Of course, you can hook up your laptop to a giant set of 5.1 speakers, such as the Logitech Z-5450 or even consider a basic 2.0 speaker setup, but that's not a solution we'd call portable. The JLab B-Flex Hi-Fi USB Speaker is a compact set of stereo speakers attached to a 7-inch gooseneck cord that plugs into a laptop USB port. These speakers won't rattle the windows, but for under $40, they're a good way to add a little oomph to DVDs, MP3s, and even business presentations with audio.
Two tiny paper-cone speakers are housed in a plastic oval case measuring 3.25 inches wide by 1.25 inches deep. The pocket-sized B-Flex speaker is small enough to fit in a laptop case, although the speaker's rounded back isn't the most space-efficient design.
The B-Flex gets both power and audio through a USB port, bypassing a laptop's microphone jack. The USB plug sits at the end of the metal gooseneck cord, which can be twisted in any direction to peek out from behind the laptop's lid if you're using a rear USB port.
Installation is easy. Plug the B-Flex into a USB port and your Windows operating system should recognize it as a USB audio device. On the laptops we tested, this procedure automatically disabled the onboard speakers in favor of the B-Flex USB speaker.
You're not going to get a tremendous amount of volume out of the B-Flex. The speakers only pump out 1 watt per channel, but the sound is clear and undistorted when playing MP3s through iTunes. The B-Flex does produce enough volume to watch a DVD in a reasonably quiet setting. With such tiny speakers, however, bass response is lacking, and the frequency response is narrower than with an inexpensive set of headphones.
It's also worth noting that since the two speakers sit right next to each other, you lose any sense of the stereo field; although laptop speakers aren't much better for stereo separation.