We do not hear of many major launches in the portable wireless speaker category these days. Plus many big brands are no longer the affordable part of this market, with options from JBL, Boat, Anker Soundcore, and Sony dominating online listings and offline store shelves. That said, low-cost portable Bluetooth speakers still have plenty of appeal. Xiaomi has been present in this segment for some time now, but there have been few product launches over the past few years.
The company recently re-entered space with the Mi Portable Bluetooth Speaker (16W). Priced at Rs. 2,499, this speaker is priced affordably for what is available, at least on paper. As the name implies, you get 16W rated audio output, IPX7 water resistance, and more. Is the 16W Portable Bluetooth Speaker the best you can buy in the portable wireless speaker segment for less than Rs. 5,000? Find out in this review.
The Mi Portable Bluetooth Speaker (16W) looks and feels good
While many portable wireless speakers on a budget tend to go with sharp lines and bright colors to appear more appealing, I really like the simple and on point styling of the Bluetooth Mi Portable Speaker (16W). It’s similar in design to the Mi Outdoor Bluetooth Speaker launched in 2020; the outer buttons, elastic cord, and fabric-wrapped rubber buttons all reminded me of the smaller speaker.
While you can mount the Mi Portable Bluetooth Speaker (16W) vertically, it is ideally placed horizontally on top of a table and has rubber grips on the bottom for safe seating. With this orientation, the speaker drives on, and the buttons are at the top. The controls include power, volume, playback, Bluetooth matching, and a dedicated stereo wireless pairing button, which can be used if 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 slip into the sensitive electrical components of the Mi (16W) Portable Bluetooth Speaker. They cover most of the functions that you would need to operate the speaker directly without the need to charge your paired source device too often.
The IPX7 water resistance rating for the Mi Portable Bluetooth Speaker (16W) means that all types of exposure to the elements and even being submerged in water for a short time should not damage the device at all. There is a USB Type-C port for charging under a tight rubber flap on the right, along with a 3.5mm socket for auxiliary connectivity. Of course, the main connectivity mode for the speaker is Bluetooth 5, with support for the SBC Bluetooth codec only.
The Mi (16W) Portable Bluetooth Speaker has a rated output of 16W, split between two identical 8W full-range drivers. There are two equalizer modes – deep and normal bass – that can be switched between by pressing the play / pause button and the ‘+’ button together. You can also call the default voice assistant on your smartphone by pressing the power button twice when the speaker is on.
Battery life is decent for a speaker of this size and output; the Mi Portable Bluetooth Speaker (16W) has a 2,600mAh battery, which ran for about 9-10 hours per charge at moderate volumes. Charging is via the USB Type-C port, and it took about 3 hours to fully charge the speaker using a 10W wall adapter. It’s worth noting that you only get a USB cable in the box, so you’ll have to use your own adapter.
High, punitive sound on the Portable Bluetooth Speaker (16W)
Design is not the only similarity between the Mi Portable Bluetooth Speaker (16W) and its more affordable sibling, the Mi Outdoor Bluetooth Speaker; the larger device has the same punitive, driven sonic signature, but of course it’s much higher thanks to two drivers putting out 8W of sound each. This also adds a bit more detail in the audio, and the performance is decent even at lower volumes.
While listening to Wait by Oliver Heldens at my desk, I got the speaker at 30-40 percent volume level, and this made a solid sound at a short distance. This happens because the front ignition drivers ensure that the sound is targeted and precise. Although the thumb at the low end of this dance track was heard even at low volumes, it had less drive; instead, the speaker tended to highlight the mid range strikingly, which created a detailed and entertaining sound in the vocals.
Turning the volume up to about 60 percent, Lifafa’s Jaago sounded very different, with deeper lows, tight bass and punches, and a much more energetic sound, especially in the last part of the track where the beat and the tone is everything. Aside from being unbelievably loud and filling a room, the sound stayed clean and precise, with the vocals in the first half of the track sounding very crisp. Sound quality at reasonable levels was significantly better than I have heard from most other options available for less than Rs. 5,000.
However, turning the volume up close to the top level again changed the sound quite a bit. The lows started to sound boomy and muddy, the highs started to crack under the pressure, and the mid-range tended to tear up as well. Like any affordable speaker, the Mi Portable Bluetooth Speaker (16W) doesn’t hold up too well under intense stress. We can’t hear much difference between the usual equalizer and ‘deep bass’ modes; the former sounded a bit cleaner, with the latter giving the downsides a small shot.
At higher volumes, it gets high enough to cover a large room or even more spacious outdoor settings. That said, it is best to use the Bluetooth Mi Portable Speaker (16W) in moderate volumes, where it is high enough to reasonably listen at home. That’s the core difference between a product like this and more expensive options like the EU Boom 3 that sounds good even at high volumes.
The decent mids produced by the Bluetooth Mi Portable Speaker (16W) meant that I had decent experience using it for a casual voice call, although a speaker generally won’t give you as much accuracy in this section as a good pair of wireless earphones. .
The Mi Portable Bluetooth (16W) Speaker is impressive considering its price, for one key reason: it’s very high. Sound quality is decent, and there’s enough thumb and drive to satisfy bass lovers too. It also helps that the speaker is IPX7 water resistant, and offers good battery life for a device of its size and capabilities. Overall, there is very little to complain about with the Portable Bluetooth Speaker (16W); it is quite easily the best you can buy for under Rs. 3,000.
Although this speaker did not have its own at the highest volumes, even listening at a 60-70 percent volume level is still an enjoyable experience. For its price, the Mi Portable Bluetooth Speaker (16W) is excellent value for money, and definitely worth checking out if you are looking for an affordable wireless speaker right now.
Is HomePod mini the best smart speaker under Rs. 10,000? We discussed this on Orbital, the Gadgets 360 podcast. Orbital is available on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify, and wherever you get your podcasts.