Nokia Portable Wireless Speaker MD-12

Nokia Portable Wireless Speaker MD-12

Small and cute, with decent sound

Back in April, Nokia showed off the Nokia Portable Wireless Speaker, an affordable accessory that comes in this year's Lumia colors, white, yellow, orange and green. It's shipping now, so I grabbed one from the Microsoft Store. And if you travel with your Lumia and want something to pump up the volume, this is a neat little option.

To be clear, this year's rendition of the Nokia Portable Wireless Speaker is the MD-12. I've owned a variety of Nokia-branded speakers over the years, and have always been impressed by how the company—or rather its hardware partners—have been able to squeeze such amazing sound quality into ever-smaller packages.

I can't honestly claim the sound quality has gotten better as the devices have gotten smaller. Instead, it's fairer to say that the sound quality hasn't suffered that much but that portability has gone up dramatically. The MD-12 is so small and light that I'll throw it in my bag and use it in hotel rooms on my trips going forward.

Here's what you need to know about the Nokia Portable Wireless Speaker MD-12.

It's small. Roughly the size of a hockey puck, but far cuter, the MD-12 measures 38 mm high and has a diameter of 84 mm. It can fit right in your hand, though you'll want to put it on a surface, as explained below.

It's light. The MD-12 weighs 180g. By comparison, a Lumia Icon weighs 167g and a Lumia 1520 comes in at 206g.

It has great battery life. I haven't been able to verify this yet—though I am testing it now—but Nokia claims that the MD-12 can last up to 15 hours on a charge.

It's colorful. You can get the MD-12 in white, yellow, orange or green. I grabbed green to match the green cover I just bought for my Lumia 635.

It charges with USB. To charge the MD-12, just plug the bundled USB-based charging cable (which is quite short) into a PC or, using a charger adapter that is not included, to a wall socket. You can use the device while it's charging, of course, and this all works with the same USB-based cable and charger your smart phone already uses.

It sounds great. I've been using the MD-12 with both music (Xbox Music and Nokia MixRadio) and spoken voice recordings (Audible audiobooks and podcasts), and have been surprised by how good it sounds. Part of the reason is that its unique design utilizes the surface on which the speaker sits to produce bass and low frequency sounds. It sounds best on a table or counter top, I've found. (As opposed to couch.)

There are no volume controls. Unlike with previous Nokia portable speakers, there are no volume controls on the speaker itself, so all volume adjustment comes via your smart phone's speaker controls.

It's NFC compatible. Like previous Nokia portable speakers, the MD-12 is NFC compatible, which dramatically simplifies the pairing process with your phone. Assuming you're using an NFC-compatible Lumia or other device, that is, and of course I am. The NFC pairing point is, oddly, on the side of the device and not on the top as you might expect.

You can connect with Bluetooth or via an audio cable. You connect your phone to the MD-12 via Bluetooth (optionally with NFC, which simplifies things, or just normally via Bluetooth) or via a standard 3.5 mm audio connector (headphone-style, which is not included).

It has a microphone and can be used as a speakerphone. This feature is neat: There is a microphone in the top of the MD-12 that lets you use the speaker like a speakerphone. I've only tested this with Windows Phone 8.1 on the Lumia 1520, but Nokia says it works OK with iPhone and Android too. As long as the MD-12 is connected to your phone, it will be used as the speaker and mic during calls, and if you're playing music when a call starts, the music will fade out and then fade back in when the call is over. Yes, it sounds like speaker phone on the other end.

It has one button. On the front, you will see a single round button, which is described as a multi-function button. (This is found on previous Nokia portable speakers too.) You use this to turn the speaker on and off with a(n overly) long press, and can use it to pair the device via Bluetooth or end a phone call in speaker phone mode.

It has pretty lights. A power light comes on when the device is powered up. It's green when the MD-12 is fully charged and orange while charging. A blue light also appears indicating Bluetooth connectivity.

It has a grippy bottom. You can't stick it up on a wall, but the bottom is nice and grippy for a no-slip experience.

It can be managed with the Nokia Device Hub settings app. When you connect to the MD-12 via NFC/Bluetooth, you will see an Action Center notification related to Device Hub. From this settings app, you can manage the MD-12, check the battery and see the compatible apps on your phone and in the store. You can even pin the MD-12 Device Hub page to the Start screen and monitor battery life at a glance.

The Nokia Portable Wireless Speaker MD-12 is available now for $49.99 in the Microsoft Store. I wouldn't use this as a primary speaker at home per se, but it would be great for a college dorm room, in a bathroom (for you shower crooners) and, as noted, on the road. Which is where I'll be using it.

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