With the uprising of wireless audio, Bluetooth speakers are again, high in demand and affordability is one of the most important traits to that. Users no longer want super expensive speakers and as a solution, Xiaomi is selling their Portable Wireless Speaker (16W). They do sell a couple of other speakers with even cheaper Bluetooth options and a Wi-Fi smart speaker, but this one's the most justifiable as far as value goes.
The company is selling this speaker for ₹2499, but if you get it during sales, you can grab this for as low as ₹1999. There are two color options to choose from including a Black and a Blue which I have here. This is a retail unit purchased by me and Xiaomi India is in no way, associated or has any pre-intel on the review.
I'm following the divide and concur approach where I break this review into several sections and explain each one of them in a brief and informative manner. So, let's get right into it.
Great Build Quality
Muffled Vocals and Instruments
Loud & Boomy Sound
Distorts at High Volume Levels
Excellent Water Resistance
Below-average Battery Life
Deep Bass Mode makes things Worse
Design and Build Quality
No matter who tells you looks don't matter, it does, and Xiaomi knows this very well. Where most Bluetooth speakers don't look all that impressive in this segment, Xiaomi has taken a page from the more premium Sony speakers and integrated that in their own design language. Although, instead of being a cylindrical design, it's more of a mesh covered rounded rectangle.
The quality of the mesh is actually really good. The company handled this part carefully as they needed the mesh to survive falls and water. Yes, if you drop the speaker on concrete or drop it in a swimming pool, it'll survive just fine. However, if you're going to take this near water, first seal the port area with the rubber seal properly.
Rough outdoor usage is going to get the speaker pretty dirty tough. Dust grabs on easily and if you're working with mud, it's gonna be worse. However, it's easy to clean with some soap water and thanks to the water resistance, its not gonna flow inside. The rubber feet at the bottom get dirty comparatively easily, even indoors, so you'll have to clean them regularly.
For this range of pricing, Xiaomi has done a way better job in design & build department than I was expecting. It looks comparatively premium and it has way better durability compared to most of the competition. So, if there was one place where this product shines, it's in design.
Sound Signature, Loudness, Outdoor Performance
Things become more of a mixed bag when it comes to what really matters, and that's the sound quality. This is where you'll clearly understand that it's an economy speaker. The audio output can be defined as loud but unbalanced.
Sound Quality and Technicals
On one hand, the loudness can easily fill up a medium sized room with it's two 8W speakers setting the total output at 16W. This makes it clear that the company was trying to make it as loud as possible and they've clearly succeeded. However, the problem is the actual sound signature, which hasn't impressed me at all.
When playing music, the vocals often sound muffled while the instruments, both regular and electrical, sound pretty mixed up. That means it's hard to tell the instruments apart. There is a Deep Bass mode which makes songs sound worst, so unless it's a no vocal electronic music that requires extra bass, avoid this setting.
If you need to get technical though, the Highs and the Lows aren't well defined and sound unbalanced. The Mids are somewhat okay, but because of the nature of the other two, the speaker doesn't benefit much from that.
Apple Music - Dolby Atmos & Lossless
I've added this section to set a tone for the next generation of music streaming. Apple music has added Lossless & Dolby Atmos audio to their audio library and others (starting with Spotify) are soon to follow. So, it's important to know how these different audio formats and settings are going to affect your listening.
What you need to understand is that, right now there is no way to send a pure Lossless signal to the Mi 16W Bluetooth Speaker, and it's not Dolby Atmos compatible either. But, playing songs in these, does have an effect on the sound output of the speaker.
I performed the tests on Apple Music because, that is the only option available in India for these formats and the results were kind of unexpected.
For Lossless music, the basics stand pretty strong. The audio sounds slightly louder and you can in-fact hear extra details. However, the difference is nowhere close to a good pair of headphones or a good 2.1 wired speaker system. Multiple instruments and EDMs still get muffled. But, it's a better sounding experience compared to a 256 kbps AAC track.
Dolby Atmos is a totally different story though. I was hoping that it'll perform better with a bigger Stereo setup, but it's quite the opposite. The audio sounds much more quite and the Bass itself gets muffled with all the instruments in the song. Playing Dolby Atmos tracks on this speaker is not recommended at all.
Audiophiles vs. General Consumers
If you're not an audiophile or coming from a more expensive speaker from Sony, LG, etc., it's unlikely that you'll be able to notice these flaws. But, if you need a well defined sound signature from your speaker, this one just isn't gonna cut it. Get one of the flagship LG Bluetooth speakers instead.
Battery Life & Charging
A 2600 mAh Li-ion battery is running the show here and it's performance is kind of meh! Xiaomi claims a massive 13 hours of battery life, but only when it's kept at 50% volume. However, this speaker is quite quiet at that volume level. So, you'll likely be listening at above 75%, most of the time.
How Long Does The Battery Last?
The speaker does not provide an exact percentage, but a decrease of 10% each time. So, it's hard to get an exact idea on a exact percentage drain. However, it takes slightly less than 5 hours for the battery to go from 100% to 0% at high volume (85%-90%).
If you're using the speaker, outside under direct sunlight, you'll lose battery much quickly. Even if the ambient room temperature is high, it an indeed shorten some of that battery life as well. Similarly, cooler ambient temperatures will give you a bit bit more juice out of the same. So, your results might vary, compared to mine. However, in general conditions, it's going to be close.
There is no Fast Charging tech available in this speaker, so you're bound to use 5V=1A (5W) charging. Because it's using a USB-C port, you should probably have a charger lying somewhere in your home. Anyway, it takes slightly more than 4 hours for a full charge.
I tested this with an 18W Qualcomm Quick Charger and a cheap 5W third party charger and the Qualcomm charger was actually faster. However, that was probably the third party charger not pulling the entire 5W. So, stick with your smartphone charger and you should be fine.
Xiaomi has tried everything to make Connectivity, look good on this speaker. Of course, these aren't the best available out there, but for the price segment, it's kind of impressive, so it is hard to complain over that.
Bluetooth 5.0 is the biggest highlight here. If you have a newer Smartphone with Bluetooth 5.0 or higher, the connectivity is great and it can sustain the connection through a thick wall. Older versions of Bluetooth (4.x) work nicely too, but you won't be getting as strong of a connection or as much range out of it. Also, in this case, thick walls are going to be bigger problems for you.
However, there aren't any issues with most outdoor usage scenarios unless you get too far away. Overall, I like the wireless connectivity on this speaker and I have to give the manufacturer a thumbs up for that. However, the capability to pair multiple speakers together, would have been nice.
There are only two wired connections on the speaker including one USB Type-C Port for Charging and one 3.5mm Aux Jack for wired audio, if you absolutely must. Considering a lot of the competition is still on MicroSD and a lot of them even exclude the 3.5 mm port, I'm pretty satisfied with the provided options here.
Xiaomi makes a range of speakers at several price points and this Mi Portable 16W Bluetooth Speaker is the best wireless option they have right now. That's the reason why so many individuals including myself, had very high hopes for this product, and I have to say, it was a wildly mixed experience.
This is a perfectly good speaker for for the price when all you need is something loud and boomy while the actual clarity of the sound isn't that important. That means it's going to serve those yoga sessions, cooking hours, rooftop dances, campfires, hikings, and picnics, just fine.
However, the moment when you add more pronounced vocals and instruments to your list of preference, something slightly more premium from a brand like LG, Sony or even Bose is going to make more sense to you. So, if you need that, spend the extra cash and get something better.