The world has gone mobile. We depend on our smartphones and computers as a gateway to the world. However, back in the olden days when the world had separate equipment for individual jobs, desk accessories had a unique importance of their own. The landline telephone, a desk clock, a typewriter and a radio set (if you were the affluent one) — all of these used to make up your office desk. The same equipment also made up private study tables in large homes. There was a sweet charm to collect and maintain these items, which sadly the office/study desks of today lack with an all-in-one PC and your smartphone.
Enter Noise’s Mate — a modern take on the desk companion. The Noise Mate is an alarm clock, a wireless BT speaker, a temperature gauge and FM radio — all squeezed into a single and highly portable package. You can buy one of these for Rs 2,999, which puts it up against some notable budget wireless speakers and some extremely fancy alarm clocks. We were sent one of these units for our opinion and we found this unique, yet highly productive device a fit in our daily life.
The Noise Mate has been designed to simply sit on a desk, which means it has to strike the right chord between practicality and aesthetics. And we have to say it does — the Mate does look good with a minimalist design. The front is dominated by a large white 7-segment LED display and a metal mesh all around. The top has a slew of control buttons for all the Mate’s functions, while the bottom sports rubber feet.
However, the control panel on top is confusing — the button that switches between Bluetooth and FM Radio mode is marked with 'P/M', which at first glance makes you relate it to the alarm clock functions. The volume controls require you to long-press the playback buttons, which is weird as one needs volume controls as the first preference on a wireless speaker. We also felt that the snooze/dim button should have been a tad bigger so as to make it easier to identify when you want to turn off the alarm while waking up. The top could also do with a groove to hold smartphones for extended movie sessions; however, we could be demanding a bit more.
Since the primary purpose of the Mate is a desk clock, the device displays all the necessary information — time, alarm status, ambient temperature and humidity. What lacks here is a battery indicator — a concern for a battery operated gadget where one does not know the status of the internal battery. Noise has provided a three-level brightness control button, which comes of as a relief if you are willing to use the Mate as a bedside alarm clock.
As for the clock, users can set up to three separate alarms in the memory. It is initially difficult to figure it out, but once you are familiar with the settings, you can change alarms easily. Users can choose between a selection of preset alarm tones or a preset FM radio or files from the microSD card, if inserted.
Heading to the speaker department — the Mate has two 5W (40mm drivers) speakers on either side, and a bass radiator on the rear. On paper, this may not sound compelling but in reality, the Noise Mate can be the life of your small party. It covers the highs, mids and the lower frequencies decently. The bass level is pretty decent for a speaker of this size — provided it is close enough to you. The Mate uses Bluetooth 4.2 for connectivity; however, we did find signal losses when used from afar. But since it is meant to serve as a desktop clock/speaker, we assume one would use it when in close proximity only.
The Noise Mate also allows you to make/receive calls — you can make comfortable conversations through its built-in microphone. The FM Radio function is a nice touch, but is poor in receiving signals most of time — you will have to hunt for the right spot in your room in order to listen to clear audio from the radio mode. However, we found that the Mate requires a headphone connected to the AUX port (similar to smartphones) in order to use it as an FM antenna. But when connecting the headphone (or even an AUX wire) to the AUX port, the device switches to AUX mode and one needs to switch back to FM radio mode, which is irritating. Noise should look into this issue. The Mate also supports AUX connections for external media players and PC/laptops and can host microSD cards to play MP3 music.
An impressive feature in the Mate's specification list is the battery life — the built-in rechargeable 2200mAh battery takes close to 2 hours to fully top up. It manages to keep the stamina for two days if you are factoring in constant audio streaming. Depending on your usage, it can also last you for almost a week or more too. When the battery is low, the speaker starts giving out voice prompts moments before it automatically switches off. However, the battery indicator on the rear is difficult to observe unless the ambience is dark while the speaker is charging — Noise should have worked on a front-mounted battery indicator embedded somewhere in the display.
Is the Noise Mate worth your money and time? Definitely! If you are looking for an old-school desk (clock) companion with the right balance of audio quality, battery life and alarm clock functions, then the Noise Mate is a worthy investment. It has the potential to make your desk look interesting for not a substantial amount of money. If you are looking for something similar with punchy bass and louder volumes, then we will recommend you to consider other options while still keeping this on the list.