One doesn’t have to be large in order to pack a wallop. That’s what Xiaomi has been trying to teach the world with many of its products, the Mi Bluetooth speaker being one of them.
The Mi Bluetooth speaker is at its second iteration now, and Xiaomi is already preparing to launch a new one with a dual-driver design.
Contents of the Box
Xiaomi is shipping most of its products in plain cardboard boxes, and the Mi Bluetooth speaker makes no exception. I assume that the company does this for two reasons. First of all, it’s concerned about the impact a different packaging would have on the environment, and secondly, this is a great way of helping users save money. The box is pretty heavy duty and can withstand physical shocks during transportation without any problems. As seen in the following picture, mine got slightly damaged, but that didn’t affect the speaker itself.
On the back of the box, Xiaomi listed the technical specifications of the Bluetooth speaker, including the model number (NDZ-03-GA), connectivity options (Bluetooth 4.0), frequency range (100Hz-20KHz), power (3W), impedance (3 Ohms), and battery life (up to 12 hours). All of these are listed in Chinese, but it’s easy to intuit which is which.
The speaker fits snuggly into the cardboard stand, so the chances of it moving around while packed are null.
Besides the speaker, the manufacturer also provides a USB to microUSB cable for charging the device, as well as some instruction manuals. All the included documentation is in Chinese, and that’s one of the aspects Xiaomi needs to change, if it wants to expand to other markets. On the other hand, anyone buying such a product should at least have an idea about how to use it.
Design and Build Quality
Except for the plastic base, the cylindrical body of the Mi speaker is made of aluminum. The speaker grill was cut with great precision using a CNC router. While other manufacturers opt for plastic as the main material, Xiaomi wanted to make this product look and feel premium. The two plastic rings add a nice touch to the otherwise completely black body. The silver one on the top only plays an aesthetic role, while the one found on the lower side of the speaker lights up in blue or red, to indicate various statuses.
On the bottom, the speaker has three buttons with two functions each. The On/Off switch also doubles as a Play/Pause button, while the Volume Up and Volume Down ones also include playback functions, enabling users to skip to the next song or start the currently playing one, respectively.
The microUSB port on the base represents the interface for charging the speaker’s battery. A proprietary port would have represented a disaster, but luckily for us, Xiaomi has decided to use a universal one.
Connecting the speaker to your smartphone or tablet is very simple. You only need to turn on Bluetooth on the mobile device and pair the speaker to it. Just make sure that the speaker is turned on and that you are in range. Bluetooth 4.0 has a theoretical range of 10 meters, but line-of-sight is needed for that, as walls can cause the signal to drop significantly. The speaker shows up in the mobile device’s Bluetooth settings as NDZ-03-GA, this being its model number.
The previous generation of Mi speakers also packed NFC besides Bluetooth, but Xiaomi has decided to give up on that.
On paper, the Mi portable speaker is built around a 3W driver. In real-life scenarios, that driver proves to be quite powerful, with a punchy base and an impressive clarity.
At maximum volume, there are some distortions, but those are only audible when both the mobile device and the speaker are maxed up. Other than that, there are no cracklings, and the overall sound quality is nothing short of excellent, especially considering the size and the price of the device.
Not at last, the speaker does not only handle music and audio from movies and games, but also calls. The incorporated microphone and the speaker itself make phone calls very clear, and there shouldn’t be any fear of the person on the other end not being able to hear you.
The 2,000mAh battery is non-removable, and that’s yet another difference from the previous generation. Xiaomi rated the battery for 12 hours, but if you listen to music at full volume, you should expect less than 10 hours. That’s quite good, considering that Bluetooth speakers much larger than this one have a poorer battery life.
Price and Availability
Xiaomi has made it clear that it intends to open Mi stores in Europe and the US. However, only their accessories will be available in these stores, while their phones will be available exclusively in Asia.
If you live on any other continent, or prefer not to wait until Mi stores become a reality, you should focus your attention on the Chinese resellers. GearBest currently sells the Mi Bluetooth speaker for $21.99, and chances are you won’t be able to find it cheaper anywhere else. This store is also offering a coupon code – XMBS – that lowers the price even more. By applying it at checkout, buyers can get the Mi Bluetooth speaker for $19.89.
For the quality it offers and at the price it comes, I doubt that the Mi Bluetooth speaker has any real competitors. The build quality, the design, and most importantly, the sound quality are all excellent, and prove once again, if needed, that Xiaomi can create impressive devices that don’t break the bank.