Xiaomi continually hits the ball out of the park with its audio products. From the democratizing Redmi Buds S, to the Google Assistant-capable Mi Smart Speaker, the quality belies the price. But what about the humble Bluetooth speaker? In a time of connected-everything, the Mi Portable Bluetooth Speaker sounds like a rather boring release from the brand.
See also: What are the best Bluetooth speakers?
The Mi Portable Bluetooth Speaker is aimed squarely at the popular UE Boom and similar rugged and waterproof speakers. In the Android Authority Mi Portable Bluetooth Speaker review, we’ll find out if Mi’s budget speaker is unique, or just filler.
How’s the design?
The Mi Portable Bluetooth Speaker keeps it basic with the design, and it looks akin to the popular rugged Bluetooth speakers from Logitech’s Ultimate Ears brand. A woven mesh wraps around the speaker, and it isn’t of great quality. You can see that the speaker has been built to a cost, but the plastic-coated material should be easy enough to wipe clean if you drop a beverage on it. The speaker is IPX7-rated, so it can live poolside.
The lanyard loop along the side is a nice addition that brings function to this cheap speaker. Xiaomi includes a pre-installed fabric hand loop, but there’s enough clearance at the anchor point to attach a carabiner instead if you prefer.
The Mi Portable Bluetooth Speaker is a cut above competing options for the price.
A rubberized strip houses the control panel. I’m not a huge fan of rubberized panels since they tend to attract dust and grime over time. However, they make waterproofing easier, and I can see the reasoning here. All six buttons offer good enough tactile feedback and are easy to click through. Indentations on the speaker are all well and good, but the black-on-black labeling might make it hard to make out which button does what in low-light.
I feel Xiaomi could have nixed the stereo pairing button in favor of the equalizer. As it stands, a long press of the volume plus and play button toggles the equalizer setting. An auxiliary input as well as a USB-C charging port rest along the bottom of the speaker.
Overall, the design delivers enough quality for the price, and is a cut above competing options.
Is the Bluetooth connectivity good?
The Mi Portable Bluetooth Speaker supports Bluetooth 5.0, and I had no issues with connection stability. I comfortably walked around my apartment with my phone paired up to the speaker. All I had to do to pair the speaker to a Bluetooth device was press the dedicated pairing button. After the initial pairing setup, the speaker auto connects to the last paired speaker. Meanwhile, long pressing on the pairing button will wipe the paired device list.
Xiaomi hasn’t published the list of supported codecs, but the speaker defaulted to SBC across devices. I’d have liked AAC support, but SBC tends to be the default on most affordable speakers and it’s not a major concern on a budget Bluetooth speaker.
A neat party trick here is the ability to connect two of the speakers in a stereo configuration. Unfortunately, I did not have a second speaker on hand to test out the feature. A direct access button is provided on the speaker for pairing it with a second unit.
Does the Mi Portable Bluetooth Speaker sound good?
The Xiaomi Mi Portable Bluetooth speaker offers surprisingly pleasant sound quality, given its affordable price. The speaker packs two 16W drivers placed in a forward-facing configuration.
While some alternatives have gone for 360-degree audio output, Xiaomi is keeping it simple here. There is a noticeable drop-off in audio quality with the speaker turned on its side. However, the speaker can be placed both horizontally and vertically which opens up some flexibility in placement.
The audio tuning is enjoyable with an emphasis on bass and treble.
I didn’t go in expecting a bass monster but coupled with Xiaomi’s bass boost equalizer setting, the speaker does quite well for hip-hop and R&B tracks. Cranking up some Travis Scott was an enjoyable experience though bass did crackle just a bit at the highest volume level.
Beyond that, the tuning is predictably fun sounding with an emphasis on bass and treble sections to make the music sound more lively. Despite the bass and treble emphasis, vocals do not get drowned out and the speaker should make a fun addition to any party.
Talking about volume levels, the speaker goes astonishingly loud and this came in very handy while listening to podcasts and audiobooks across my apartment.
Is the Mi Portable Bluetooth Speaker any good for calls?
Xiaomi’s speaker includes a microphone good for voice assistant use as well as calls. I found the experience to be serviceable, but nothing worth writing home about.
Double pressing the power button activates the voice assistant on your phone and you can then use the speaker to perform any and all functions. I found myself reaching for my phone instead since invoking the assistant paused audio playback, but the functionality is there if you want it.
Calls sounded acceptable as long as I was sitting close to the speaker. The speaker couldn’t really pick up my voice from a distance, and I wouldn’t recommend picking up the speaker if making hands-free phone calls is a priority.
How’s the battery life?
The Mi Portable Bluetooth Speaker packs a 2,600mAh battery and is rated for 13 hours of playback though this figure will vary depending on your playback volume. Over my time with the speaker, I never got around to depleting the battery despite extended use with the volume at 50%. With close to seven hours of music listening, the speaker still reported a 60% charge, and Xiaomi’s claims should hold true.
Xiaomi doesn’t include a charger in the box, but I topped off the speaker from 50% to full in under an hour, and a full top-off should take about two hours.
Xiaomi Mi Portable Bluetooth Speaker review: The verdict
There’s little to no competition for the Mi Portable Bluetooth Speaker in India at its affordable Rs. 2,499 (~$35) price point. Not only does the speaker deliver on sound quality but backs it up with features like an IP rating, long battery life, as well as stereo pairing. In Europe and the UK, the Mi Portable Bluetooth Speaker retails for €39 and ~£35, respectively.
The Mi Portable Bluetooth Speaker's feature set and price make it a winner.
The Mi Portable Bluetooth Speaker gets a resounding recommendation, especially if your budget won’t stretch to more expensive options. Unless you have very specific needs like the ability to slot in a microSD card — a niche feature afforded by a few no-name alternatives — you shouldn’t even look at other options. This one’s a winner.