Back in January, accessory maker Belkin moved outside its comfort zone by introducing a new smart speaker. The SOUNDFORM Elite looks a lot like an Apple HomePod, but with its top sliced off at an angle. That top serves as a built-in wireless charging dock for smartphones like the iPhone. Inside, it features audio components from high-end audio brand Devialet. Instead of Siri, the speaker uses Google Assistant.
I've had the opportunity to test a SOUNDFORM elite in my home for the last few weeks. Here's what I found.
An affortable choice
Belkin SOUNDFORM Elite Smart Speaker
Bottom line: Looks aside, the SOUNDFORM Elite Smart Speaker is a joy to use and a practical choice for Apple users and others alike.
- Bass-y sound quality
- Easy setup
- 10W wireless charging
- Google integration
- Bluetooth / Wifi: Bluetooth 5.0 / Wifi 802.11b/g/n/ac (2.4GHz/5Ghz)
- Priced right, but still expensive
- It's not a HomePod
- Naked look not for everyone
What is the Belkin SOUNDFORM Elite Smart Speaker?
For anyone looking to have less clutter in the home, Belkin's 2-in-1 SOUNDFORM Elite smart speaker has arrived at the perfect time. Wider in size than the Apple HomePod, but not as tall, the new product weighs just 2.8 pounds (versus the 5.5 pounds for HomePod) and is available in black or white.
The SOUNDFORM Elite is controllable through the Google Home app and is pairable with other Google Assistant-enabled smart speakers so you can enjoy your favorite songs all across your home. Through the Google ecosystem, you can easily attach the speaker to various music streaming services, including Spotify, Google Play Music, YouTube Music, Pandora, and Deezer. In doing so, you can use your voice to play songs and listen to your favorite podcasts.
The Belkin speaker can also connect to different video streaming services, including Hulu, Netflix, HBO Now, STARZ, and many more. Because it's a Bluetooth device, you can also listen to Apple Music (or any other service on your iPhone) through the speaker, but without the voice capabilities.
The onboard controls include buttons for Play/Pause, Mute, Vol +/-, and Bluetooth connection. The microphone button is well-placed, making it simple to turn it on/off for privacy.
Optimized for Apple, Samsung, and Google smartphones, the SOUNDFORM Elite provides fast wireless charging (up to 10 watts) through a uniquely designed cradle at the top of the device. Better still, it features vibration-canceling technology that makes it possible to continue charging your device securely even while the speaker is blasting out your favorite tunes.
Love that sound
Belkin SOUNDFORM Elite Smart Speaker: What I like
When it comes to home speakers, one doesn't think of Belkin, which is more often associated with iPhone accessories, network switches, and surge protectors. The SOUNDFORM Elite, created through Belkin's collaboration with sound pioneers Devialet, represents a game-changer for both companies.
The device's arrival pushes Belkin into the ever-growing smart speaker market dominated mainly by Amazon and Google. At the same time, it allows the French-based Devialet to move outside the high-end audio market through its Partner licensing program. The result, at least from a sound perspective, is a successful one.
The SOUNDFORM Elite provides a high-fidelity sound that delivers a powerful listening experience featuring a deep bass and crystal-clear mixes, regardless of the room size. The combination is achieved using Devialet's Speaker Active Matching (SAM) technology that makes high fidelity sound reproduction possible in any size factor. Also on display is the company's "Push-Push" dual woofer configuration designed to cancel vibrations while still ensuring an emotional sound experience. To achieve this, the SOUNDFORM Elite houses a single 35mm full-range driver and two 70mm woofers powered by a 75W RMS / 150W Peak amplifier.
Also onboard are two far-field microphones for voice control that tend to work in slightly noisy environments, although not as well as the six receivers found in the Apple HomePod. Nonetheless, the SOUNDFORM Elite's voice control offers a snappy response, as I have found with other Google Assistant-based smart speakers.
There's also the fast charging system on the top of the device, which works as advertised. With 10W of maximum power, you can charge your compatible iPhone with ease and relatively quickly.
But, that look
Belkin SOUNDFORM Elite Smart Speaker: What I don't like
If the SOUNDFORM Elite were judged solely on the sound it provides, the speaker would receive five stars. However, there are other essential points worth noting starting with its design.
Yes, the built-in wireless charger separates the speaker from competing products, including the Amazon Echo Studio, Google Home Max, and Apple HomePod. Unfortunately, that charger becomes an eyesore when there isn't a smartphone in the cradle, especially on the black model, which tends to show off every bit of dust and fingerprints.
I'm not sure what Belkin could have done to improve the look, except to perhaps offer some sort of removable top to install when the charger isn't in use. Without something like this, a wiser decision might be to embrace the peculiar look and be happy you have a smart speaker with a built-in charging unit! Or buy the white version which looks much nice in my humble opinion.
Sticking with the charging theme, I'm also surprised the SOUNDFORM Elite doesn't offer a plug in the back for older smartphones to use that don't offer wireless charging. It would have been a nice touch, although it's not a deal breaker.
HomePod or SOUNDFORM Elite
If you're highly invested in Apple Music and want Siri to control your entire home, it's probably wise to skip the SOUNDFORM Elite and get a HomePod. However, if you're willing to expand beyond all things Apple, Belkin's new smart speaker option is worth considering. Over the years, I have found Google Assistant a joy to use and much better than Siri overall. Plus, despite its off-putting design, the SOUNDFORM Elite's charging cradle means one less accessory to plug into the wall.
What about the price?
The SOUNDFORM Elite is the same price as the charger-less Apple HomePod and Google Home Max, and $100 more than the Amazon Studio. Given its Devialet internals and multiple purposes, the price for the SOUNDFORM Elite is right on the mark. With the occassional Belkin discount, it's even better.
A practical choice
Belkin SOUNDFORM Elite Smart Speaker
Back in December, I said Apple users should consider looking at the Google Nest ecosystem in place of HomeKit. With its built-in Google Assistant and wireless charging pad, the new SOUNDFORM Elite by Belkin is a strong candidate for anyone looking to move even further into what Google has to offer for home environments.
Before making a purchase, however, be sure you like the smart speaker design or at least find it tolerable. Otherwise, go with something else and buy a separate wireless charger.
Have any questions?
If you have any questions or concerns about the Belkin SOUNDFORM Elite Smart Speaker or speakers s in general, leave a comment below.
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