We don’t hear about many major launches in the portable wireless speaker category these days. Plus, there aren’t many big brands in the budget side of this market anymore, 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 a lot of appeal. Xiaomi has been in this segment for some time, but product launches have been few and far between in recent years.
The company recently re-entered space with the Mi Portable Bluetooth Speaker (16W). Priced at Rs. 2,499, this speaker is affordable for what’s on offer, at least on paper. As the name suggests, you get 16W of rated audio output, IPX7 water resistance, and more. The Mi 16W Portable Bluetooth Speaker is 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 good and feels good
While many budget-friendly portable wireless speakers tend to go with crisp lines and bright colors to look more attractive, I really like the simple and precise styling of the Mi Portable (16W) Bluetooth speaker. It is similar in design to the Mi Outdoor Bluetooth Speaker launched in 2020; the fabric wrapped exterior, bungee cord and rubber buttons reminded me of the smaller speaker.
While the Mi Portable Bluetooth Speaker (16W) can be placed vertically, it is ideally placed horizontally on a table and has rubber grips at the bottom to sit firmly on. In this orientation, the speaker drivers turn forward and the buttons are on the top. Controls include power, volume, playback, Bluetooth pairing, 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 Portable Bluetooth Speaker (16W). They cover most of the functions needed to directly operate the speaker without having to lift the associated source device too often.
An IPX7 water resistance rating for the Mi Portable Bluetooth Speaker (16W) means that all kinds of exposure to the elements and even being completely submerged in water for a short time shouldn’t harm the device. There’s a USB Type-C port for charging under a narrow rubber flap on the right side, along with a 3.5mm socket for auxiliary connectivity. Obviously, the primary connectivity mode for the speaker is Bluetooth 5, with only support for the SBC Bluetooth codec.
The Mi Portable Bluetooth Speaker (16W) is rated at 16W, split between two identical 8W full-range drivers. Two equalization modes are available: deep bass and normal, which can be switched by simultaneously pressing the button play / pause and the “+” button. You can also invoke 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 power; The Mi Portable Bluetooth Speaker (16W) has a 2,600mAh battery, which ran for around 9-10 hours per charge at moderate volumes. Charging is done 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 only a USB cable is provided in the box, so you’ll need to use the your adapter.
Loud, punchy sound on the Mi Portable Bluetooth Speaker (16W)
Design isn’t the only similarity between the Mi Portable Bluetooth Speaker (16W) and its cheaper sibling, the Mi Outdoor Bluetooth Speaker; the larger device has the same strong and powerful sonic footprint, but is obviously a little louder thanks to two drivers that emit 8W of sound each. This also makes it a bit more detailed in sound and performance is decent even at lower volumes.
While listening to Oliver Heldens’ Waiting at my desk, I had the speaker at a volume level of around 30-40 percent, and this made for decent sound at a short distance. Part of this is because the front drivers ensure that the sound is focused and accurate. While the thud in the low end of this dance track was audible even at low volumes, it didn’t have enough energy; instead, the speaker tended to impressively highlight the midrange, which made for a nice detailed sound in the voice.
Turning up the volume to around 60 percent, Lifafa’s Jaago sounded noticeably different, with deeper bass, tight, punchy bass, and a much more energetic sound, especially in the latter part of the track where rhythm and melody are everything. As well as being incredibly loud and enveloping, the sound remained clean and precise, with vocals in the first half of the track sounding very clear. Sound quality at reasonable levels was significantly better than what I heard from most of the other options available for less than Rs. 5,000.
However, turning up the volume near the maximum level once again changed the sound a bit. The lows started to sound boomy and muddy, the highs started to crack under pressure, and the mids tended to tear as well. Like any budget speaker, the Mi Portable Bluetooth Speaker (16W) doesn’t hold up too well under intense strain. I couldn’t hear much of a difference between the normal and “deep bass” EQ modes; the former sounded a little cleaner, with the latter giving the bass a slight bump.
At higher volumes, it becomes loud enough to cover a large room or even more spacious outdoor environments. That said, the Mi Portable Bluetooth Speaker (16W) is best used at moderate volumes, loud enough for reasonable listening at home. This is the key difference between a product like this and more expensive options like the UE Boom 3 which sounds good even at high volumes.
The decent mids produced by the Mi Portable Bluetooth Speaker (16W) meant I’ve had a fair amount of experience using it for occasional voice calls, although a speaker generally won’t give you the same accuracy in this department as a good pair of wireless earbuds. .
The Mi Portable Bluetooth Speaker (16W) is impressive considering its price, for one fundamental reason: it is very loud. The sound quality is decent and there is plenty of thump and thrust to satisfy bass lovers too. It also helps that the speaker is IPX7 rated for water resistance and offers good battery life for a device of its size and capacity. Overall, there is very little to complain about with the Mi Portable Bluetooth Speaker (16W); it’s quite easily the best you can buy for less than Rs. 3,000.
While this speaker couldn’t quite hold up to the loudest volumes, listening to even around the 60-70 percent volume level still makes for a pleasant experience. At its price, the Mi Portable Bluetooth Speaker (16W) is excellent value for money and is definitely worth a look if you’re looking for a budget wireless speaker right now.
HomePod mini is the best smart speaker under Rs. 10,000? We discussed it on Orbital, the Gadgets 360 podcast. Orbital is available on Apple Podcast, Google Podcast, Spotify and wherever you find your podcasts.