify nearly double in price.
It boils down to this, each person’s wants and needs are different. This may be the perfect device for you if you’re looking for a smart assistant speaker with better sound than the smaller, cheaper devices that are being produced. That niche between the two sizes of devices that are currently available might be right where you are. Maybe that’s not true for you. In the competitive tech space that we have today, I’m sure you’ll find exactly what you’re looking for!