Vizio has announced the launch of its two premium speakers, the SmartCast Crave 360 ($249.99) and SmartCast Crave Pro ($299.99). Both speakers integrate Google Cast and are being positioned as an alternative to Sonos, the leader in multi-room audio.
The Crave 360 is best thought of as an upscale UE Boom, with 360-degree, omnidirectional 2.1 audio and "custom-crafted drivers" that can output up to 95 dB of sound. When removed from its wireless charging base, the Crave 360's internal battery can last up to eight hours; there's even an attached leather carrying strap. But the Crave 360 is not waterproof, so while nothing's stopping you from taking it into the backyard, you'll want to bring it back inside at the first sign of rain.
The Crave Pro is a more traditional 2.1 music speaker that's likely to remain wherever you put it in the home. It gets a little louder than the 360 at 102 dB, and dual subwoofers mean the bass response should be superior as well. Both devices feature a nice satin aluminum finish, so from a design perspective, they're definitely a step up from most Bluetooth speakers. And each has a glass touch dial that can be turned for for volume or tapped and swiped for playback controls.
Unlike Sonos, where you can only play back music over Wi-Fi or plugged in directly, Vizio's new SmartCast speakers do include Bluetooth support. But like its rival, the company firmly believes that Wi-Fi — and in this case Google Cast — provide a better listening experience.
With Wi-Fi streaming, listeners are no longer interrupted by phone calls, texts and other disruptive notifications that commonly occur when streaming over Bluetooth. Wi-Fi streaming also helps conserve battery usage on mobile devices, and frees up the mobile devices for other tasks. Best of all, Wi-Fi steaming allows for better audio quality compared to Bluetooth.
Sonos just made a pretty funny ad about that being-interrupted-by-notifications downside of Bluetooth. The Crave 360 and Crave Pro can be controlled with Vizio's SmartCast app, but you can also stream content to them directly through any mobile app that integrates Google Cast. The SmartCast Crave 360 is available now from Vizio.com and Sam's Club, and the SmartCast Crave Pro will be available "soon" from the company's website. Presumably that retail presence will also extend to Vizio's other distributors over time.