Review: The V20 Notebook Speakers from Logitech - Macenstein

Review: The V20 Notebook Speakers from Logitech

Posted by Dr. Macenstein

The built-in speakers that come with Apple’s latest MacBooks and MacBook Pros have come a long way from those found in the PowerBooks of just a few years ago. Still, if you’re traveling for any extended period of time, you’ll likely find yourself looking into a set of portable speakers to help make listening to music and watching movies on your laptop more enjoyable.

Logitech V20 speakers
Logitech V20 speakers
Above: The V20’s Hooked to a MacBook (top) and a 17-inch MacBook Pro (bottom) for size comparison.

Logitech’s V20 Notebook Speakers offer a great sounding, stylish, and hassle-free solution to enjoying a high-quality listening experience on the road. Weighing just 1 lb and coming in a small and well padded carrying case, the V20’s add as little bulk as possible to your travel bag. In a welcome attempt to minimize chord clutter, the speakers do not require an external power brick. They are powered off your system’s USB port, drawing just 2 Watts of power. While that spec may lead you to believe you are in for an anemic showing, these speakers really deliver an impressive amount of sound in such a portable package. Design-wise, the sleek gray speaker housings look best with a MacBook Pro or PowerBook, but don’t look too out of place next to a MacBook.

Each speaker has a 2″ high-excursion driver with a 3″ pressure driver which is able to easily fill a hotel room with sound without distorting. The audio quality is very “mid-rangey”, so you’ll get your best sounding audio using an EQ preset such as “Rock” in iTunes or a similar app, in order to raise both the treble and bass levels. All in all, a very enjoyable listening experience (one caveat to blasting these speakers, we actually found at very high volume the speakers began to vibrate and move across the table despite the rubber no-skid padding under each unit).

Logitech V20 speakers
Above: The V20’s come with a compact and well-padded carrying case.

Setting up the V20’s is a snap. Simply plug them into an available powered USB port, and then select them as your sound output in your Sound System Preference panel. There is no additional software needed, although some would be nice (see below). Obviously battery life will take a hit with the V20’s drawing power from the USB port, but these speakers are designed to be use at portable locations where you laptop is likely to be plugged in, not on an airplane.

A Would-Be multimedia speaker

The biggest problem with the V20 (from a Mac-user’s point of view) is the lack of Mac support. While setting up the V20’s is an idiot-proof affair, the speakers hold the promise of additional features which are apparently not supported on the Mac. For instance, there are a series of multi-media controls on the top of the right-most speaker, giving the user the (potential) ability to play/pause, skip forward and back, and control the volume of various applications. The problem is, none of these buttons seem to do anything on a Mac. Logitech’s site claims the buttons “work with many software applications”, but we have to assume these applications are Windows only. So don’t go trying to control iTunes of DVD Player using the controls. It might be nice if Logitech included some sort of software that enabled the speakers to communicate better with the Mac OS.

Logitech V20 speakers
Above: The multi-media buttons on the V20’s aren’t that Mac-friendly, and will not control iTunes or system volume on the latest Intel-Macs.

Speaking of those buttons, the ones you would be most likely to use, the volume buttons, oddly enough do not seem to be able to control the volume on the latest Intel-based Macs. While the buttons worked fine in our tests on an ancient PowerMac, using the V20’s on a MacBook, MacBook Pro, and Mac Pro all yielded the odd result of the Mac OS volume indicator moving up and down with each button press, but the actual volume coming from the speakers being unaffected. Similarly, using the volume keys on an Intel Mac to adjust the volume had no affect on the speakers, although again, the volume indicator on screen showed the Mac thought it was doing something. Volume seems to only be able to be controlled by actually dragging the volume slider from the Mac’s menu bar, or from within the app itself (such as iTunes own volume slider). We’re not sure why this happens, as again, they work fine on Power-PC based Macs, and the quirky $27 USB “Rat” speakers we reviewed earlier this year work fine on Intel Macs.

Logitech V20 speakers
Above: The placement of the USB/Power chord means placing your speakers far apart from each other is difficult using a Mac laptop.

Another small Mac-centric criticism would be the placement on the USB/Power chord. It is on the “rightmost” speaker, but MacBooks have their USB ports on the left side of the unit. Additionally, MacBook Pro’s only have 1 USB port on the right hand side, and I personally find I have my mouse plugged in to that port (certainly when working anywhere when I’d have the space to hook up external speakers). So the chord needs to travel all the way across the back of the laptop, and in the case of a 17-inch MacBook Pro, the chord only barely makes it, making the placement of the speakers any distance from the MacBook a little difficult. Sure, you could swap them, but if you are doing something like editing in Final Cut or watching a DVD, you usually want left-hand audio coming from the left side, and right from the right. By no means a killer, but again, something that reminds us these speakers are designed for both PC and Mac, and perhaps more so for the PC crowd.

A final small criticism goes to the zipper enclosure on the V20’s carrying case. While these are not expensive speakers, and we understand the case needed to remain light for travel reasons, closing the case and getting the zippers to smoothly close around the corners of the case takes some care. If you are using the case often, do not be surprised to find yourself throwing the zippers off the track more than once.


The V20 Notebook Speakers from Logitech offer some of the best sound you’re likely to find at this size and price point, especially in USB-Powered speakers. I am currently using them as a replacement for the desktop speakers on my Mac Pro, the sound is that good. However, I think with a bit more attention to the Mac market in mind when designing the V20’s Logitech would have a runaway hit withe these travel speakers. If all the speaker’s multi-media features were supported on the latest Intel Macs, these would be easier to recommend. Still, their above average sound quality, compact size, nice styling, and lack of the need for an extra power outlet earn them a respectable 7.5 out of 10 rating.

The V20 Notebook Speakers from Logitech

Price: $69.99 ( $51.5 Amazon)

Great sound at this price/weight; portable; nice styling; comes with a case

Cons: Lack of Mac support on the the V20’s multimedia buttons; chord placement could be better for use on Mac portables; case enclosure could be sturdier

One Response to “Review: The V20 Notebook Speakers from Logitech”
  1. bilbo macins says:

    my boss has these, they do sound pretty damn good. he’s got a powerbook, so can’t attest to the macbook problem, but the sound is great.

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