If you have anything “smart” in your smart home, you probably have a speaker that is hooked into Amazon, Google, or Apple. And, I’m going to guess that the speaker is probably plugged into a wall somewhere for power and uses WiFi to enable its smart connectivity. Well, it’s time to cut those power cords (not literally, of course) and get a smart speaker that is portable and battery-powered, and that does a whole lot more. If that is interesting to you, you must take a look at the Creative Nova. It encapsulates many of the features we all want and “need” in a smart speaker, but then keeps going in terms of features and functionality. (*Disclosure below.)
When I think about portable speakers, there are a few requirements that I look for. It must be battery-powered (obviously), and the battery must last a while (several hours). It must have Bluetooth-connectivity so that you can connect a Bluetooth-enabled device like a smartphone or tablet, or even a computer. And it must be reasonably lightweight so that you can easily move it around. And, the speakers themselves need to be good-sounding. The Creative Nova checks off all of those requirements.
For a speaker to be “smart,” it must connect to a smart service like Amazon Alexa. For this to happen, it must be able to connect to the Internet, generally via WiFi. It also must have at least two far-field microphones built-in to capture voice commands. Far-field microphones are essential for the speaker to be able to listen for the trigger word like “Amazon,” “Alexa,” or “Echo” to be spoken to then activate the smart command functionality. For third-party Alexa-enabled speakers, for now, we are limited to just a single trigger word – “Alexa.”
But, as I mentioned, the Creative Nova goes beyond just being a smart, portable speaker. It also has a lamp as well as some other functionality built-in. I will go into all of these combined features in this review.
A Multi-Purpose Smart Device
I alluded to many of the features built into the Creative Nova. In fact, the Nova is a trifecta of devices: it’s a smart speaker, it’s a portable speaker, and it’s a lamp and sound machine. Before I dive into this, let me talk about the device as a whole and the use case I’m using in our connected home. I have Amazon Echo’s as well as Google devices throughout our home. In fact, except for my kids’ bathroom, I think every area of our house has a way to talk to Amazon or Google.
But what I didn’t have, until the Creative Nova entered our smart home, was a smart speaker that could move around our house and to the outside as well. As long as there is WiFi connectivity, the Creative Nova become smart and connected. This means the speaker can go outside to our deck, or our pool, or our garden. Remotely, we can ask Alexa to turn on or off lights, what the weather will be, definitions of words, you name it.
You will need to use the Creative Sound Blaster Interconnect app to connect the Nova to Amazon. The process is quite straightforward, and once it is completed, you really don’t need to use the app again unless you want to change WiFi networks, create some new LED colors, or connect other Nova’s, among other things.
The problem with an outside speaker though, especially near a pool or hot tub, is that it may come into contact with water. Typically, this is a bad thing for electronic devices. The Creative Nova, however, has an IP55 rating, which means that it is water and dust resistant. It’s important to note that this doesn’t mean you can float the Nova in your pool. But you can have it near the pool, and it can withstand some occasional splashes. The back has a plastic cover which protects the charging and AUX ports (as well as a micro-USB service port and the reset button). Note: with an AUX cable (3.5mm which is not included), you can connect other devices directly.
What happens if you go beyond your WiFi range? Well, you have a few options. You can directly pair it with your Bluetooth-enabled device and stream music or audio to the Nova, no WiFi needed. To do this, you press the Bluetooth button on the top, and it enters Bluetooth mode (which is announced through the speaker itself). Once the Nova reconnects to WiFi, it will also announce “WiFi mode” to let you know that WiFi connectivity has been restored.
Also, while in Bluetooth mode, you can use Apple Siri or Google Now directly from your connected device. You can also use the Amazon Alexa app on your connected device to do commands from there as well. So, I guess, even in non-WiFi mode, you still can keep the Nova “smart.”
The Creative Nova is an LED Lamp Too
So, you have your sound and smart speaker functionality covered with the Nova, as I mentioned. But wait, there’s more. And this is particularly nice if you are using the Creative Nova outside. There is a built-in LED lamp. The Nova itself sort of looks like a fat lava lamp of sorts. But it is more modern. And built into the speaker are several LED lights (nice for battery life, btw) that are multi-colored.
Pressing a dedicated button on the top of the Nova, you can cycle through a variety of lighting options. There are 16.8 million ambient light colors available, but I’m still trying to figure out how to manually select a color. This can be done through the Creative app that also lets you connect multiple Nova’s in sequence for sound everywhere. There are three “User Presets” that you can define. And you can add all types of styles to these presets.
The built-in color themes are Solo Sunlight, Rainbow Cycle, Purple Pulsate, Candle Light Mood, RGB Morph, Aurora, and Ocean Wave. There is one setting that will actually “listen” to the audio coming from the speaker and will light up based on the beats of the sound. My kids like the Rainbow Cycle.
For true relaxation, you will want to actually combine the sound and the lamp together.
And a Sound and Light “Spa” As Well
I love using sound machines when I go to bed at night or take a nap. And, my kids also use their smartphones to do the same thing. The great thing about the Creative Nova is that there is a sound-machine built-in. Pressing the SoundSpa button allows you to cycle through a variety of pre-set sounds.
There are Nature sounds as well as relaxing music. The Nature sounds are Soothing River, Crashing Oceans, Relaxing Beach, Gentle Rain, Night Forest, Burning Camp Fire, Frigid Winds, and Gliding on Mist. The relaxing music settings (which I call Zen music) are Light Footed, Space Infinity, and Turquoise Topaz.
You can trigger these sounds, as I mentioned, by pressing the button. But if you use the Creative app, you can do a bit more. For example, it can trigger both the sound and the lights. Or you can set a duration for the SoundSpa to run.
While you are in the app, you can also set up alarms to wake you up. And, you can have light and/or sound as part of the process (obviously you can have sound, but you can choose which one you want for your alarm). For the lighting, it can gradually come on to wake you up.
Overall Thoughts of the Creative Nova
This multi-function, portable smart speaker and LED lamp really does it all in a nicely-designed package. The functionality is easy enough to use, and the setup is fairly straightforward. I’m reasonably convinced that this device will be widely used in a family environment. Here are a few more things to know.
Obviously, the Nova is portable. It has a handle on the top for easy carrying. The buttons on the top of the Nova will allow you to do all of the functions you need. There is even a dedicated Alexa button that, when pressed, activates Alexa without you needing to say the Alexa trigger word. While “she” always is listening, sometimes it’s nice to just call her directly without using her name (haha).
The Nova measures 6.5 x 6.5 x 11.1 inches and weighs 3.08 lbs. It takes a couple of hours to fully charge from empty. A fully charged battery lasts about 6-7 hours depending on the usage. High volume, coupled with the use of the lighting, can reduce battery life. If you want to check the status of the battery, simply press the power button twice quickly and then the built-in light will indicate the charge level (green = 100-61%, yellow = 60-30%, red = 29-16%, and flashing red and white = 15-1%).
WiFi is 802.11 b/g/n and 2.4 GHz only. Bluetooth is 4.1 with A2DP (stereo Bluetooth), AVRCP (for remote control), and HFP (hands-free). The battery is 2200 mAh which is decent, but you cannot charge your devices from it (it would have to be a larger capacity Li-ion battery to have that feature).
The speakers consist of one 15 watt down-firing subwoofer and five drivers for a total of 30 watts. There are two passive radiators as well. The bottom line, the sound output is quite good. I didn’t notice any distortion at top volume, but I do have to note that the top volume is not ear-shattering. It’s probably designed that way for better battery life.
From a pricing perspective, the Creative Nova retails for $179.99, but currently, on the Creative site, it is temporarily on sale for $79.99, which is a bargain if you ask me! Note: this may be a temporary 4th of July sale. As the Nova is an Amazon-Certified Alexa device, the Creative Nova is also available on Amazon. The current Amazon price is $149.99.
To sum it all up, whether you have a smart home or not, the Creative Nova is a great, all-around device to have. It can be a portable, Bluetooth speaker, a smart speaker, an LED lamp, a speakerphone for your smartphone, and a sound and light “spa.” What’s not to like about that?!
HTD says: The Creative Nova allows you to take smart speaker capabilities on the go when connected to WiFi, provides some cool LED lighting effects, has a built-in sound machine, and is a portable, Bluetooth speaker, all wrapped into one device.
- Price Point
The Creative Nova allows you to take smart speaker capabilities on the go when connected to WiFi, provides some cool LED lighting effects, has a built-in sound machine, and is a portable, Bluetooth speaker, all wrapped into one device. If you are looking for an all-in-one smart device for your home, you better grab a Nova. It’s a speaker, a lamp, a sound machine, an Alexa device, and it’s portable. The setup is fairly straightforward, but I’m hoping that the SoundBlaster app is updated to make it a bit more intuitive. 80% of the features can be performed using either voice or the buttons on the top of the speaker. The LED is bright but not blinding and the speaker gets loud but not deafening. It’s nice being able to move the Nova around and take it outdoors. This is a perfect speaker for a home pool or spa as it will provide 6-7 hours of music playback as well as provide nice ambient lighting, all while still being able to control your smart home. I did have the WiFi drop sometimes but it automatically reconnected. The normal price is not bad, given it is a smart speaker, but if you can take advantage of a sale, it’s totally worth it.
- Built-in LED lighting
- Can be used with just Bluetooth connection
- Occasionally drops WiFi connection
- No way to charge devices using built-in battery