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Mi Smart Speaker review: The best affordable smart speaker
Xiaomi Mi Smart Speaker
What we like
What we don't like
The smart speaker market is for the most part dominated by Google and Amazon’s offerings. Sure, there are great alternatives for Google Assistant and Echo speakers, but these tend to be more premium options that focus on better audio features. The Xiaomi Mi Smart Speaker, however, is intended as an affordable entry into a smart ecosystem. As such, it is designed for price-conscious markets like India.
Does the speaker succeed at distilling the Google Home experience to a price point that is half of the equivalent alternatives? We find out in the Android Authority review of the Mi Smart Speaker.
Mi Smart Speaker review: The big picture
Xiaomi’s entire ecosystem has been built around the premise of value. From smartphones to smart home equipment, the idea is to offer options that belie the price, bringing most of the features from higher-end equipment at hyper-competitive prices.
Of course, there are some compromises along the way, but often enough, they are small enough to overlook. The Mi Smart Speaker is the company’s first foray into smart assistant enabled speakers in India.
Xiaomi previously dabbled in Bluetooth speakers to reasonable success. However, the category is led by giants like Google and Amazon, so Xiaomi will have to offer significant advantages over the first party alternatives to be able to leave a mark.
Is the design any good?
The Mi Smart Speaker cribs a lot of its design sensibilities from the Sonos One. Nevertheless, the Sonos is a much more premium device and Xiaomi has made some compromises to hit the price point.
The Mi Smart Speaker channels the Sonos aesthetic for a classic, minimalist design.
The aluminum build is sturdy, with a perforated grille running around the speaker for audio output. There is, however, just a smidgen of flex when holding up the speaker. This shouldn’t be an issue for most users since you will rarely, if ever, move the speaker around.
Elsewhere, the plastics on the top and bottom of the speaker are well built but don’t exactly scream luxury. The touch controls for volume control, microphone mute, and play, pause are responsive. Additionally, an LED ring runs around the top of the speaker to indicate that the speaker is listening to voice commands.
At the front is a fairly discrete Mi logo, while at the back, you can spot a barrel connector for power. While a USB port would have been a convenient addition, this is a set-and-forget device and it isn’t really a big loss.
Finally, weighing in at just under 1kg, the Mi Smart Speaker stays planted on a surface, while the rubber feet further help dampen any vibrations. Overall, there’s little to complain about the build quality here.
I wouldn’t mind the use of more premium plastics, but for the price, the quality here is more than satisfactory.
How does the Mi Smart Speaker sound?
The Mi Smart Speaker is using a single 2.5-inch driver that delivers 12W of audio output. For comparison, the Google Home has a single 2-inch driver, while the Amazon Echo has a larger 3-inch driver.
When it comes to audio quality, I’m more than satisfied. The speaker has been tuned for boosted mids which ensures that vocals and acoustic tracks sound exceptionally clear.
The high treble frequencies are very well controlled and at no point does the speaker sound too shrill. Meanwhile, the bass isn’t too bad for the size, but you will want to temper your expectations.
The room-filling output excels at vocals and acoustic music, though bass can be a bit muffled at higher volumes.
The Mi Smart Speaker isn’t going to get the party started, but there is enough low-end here to please most listeners unless you listen to a lot of bass-heavy music at high volumes.
Overall, Xiaomi’s smart speaker sounds more than satisfactory. In fact, I’d say it sounds even better than the Google Home with its focus on clean mids and a fairly uncluttered sound. That said, the upgraded Nest Audio should be an interesting upgrade option if you’ve got the budget to spare.
Finally, it is possible to create a stereo pair with two Mi Smart Speakers which should let you get dedicated left and right audio channels. Interestingly enough, two of these speakers in a stereo configuration should still be more affordable than a single Nest Audio speaker. Something to consider if you’re in the market for a budget-friendly audio solution.
Does Google Assistant work well on the Mi Smart Speaker?
The speaker has two far-field microphones at the top. They do an excellent job of picking up commands from across the room.
The Mi Smart Speaker seamlessly integrates into your smart home setup and has the same Google Assistant as on Google’s own Nest speakers. This means that it supports the entire gamut of Google Assistant queries that you are used to on your phone.
Additionally, the speaker can become the center of your smart home ecosystem and allow you to control smart lights and other equipment. In fact, almost all the ecosystem products sold by Xiaomi in India are Google Assistant-enabled. The launch of the Mi Smart Speaker means that you no longer have to look outside the ecosystem to get started with your smart home setup. Very smart.
Should you buy the Mi Smart Speaker?
The Mi Smart Speaker is a perfect example of everything Xiaomi stands for. The speaker isn’t going to blow your mind, but it outputs quality audio that should be more than satisfactory for most users.
The speaker is priced to move, and the build quality surpasses that of most other smart speakers at the price.
Additionally, the Mi Smart Speaker can be much louder than the Nest Mini and Echo Dot. The only real advantage that the Echo Dot has is the ability to use line-out to connect to larger speakers. However, I don’t suspect that will be a major use case if you are looking at buying a smart speaker.
Available at a promotional price of Rs. 3,499 at launch, the Mi Smart Speaker is a no brainer. Unless you have a specific reason to invest in the Amazon Alexa ecosystem, the Mi Smart Speaker has all the smarts you need and delivers nearly the same audio quality as products that cost twice as much.