We don’t hear about many big launches in the portable wireless speaker category these days. There aren’t many big brands left in the affordable part of this market either, with options from JBL, Boat, Anker Soundcore, and Sony dominating online listings and offline retail shelves. Even so, inexpensive portable bluetooth speakers are still very attractive. Xiaomi has been in this segment for some time, but there have been few product launches in recent years.
The company recently re-entered the room with the Mi (16W) portable bluetooth speaker. Priced at Rs. 2,499, this speaker is well priced for what’s on offer, at least on paper. As the name suggests, you get 16W rated sound power, IPX7 water resistance, and more. Is Mi Portable Bluetooth Speaker 16W the best you can buy for less than Rs in the portable wireless speaker segment? 5,000? Find out in this review.
The Mi (16W) portable bluetooth speaker looks and feels great
While many portable wireless speakers on a budget tend to be more attractive with sharp lines and bright colors, I really like the simple and pinpoint design of the Mi (16W) portable Bluetooth speaker. It is similar in design to the Mi Outdoor Bluetooth speaker that was launched in 2020. The cloth-wrapped exterior, elastic cord, and rubber buttons reminded me of the smaller speaker.
Although you can position the Mi (16W) portable bluetooth speaker vertically, ideally it is placed horizontally on a tabletop with rubber grips at the bottom to sit securely. With this orientation, the speaker drivers fire forward and the buttons are on top. Controls include power, volume, playback, bluetooth pairing, and a special wireless stereo pairing button that can be used when you have two of these speakers and want to use them together.
The buttons are easy to press and leave no room for water to get into the sensitive electrical components of the Mi portable Bluetooth speaker (16 W). They cover most of the functions you need to operate the speaker directly without having to pick up your paired source device too often.
An IPX7 waterproof rating for the Mi (16W) Bluetooth portable speaker means that all types of contact with the elements and even brief full immersion in water should not damage the device at all. On the right side there is a USB Type-C port for charging under a narrow rubber flap, as well as a 3.5 mm socket for additional connectivity. The primary connection mode for the speaker is of course Bluetooth 5, with only the SBC Bluetooth codec supported.
The portable Bluetooth speaker Mi (16 W) has a nominal power of 16 W, divided between two identical 8 W full-range drivers. There are two equalizer modes – Deep Bass and Normal – which can be switched between by pressing Play / Pause and ‘+’ at the same time. You can also call up the standard voice assistant on your smartphone by pressing the power button twice while the speaker is on.
The battery life is adequate for a speaker of this size and performance. Mi (16W) portable Bluetooth speaker has a 2,600 mAh battery that ran for around 9 to 10 hours per charge at moderate volume. The charging process takes place via the USB Type-C port. It took about 3 hours to fully charge the speaker using a 10W wall adapter. It’s worth noting that you only have one USB cable in the box, so you’ll have to use your own adapter.
Loud, powerful sound on Mi portable bluetooth speaker (16 W)
The design is not the only similarity between the portable Bluetooth speaker Mi (16 W) and its cheaper sibling, the Bluetooth speaker Mi Outdoor. The larger device has the same punchy, powered sound signature, but is of course a bit louder as two drivers each output 8W of sound. This also adds a bit more detail to the sound and the performance is decent even at lower volumes.
When I heard Waiting from Oliver Heldens at my desk, I had a speaker with a volume of around 30 to 40 percent, and this made for a decent sound at close range. Part of it is that the front-firing drivers ensure that the sound is purposeful and precise. While the hit in the lower end of this dance piece was audible even at low volume, it didn’t have quite as much drive; Instead, the speaker tended to impressively emphasize the middle area, which made for a detailed and pleasant sound in the vocals.
With a volume of around 60 percent, Jaago from Lifafa sounded completely different, with deeper lows, tight and powerful bass and a much more energetic sound, especially in the last part of the track, where beat and tune are everything. Besides being incredibly loud and room-filling, the sound remained clean and precise. The vocals in the first half of the track sounded very crisp. The sound quality at reasonable levels was significantly better than I’ve heard of most of the other options available for less than Rs. 5,000.
However, increasing the volume to the maximum level again changed the sound a little. The lows began to sound booming and muddy, the highs began to crack under the pressure, and the middle range also tended to tear apart. Like any affordable speaker, the Mi (16W) portable Bluetooth speaker doesn’t hold up well under heavy use. I couldn’t hear much difference between the normal and deep bass equalizer modes. The former sounded a bit cleaner, with the latter adding a slight bump to the lows.
At the highest volume, it becomes loud enough to cover a large room or even more spacious outdoor areas. However, the Mi (16W) portable bluetooth speaker is best for moderate volumes where it is loud enough to be heard properly at home. That’s the main difference between a product like this and more expensive options like the UE Boom 3, which sound great even at high volumes.
The decent mids of the Mi (16W) portable bluetooth speaker meant I had a decent experience using it for the occasional voice call, although a speaker in this department is generally not as precise as a good wireless headphone.
Mi (16W) portable bluetooth speaker is impressive considering its price for one main reason: it is very loud. The sound quality is decent and there is plenty of hustle and bustle to please bass lovers as well. It also helps that the speaker is IPX7 certified for water resistance and has good battery life for a device of its size and capabilities. Overall, there is hardly anything to complain about with the portable Bluetooth speaker Mi (16 W). Quite simply, it’s the best you can buy at Rs. 3,000.
Although this loudspeaker could not quite hold its own at the highest volume levels, listening at a volume of 60 to 70 percent ensures a pleasant experience. Mi Portable Bluetooth Speaker (16W) is great value for its price and is definitely worth checking out if you are looking for an affordable wireless speaker.
Is the HomePod mini the best smart speaker under Rs. 10,000? We discussed this on Orbital, the Gadgets 360 podcast. Orbital is available in Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify, and anywhere you can get your podcasts.