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Harman Kardon Allure Portable review
Posted on 17-May-2019 11:59 by M Freitas | Filed under: Reviews

Harman Kardon Allure Portable review

Voice-activated digital assistant speakers are a more common sight around the house - and a growing market every day. Since my visite to Microsoft's house of the future in Seattle, back in the mid-2000s, I imagined living in a fully digital house, one that you control with your voice and managed through your smart devices.


Digital assistants compete fiercely now - Amazon Alexa, Apple Siri, Google Assistant... You are only one whisper away from arming your home security alarms, turn off lights, watch your driveway on your TV.


Although these companies have their own hardware paired, third party licensees also invest in this segment. Harman Kardon started down this path with their Allure voice-actived digital assistant speaker based on the Amazon Alexa assistant, and is now continuing the trend with the release of its Allure Portable voice-actived digital assistant speaker - another model also based on the Amazon Alexa assistant.


The main difference here is that Harman Kardon's new model is completely portable - it can be taken anywhere thanks to a ten hour battery, charged from a desk-based cradle. You can basically use it as a standard digital assistant speaker but at any moment you can just grab it and take away - a BBQ in the backyard or even a day trip somewhere.


Like other digital assistant speakers, the Allure Portable requires WiFi connectivity to execute its "skills" (small voice-activated routines). But if you are outside of WiFi coverage it is still possible to use the Allure Portable simply as a Bluetooth-enabled speaker, playing music from other Bluetooth-enabled devices, such as your phone or laptop.


The Allure Portable is about half-size of its bigger sibbling model and follow the same design. It is a beautiful speaker, with a metal body with a transparent plastic top with a blue LED glowing when activated or playing music. It is really something futuristic and goes well with many different decor settings.


Setup is pretty simple and a Harman Kardon app can quickly guide you through the steps. The mobile app will connect to the Allure Portable and transfer WiFi settings (SSID and password). The speaker can connect to 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz wireless networks, supporting 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac standards.


Once connected the Allure Portable may receive an update (my review unit had an update available as soon as it connected) and then wait for the trigger word to be activated. Like other Amazon Alexa compatible devices this one uses "Alexa" - say it, wait a beat and when you see the blue light glow, go ahead and give your command.


In my case I have Philips Hue lights around the house and connected to my Amazon account (as well as Ring security cameras) so I can just say "Alexa... turn off all lights" or "Alexa, turn on the lounge lights" and it will happen, almost instantly.


Likewise I have my Spotify account linked to my Amazon account so I can just say "Alexa... Play on Spotify" and it will stream music with a brillian sound. Volume can be easily controlled by tapping on + and - buttons on top of the speaker or simply by giving the commands "Alexa... Volume up" or "Alexa... Volume down". You can also easily stream radio stations using TuneIn by simply saying "Alexa... Play National Radio NZ on TuneIn" and off it goes. And yes, it understands "enzed" really well.


Weighing just over a kilo, the Allure Portable is really easy to move around. And in case you need to use it away from its charging cradle for longer periods of time, you can always plug it directly to power via a USB charger/cable.


While the Allure Portable will act on most skills available (and there are thousands) there are somethings it can't do. For example, unlike Amazon Echo devices, you can't change the trigger word so you have to use "Alexa". This means I've changed my existing Amazon Echo to answer to "Computer" instead and avoid conflicts when using "Alexa" (also cool because if you say "Computer... engage" Alexa replies with "Aye, aye captain" in a kind of Start Trek insider joke).


Being a third party device means not all the Amazon Alexa API is available. In this case you can't place or receive voice calls from assistant to assistant devices, or drop-in. You also can't create "groups" so you can't have multiple Allure devices playing a single stream (or a mix of Amazon Echo and Harman Kardon Allure devices) playing a single stream.


Overall the Harman Kardon is a welcome digital assistant speaker, bringing some well rounded design to a usually sterile-looking class of devices. It is available in New Zealand now.


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