Tiny wireless Bluetooth speakers -- particularly the ball-shaped variety -- continue to proliferate, and Sony has gotten in on the action with its SRS-BTV5, a $69.99 model that comes in black, white, and pink. (If the model number sounds uninviting, that's because the name hasn't been designated yet; it will be christened once Sony announces the winner of a contest.)
What separates this model from the competition? Well, it sports a fairly polished design and the build quality seems good. Furthermore, the SRS-BTV5 also includes a couple of extra features that some speakers of this type are missing: built-in speakerphone capabilities and -- much more cutting-edge -- one-touch tap-to-pair NFC technology (near-field communication) that's designed to work with smartphones and other devices that support it.
Unfortunately, there are two big problems: the SRS-BTV5's sound doesn't beat the competition, and I couldn't get the NFC to work properly.
Design and features
The speaker weighs 0.28 pound, or 4.5 ounces, so it's fairly light but has just enough heft to it to make it feel substantial. In other words, your first impression isn't that this thing is a totally cheap hunk of plastic. That said, I'm sure plenty of people won't think it's worth $70, either.
The single driver fires upward (it's a 1.2-watt speaker) and a curved shield on top protects the driver should something fall on the speaker or should you drop it (which is more likely than you'd think -- consider that this is shaped like a ball and has a tendency to roll when you knock into it). I did appreciate that the speaker comes with a small carrying pouch. It's nothing fancy, but it'll keep the speaker from getting scratched up if you stick in a bag with objects such as keys.
There's a slider switch on the bottom of the speaker for powering it on and putting it into pairing and NFC modes. The speaker also has volume controls on it, plus a Micro-USB port for charging the speaker's internal battery. That rechargeable battery is rated at up to 4 hours of battery life.
Right next to that USB port you'll find an audio input in case you want to connect a non-Bluetooth audio device using an optional cable.
As noted, the SRS-BTV has speakerphone capabilities (there's a call end/answer button on the speaker) and NFC one-touch tap-to-pair technology. NFC enables you to tap your device against the top of the speaker, causing the device and speaker to automatically connect or disconnect. (To be clear: Bluetooth still handles the streaming-audio duties, but NFC handles the "handshake," so you shouldn't need to pair it onscreen.) Once they are joined, you can stream audio from your device -- most likely a smartphone -- to the speaker from a distance of up to about 10 meters (in some cases, you may do better at that range).