What’s the best Xiaomi speaker under $70?

Xiaomi Portable Bluetooth Speaker: US$25
Exterior and design
Let’s kick things off with the Xiaomi Portable Bluetooth speaker. It’s about the size of a tin of canned tuna with the body being mostly a matte plastic with some fabric on top covering the speaker itself. The base is made of a really grippy rubber that does a good job of gripping onto surfaces.

Whilst at the bottom you’ll see the power button smack in the middle and that’s the only button you’ll find on this speaker. There is this orange loop that just helps you carry it around or hang it on stuff like your backpack or window or a hook on the ceiling. Don’t ask.

Below this convenience loop is a rubber cover that hides the USB-C port which you can use to charge the speaker and they also include a cable in the box. Very nice. On the opposite side is where the LED indicator light is at. This will show you what’s going on with the speaker like if it’s in pairing mode, if the battery is empty or if there is an incoming call, and more.

In terms of features, it is IP67 dust and water-resistant so it can handle some bit of rough riding. It also supports stereo pairing, meaning you can grab two of these and connect them together to make double the noise or to simulate some stereo separation of left and right channels when listening to audio or watching videos. It makes your entertainment more immersive.

Pairing and controls
It’s really easy to pair. Just turn it on, search for it via Bluetooth on your phone, tablet, or laptop and when it pops up just click pair. A single press of the power button will pause or play your music and the same function can be used to answer or end a call. A long press of the button will switch the speaker on or off and a double press will mute a call if you are on one or it will enable Truly Wireless Stereo mode so you can connect another speaker for that truly wireless stereo I mentioned earlier.

Sound performance
The sound quality is good. It’s not an A+ but still an A. The frequency range is decent with really defined mids and highs. So if you are listening to orchestral tracks with a lot of instruments or watching something with dialogue it does a very good job there.

Where it falls short is in the low end. There is some bass in there but just not enough low-end to give you that satisfying rumble in bass-heavy tracks like HipHop or Amapiano. Regardless, the sound quality stays pretty consistent all the way to maximum volume with some negligible distortion.

For just casual listening it does the job. And it can fill up a regular-sized room well but it just falls short on power and bass to light things up outdoors or in larger rooms.

It’s perfect as a louder, better speaker for your smartphone or laptop to enhance your music or video experience. Even for the school kids, it’s a decent speaker to add a vibe to the dorm room on a weekend. The box says it has a long-lasting battery life which is not really specified but I would estimate it will get you about 5 to 6 hours of music playback at around 50% volume.

Pros
Sounds good
Water and dust resistant
USB-C
Great design and build quality especially in black
Truly wireless stereo
Cons
The only feature is BT (No aux, SDcard, FM tuner)
It’s borderline pricey at US$25
Xiaomi Portable Bluetooth Speaker 16W: US$55
Exterior and design
Then there is another Mi portable Bluetooth speaker with a 16W in front of the name. Why? Because it’s bigger with more buttons and more ports. It’s also heavier. I don’t think a lot of people will hang this one on something like a backpack or chuck it in their cargo pants.

The build is still solid and clean but most of it is now fabric which is going to be interesting when it gets dirty. There are 2 rubber pads on the bottom to ensure it will roll off surfaces before it slides off them. The buttons are on top and there are plenty.

A power button to turn it on or off, volume buttons that also double up as track skipping buttons, a play pause button that also answers and ends calls, a dedicated Bluetooth button to pair a new device and quickly disconnect a connected device, and lastly an infinity button which allows you to pair this speaker with another one to create that left and right audio separation. The one I got is the blue one but looking at the box I think I would definitely go for the black one.

It’s also IPX7 rated for water and dust resistance so some water splashes or sandy beaches won’t really upset it. Oh and ports. It has 2 of them. A USB-C port for charging and an aux port for those that still prefer playing with cables. Speaking of, I wish they actually included an aux cable in the box. It’s a shame that all you get is a USB cable to charge the speaker and that’s it.

This one promises up to 13 hours of battery life but only at 50% volume. So at volumes above 50%, it’s going to last less than 13 hours. It’s got a 2600mAh battery inside and it’s odd for me that they did not put a reverse charge feature so I can use it as a power bank to charge my phone or the smaller speaker.

How does it sound?
Yes, it is louder. Much louder. And yes it has more bass. In fact, on some really bass-heavy tracks, the speaker literally shakes and rattles the surface it’s sitting on. Sound quality I give it an A+. It delivers some meaty bass all the way to max volume with the vibrations getting more violent the higher the volume goes. The slight bass bias and high volume does introduce some distortions at the maximum volume. When playing music some higher frequency instruments are a bit less sharp and consistent. But this is me speaking from an audio enthusiast’s point of view.

For a majority of you, this speaker is a great speaker. It can definitely work for a Zumba class or a big room for those that missed this reference. It can even work for a small outdoor thing like a backyard braai, picnic, or small birthday party.

It also has 2 preset equalizers. One is normal and the other is deep bass. You can cycle these through by pressing the play/pause and the plus button at once. I could not tell if there was a difference in bass levels between the 2 modes but what I did notice was the overall volume was louder in Deep Bass mode than in normal mode.

Pros
Volume goes quite high
The sound quality is top-notch with good rich bass
Buttons are plenty and conveniently placed
Stereo pairing
Aux for wired audio
Better dust and water resistance
Good battery life
USB-C
Cons
Pricey at US$55
Lack of power bank feature
No FM radio or SD card slot
Xiaomi Smart Speaker lite: $65
But you are a nerd and you like things. These 2 speakers lack something unique about them and that’s a bit of brains. You want your speaker to be smart. This is where the Xiaomi smart speaker comes in.

Exterior and design
It’s nice and black and it’s got an LED display. Finally. A smart speaker with a display. On top, it’s got 4 mics for better voice detection when issuing out commands and 4 buttons. Play/pause, volume up and down, and a button to enable or disable the mics.

Setting it up takes a bit more effort than with the Bluetooth-only speakers. But that’s because this one does more stuff. So first you need to download the Google Home app. Then open it and plug the speaker into a power point. Once the speaker is on, click the add button in the Google Home app and just follow the prompts to add a smart speaker.

Like any smart speaker, you can do stuff like setting up alarms, playing stuff on your other smart devices, and controlling smart home appliances and even smart home security systems. Call it peak soft life

Performance
As a speaker, it sounds good. In fact, on sound quality, it falls between the smaller Mi portable speaker and the bigger Mi portable speaker 16W. It is certainly producing a richer sound in the low end compared to the smaller speaker but also it’s more clear and crisper at max volume than the bigger 16W Mi speaker.

It does sound like this is a more quality driver that is being used in the Mi smart speaker than the ones in the other Bluetooth speakers but again I am speaking from an audio enthusiast’s point of view. These are the sort of nuances a lot of you will not even notice.

Features
Oh, and it can work as a Bluetooth speaker as well. All you do is ask Google Assistant to switch on Bluetooth and it will give you instructions on how to pair your phone, tablet, or laptop to it. Not everyone is going to be using it for online streaming all the time.

It’s a great smart speaker. It even has a display that shows the time and says hello when you turn it on. Something not very common in a lot of smart speakers including the last Xiaomi smart speaker we played with a little while ago.

The only complaint I have with smart speakers, in general, is that none of them have built-in batteries. You have to keep them plugged in 100% of the time which is not a very African-friendly feature.

And it’s not like they are very power-hungry devices. The speaker uses a max of 12W and if you put a 20 000mAh power bank on it, you can get up to 12 hours of use on it which would make it more versatile. Also, I think it’s about time that all devices that use less than 100W of power should have a USB-C port. There are smartphone chargers that can power this speaker easily.

Nonetheless, if you are in the market for a smart speaker, this one is pretty good. Sound quality alone is better on it than on the Amazon Echo Dot or even the Google home mini. It’s also cheaper than other smart speakers on the market at $65. An Amazon Echo Dot is about $90 for the 3rd gen. The design is fine but I think I am a sucker for that bit of the fabric finish on my speakers. Call me old-fashioned. It’s got the full might of Google Assistant delivering all the smarts and it has something a lot of other smart speakers do not have. An LED display. It only shows the time but still. It’s there.

Pros
That LED clock
Great Sound quality
Sturdy build
Cons
Price of $65
A limited selection of playback sources (Bluetooth/streaming)
Relies 100% on power
Which is the best one?
So this is where these speakers stand. The smallest one is cheap and good-looking but at the price of low-end bass and features. It’s also only 100% Bluetooth.

The biggest one, the 16W, is the loudest with the most bass, has better battery life, and can also do wired audio. However, it’s a bit pricier and at max volume, it loses a bit of quality.

Then the smart speaker. It’s got all the smarts thanks to Google Assistant. It can work on its own without needing a device to be connected to it and it can even control other smart devices in the house. It also sounds the best and when you feel like it, you can use it as a Bluetooth speaker like the other two.

But it’s quite expensive and unless you will fully utilize the smart features you are pretty much paying more for a speaker that does less than the other two. And also it’s not one you can use outdoors because it needs to be plugged in for it to work.

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