Anker MP141 review

It’s hard to imagine wanting or expecting more out of a speaker under $50 than what the MP141 offers.
It’s hard to imagine wanting or expecting more out of a speaker under $50 than what the MP141 offers.
It’s hard to imagine wanting or expecting more out of a speaker under $50 than what the MP141 offers.

Highs

  • Sounds full and natural
  • Excellent battery life
  • Good wireless range, stable connection
  • Simple operation
  • Looks great

Lows

  • Doesn’t play as loud as some others
  • No way to clip to a bag

Last we checked, Amazon returns 6,188 results for a search on rechargeable Bluetooth speakers under $50. That’s ridiculous. Granted, some of those are multiples of the same make and model speaker, just different colors. Still, anything over 100 options seems unnecessary, never mind 5,000.

With that many options, one might understandably look toward a brand they’re familiar with, if only to dial back the glut of options – a JBL, Jawbone, Altec Lansing, or Philips, for instance. That’s usually a safe move, but sometimes it can mean you miss out on something really great from a lesser-known company.

Take Anker, for example. It lacks the brand clout of a JBL, and to be fair, Anker isn’t really an audio specialist – the company makes all kinds of computing and mobile device accessories, only four of which are speakers. But, as luck would have it, the Anker MP141 is actually a great little speaker. It’s one of the best we’ve heard under $50 yet, it sports an incredible battery life for its size, and it’s pretty smart-looking to boot.

First look video

Out of the box

The MP141’s plain packaging belies its simple elegance. The speaker inside (ours came in black, but white is also available) has the rubbery silicone shell material we’ve grown to love. The speaker feels great in your hand, and its matte finish is perfect for keeping it in place on slick surfaces.

The speaker’s heft is substantial enough to let you know you’ve bought no toy, but is in no way prohibitively heavy. You can toss it in your backpack or suitcase and you’ll hardly know it’s there. You won’t find spot to latch a carabiner onto, so if you’re looking to crank some jams while blazing a trail, you’ll need to look elsewhere. Thankfully, the MP141’s clean lines give the speaker a cube-ish shape that keeps it looking classy on a desk or nightstand.

The speaker measures 3.1 × 3.1 × 2.7 – inches and weighs just shy of 10 oz. Anker packages the MP141 with a USB charging cable and a 3.5mm stereo auxiliary cable for use with non-Bluetooth devices.

Features and design

The MP141 sports only three control buttons, all of which are lined up vertically along the speaker’s face. Just above the buttons is an LED that glows blue when the speaker is powered up and blinks while the speaker is in pairing mode. A series of tones indicate when the speaker has successfully paired to a Bluetooth-enabled device.

On the cube’s right side you’ll find a power switch, an auxiliary input and a micro USB input for charging.

You can toss it in your backpack or suitcase and you’ll hardly know it’s there.

Anker claims the MP141 is capable of up to 20 hours of play time (depending on volume levels) and while we were skeptical of that figure, we’ll tell you now that we actually caught the speaker exceeding that estimation on a couple occasions. Part of the speaker’s ability to conserve battery life is an auto-off feature that kills power if the speaker isn’t used for a prolonged period of time. The other contributing factor is the speaker’s use of Bluetooth 4.0, which sips battery power compared to earlier Bluetooth profiles. Wireless range is estimated at 33 feet, but that requires a pretty clear line of sight. Expect a shorter range indoors as you move around corners and into other rooms.

The MP141 uses a 4-watt digital amplifier to drive a 2-inch speaker, which has been ported to help fill out bass response. There’s also a speakerphone microphone hidden at the bottom of the speaker, just below the control buttons, for hands-free conversations.

The one thing the MP141 won’t do that bigger Bluetooth speakers will, is charge your device – you’ll need to pick up one of Anker’s external battery chargers for that (we have, and so far our experience has been positive).

Performance

We’ve not reviewed many speakers in this product category, and there’s a reason for that: most of them sound pretty terrible. We did check out the Philips SoundShooter which, at around $33 on Amazon is a little less expensive at the moment, more rugged, and designed to clip to nearly anything. There’s also the Matrix Audio Qube2 which runs about $68 at Amazon, is easy to tote around, but not particularly rugged. Finally, there’s the Westinghouse Unplug, a speaker that punched well above its weight, comes in right at $50 these days, but is increasingly hard to find.

The Anker MP141 won’t blow your doors off with how loud it gets. What it does best is sound natural and full.

While there’s at least one thing to like about all the aforementioned speakers (and most of them sounded decent for their size) the Anker MP141 beats them all with an impressive combination of battery life and sound quality.

The Anker MP141 won’t blow your doors off with how loud it gets. Compared to the Westinghouse Unplugged, the MP141 is neither as loud nor bass heavy, but it is more compact, more attractive and more portable, which puts it ahead in our book.

What the MP141 does best is sound natural and full – far better than you would expect from any speaker in the under-$50 category. This is likely due in part to the speakers’ use of a quality driver (its surround looks more robust than most others in this segment), a larger enclosure and a well-tuned port.

The speaker even worked well as a speakerphone, keeping us sounding more-or-less natural to callers on the other end of the line without a bunch of echo or room noise getting in the way, even from about 8 feet away.

Anker MP141 phone

We’ve got a stable of Bluetooth speakers at the ready for any time we might need to travel – and we do travel often – and although many of them sound bigger and can play louder than the MP141, we find that the occasion when we need that much output is rare, indeed. For most applications, the MP141 is perfect for our use. We can play music in the morning while getting ready and take any unexpected phone calls without having to put anything down, we can play a little music at our desk while getting some business buttoned up, and it even works well as a substitute for poor laptop speakers.

Conclusion

It’s hard to imagine wanting or expecting more out of a speaker under $50 than what the MP141 offers. To get any appreciable improvement in fidelity, you really need to double the price point and move up to the UE Mini Boom, which adds as many connectivity extras (apps, stereo pairing, etc.) as it does additional sound output. But for most users, we think the MP141 is going to offer the perfect balance of battery life, portability, sound quality and affordability.

Highs

  • Sounds full and natural
  • Excellent battery life
  • Good wireless range, stable connection
  • Simple operation
  • Looks great

Lows

  • Doesn’t play as loud as some others
  • No way to clip to a bag
Home Theater

‘Star Trek: Discovery’ season 2 gets a new, Spock-heavy trailer

CBS has released a new trailer for Star Trek: Discovery season 2, which premieres January 17 on CBS All Access. The new trailer features series newcomers Spock and Christopher Pike prominently.
Mobile

Need to record calls on an iPhone? Check out our handy guide

Are you wondering how to record calls on your iPhone? It isn't as easy as you might think, but we'll walk you through the process of doing so with Google Voice, and identify several other apps and external voice recorders that can help.
Computing

Heal your wrist aches and pains with one of these top ergonomic mice

If you have a growing ache in your wrist, it might be worth considering changing up your mouse for something ergonomic. But which is the best ergonomic mouse for you? One of these could be the ticket to the right purchase for you.
Mobile

The best smartphone stocking stuffers for a very techy Christmas

If you've got a tech-loving smartphone enthusiast to buy for, we can help you out. Here's a selection of top phone accessories that would make amazing stocking stuffers so you can have a very Merry Christmas.
Mobile

LG G7 owners experiencing dreaded bootloop will have to wait a few days for fix

If you’ve picked up LG’s flagship and it’s not behaving itself, then you might find a solution here. We’ve rounded up the most common LG G7 ThinQ problems and tracked down workarounds and possible fixes.
Music

Spotify is the best streaming service, but its competitors aren’t far behind

It can be hard to decide which music streaming service is for you, so we've picked out the individual strengths of the most popular services, aiming to make your decision a little easier.
Product Review

Step aside, Sonos: Riva's Concert is the best smart speaker you can buy

The Riva Concert series speaker is a fantastic, small-profile smart speaker with Alexa integration, truly excellent sound, and great looks, making it the perfect addition to your kitchen, living room, or bedroom.
Home Theater

From soundbars to headphones, here are the best last-minute audio deals

Whether you're looking for a great new pair of headphones or a fantastic new soundbar to bolster the sound of your brand-new television, these are the best audio deals to be found this holiday season.
Home Theater

Radiohead, The Cure, and more to join Rock Hall of Fame. Listen to their hits

Radiohead, The Cure, Janet Jackson, Stevie Nicks, and more have been selected to join the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2019. Here are our favorite songs from the four artists' hit-filled careers.
Deals

LG’s most affordable OLED TVs now come with $170 to $260 in gift cards

Trusted electronics retailer ABT is offering LG's most affordable OLED TV, the B8 series with $170 and $260 gift cards for the 55- and 65-inch models, respectively. While the OLED TVs don't often go on sale gift cards like this are…
Home Theater

Google Chromecast returns to Amazon just in time for the holiday shopping crunch

It's been a chilly few years between Google and Amazon, but things may be improving. You can now buy two versions of Google's Chromecast on Amazon, something that hasn't be possible since 2015.
Home Theater

Phiaton’s active lifestyle headphones do noise canceling on a budget

Looking for a set of active noise-canceling earbuds that can keep up with your active lifestyle, without breaking the bank? Phiaton's new Curve BT 120 NC could be just the ticket.
Home Theater

5 sonic stocking stuffers to improve your loved ones’ listening life

Looking for some simple and affordable gifts to get the music nerd in your family? Here are five great gift ideas that will improve their listening life -- and won't cost you an arm and a leg to give them.
Home Theater

Set your ears free with the best completely wireless earbuds

If you can't stand the tangle of cords, or you're just excited about completely wireless earbuds, you're going to need some help separating the wheat from the chaff. Our list serves up the best true wireless earbuds around.