The Sakobs Mini DS5101 is a wireless soundbar that’s designed to help improve the sound experience of your computer or tablet (or any other device that has an audio output) at a very affordable cost. I know that a lot of people say that you need a soundbar (or a speaker system) along with the newer TVs and it does make sense since the thinner the TV is, the less space for a proper set of built-in speaker there will be, so, unless you’re happy with a sub-par audio experience next to your 4K OLED display (you’ll be in the minority), you do need to invest in a proper external audio system.
But does this also translate to computers (or tablets) as well? Sakobs seems to think so, since it didn’t just market the device as a portable wireless speaker, but as a mini soundbar and it does have some fierce competition to deal with, especially in this price range.
Still, it does win some points in the portability department even though it’s fairly large since it comes as a single device (not multiple speakers) and, considering the price tag, it does offer two 10W built-in speakers, as well as a microphone for conference calls.
Furthermore, the manufacturer says that the soundbar should remain operational for up to 18 hours (which is not a low number by any means), so it’s worth checking it out and see whether the sound quality can indeed rival the other wireless speakers in the same price range (or whether it’s just a mild improvement – if any – over the built-in speakers in your tablet or laptop).
Design and Build Quality
It’s debatable whether a speaker system looks better than the soundbar, but it’s undoubtedly true that the latter has a far lower profile, so it doesn’t attract too much attention towards itself. And since the minimalist look is what a lot of people are aiming for (due to the lack of space or simply because not everyone is fond of having large speakers in their living room), the soundbar does seem to get more popular every year. The Sakobs DS5101 is a mini soundbar, so it’s a lot more compact than the ‘traditional’ soundbar, measuring only 15.0 x 2.4 x 2.5 inches (38.2 x 6.2 x 6.4 cm) and, as expected, the material choice is plastic. The good news is that the case seems to be made out of a single piece of plastic (covered by a black matte finish), with the exception of the metallic front mesh. This mesh can be removed and doing so, will expose the two 10W speakers that sit on the sides and in between them, there are two bass reflex ports (hopefully, long enough for a deeper bass response).
I went a bit further and I saw that Sakobs has a 1500mAh 3.5V rechargeable battery and besides the button controller and the two speakers, there isn’t anything else that caught my attention. The FCC ID websites has a more in-depth teardown which also shows the Bluetooth antenna and some ICs that I couldn’t identify. That being said, there is a dedicated control section with all the buttons and ports embedded into the plastic case with four buttons and two LEDs at the top. The buttons have more than one function and from the left, the first one is the Power button which will also Play/Pause the current track if you quick press it (after the device has been powered on) and, if you use the soundbar for calls, press it to answer the call (or to end it) – double click the button to go to the next track.
The second and the third button will turn the volume Down or Up using a quick press and if you long press one of the buttons, it will either turn down or up the volume faster. Lastly, there’s the Mode button which will toggle through the available sources (can be Bluetooth, USB/TF or AUX) when quickly pressed one time and if you double-click it, it will go to the previous track. As I said before, there are also two LEDs (in the middle, there’s a microphone), the first LED will stay solid blue when the device is in AUX mode, will flash fast when it’s in pairing mode and will blink slowly when it’s playing a track in the Bluetooth/USB/TF mode. While less buttons will look better, there are too many functions to remember for each button and I doubt most will appreciate having to constantly consult the user manual before figuring things out (eventually).
The button section slides on the rear side where it encases all the ports: from the left, there’s an AUXiliary port (useful if you want to connect to a audio source without relying on the Bluetooth connection), a TF slot (there was no info about how much is supported, but it did work with a 64GB microSD card), a USB Type-A 2.0 port which is useful for connecting external storage devices and a DC In microUSB port for recharging the internal battery (yes, it didn’t use the newer and better USB-C port). In terms of positioning, the Sakobs soundbar was designed to stay flat in front of your monitor/TV or somewhere above your laptop (as with other soundbars) and the manufacturer has added two soft pads on the bottom of the device to keep it from moving around (not that it would, since it is heavy enough to stay put). Other than that, it’s worth mentioning that inside the package you also get an AUX cable and a USB charging cable (both measuring about 40 inches long).
Connectivity and Sound Quality
The idea behind most budget-friendly soundbars is not to achieve some surround audio greatness, but to simply be at least a little bit better than the speakers in the TV/monitor/tablet/phone. Most soundbars should offer a decent performance mainly because the sound from the thin TVs ends up bouncing off the wall, so it gets distorted and neither the laptops nor the tablets are known for their excellent audio. But can the inexpensive Sakobs soundbar truly offer a better experience? The two 10W speakers on the Mini soundbar aren’t a lot when compared to the more expensive solutions, but even so, the device sounded better than the built-in speakers in my Lenovo Y520 laptop.
There wasn’t a huge difference, but the sound was indeed clearer and even the volume could reach higher without the sound getting distorted. And it’s a nice touch that you get a clear sound reproduction at all volume levels and in a normal room (not a huge studio), it should be enough to watch a movie from your laptop or phone. When it comes to TVs, things get a bit more complicated. It’s true that the thinner the TV, the smaller will be the speakers, so the manufacturers have to rely on various means of projecting the sound towards the users (since the front is no longer available, the speakers usually sit on the back).
But even so, the Sakobs Mini soundbar did not sound better than the built-in speakers in my TV (which cost me about 400 dollars). The problem could be that the speakers aren’t that far from each other (the case is fairly small for a soundbar) and overall, when compared to the TV, it felt like the Sakobs Mini lacked that sound fullness (the bass wasn’t very deep). Since the DS5101 is also advertised as a PC-suitable soundbar, I thought to compare it to an older speaker system that cost below $20 and consisted of a larger subwoofer and two satellites. Despite being very cheap, I was always happy with this sound system and after putting it next to the Sakobs soundbar, it still sounded better. Again, the problem is that the bass wasn’t very deep and the two satellites were able to deliver a proper stereo sound, while the Sakobs soundbar felt like it had some trouble reproducing the same sound separation (the speakers also sounded a bit more clear).
So, overall, the Sakobs Mini soundbar is definitely above the built-in speakers in tablets, phones and especially laptops, but still a bit below the built-in TVs speakers or the dedicated surround audio systems (yes, even the cheaper ones). That being said, the soundbar can receive sound via the auxiliary cable connection or using the Bluetooth connection and the good news is that there was no sound quality difference between these two modes. This is also true when using a microSD card or a portable USB driver. That being said, if you decide to use the auxiliary cable, all you need to do is connect the cable between the soundbar and the audio source device, but the Bluetooth connection is a bit trickier.
And that’s because the control system is slightly complicated: first, long press the Power button to turn the soundbar on and wait for the first LED to turn solid blue. At this point, short press the M button and wait for the first LED to start flashing blue – this is the sign that the soundbar is ready to be paired, so check it on your mobile device or PC (should be named Sakobs). The Mini soundbar uses the Bluetooth 4.2 standard which is not the newest available (the version 5), but, while it will make a huge difference when transferring larger packets of data, this is not the case with the Sakobs soundbar and during my tests with other brands, the coverage doesn’t differ that much either. The Sony WH-1000XM3 is also stuck on the previous Bluetooth version and it can handle most types of codecs and the range is identical to the Bluetooth 5.0 earbuds. That being said, the Sakobs Mini soundbar doesn’t have support for any codec that will ensure a higher music quality, just the more common ones.
As I said in the previous section, the soundbar does have a built-in microphone, so it can be used for conference calls. Of course, I did call someone to see the sound quality and, if it’s decently silent (as it usually is in your home), you should be able to hear the other person clear enough, but the caller did complain that my voice sounded a bit muffled and distant, so make sure to stay very close to the soundbar if you plan making important calls using this device. As for battery life, Sakobs says that it should last for up to 18 hours after being fully charged and that’s pretty much what I got while testing the soundbar which is an excellent accomplishment, ensuring that you can simply take the device with you on longer trips. Be aware though that the Mini soundbar is not waterproof, so make sure to keep it protected while using it outdoors.
Despite being smaller than the usual soundbar, the Sakobs Mini soundbar still manages to look good in front of your TV (or monitor) and, since it can also connect via Bluetooth, you’re not really restricted by space, although in front of the device should be the ideal position. About the sound quality, it’s a bit of a mixed bag. On one hand, it is clearly superior to the built-in speakers found in most laptops, tablets of smartphones, but on the other hand, it doesn’t really rise up to the dedicated speakers systems (even the cheaper ones) and most mid-range TVs will offer a better sound reproduction. But, let’s not forget that this is an inexpensive portable soundbar and for the price, it can work as a decent Bluetooth speaker and the SD card + USB storage support are a nice touch, allowing you to take it with you on longer trips alongside your laptop or phone (watching a movie in a hotel room doesn’t have to be a dull experience).
- It sounds better than the built-in speakers in laptops, smartphones and tablets
- Can connect via Bluetooth or auxiliary cable
- The battery life is excellent
- Doesn't sound better than the built-in speakers in mid-range TVs or inexpensive speaker systems
- The button functions are unnecessarily complicated
Mark is a graduate in Computer Science, having gathered valuable experience over the years working in IT as a programmer. Mark is also the main tech writer for MBReviews.com, covering not only his passion, the networking devices, but also other cool electronic gadgets that you may find useful for your every day life.