We don’t hear about many major launches in the category of portable wireless speakers at the moment. There are also no longer many big brands in the cheap part of this market, with options from JBL, Boat, Anker Soundcore and Sony dominating online listings and offline stores. That said, cheap portable Bluetooth speakers are still very attractive. Xiaomi has been present in this segment for some time, but product launches have been few in the past few years.
The company recently made a comeback in space with the I Portable Bluetooth Speaker (16W). Presented at Rs. 2,499, this speaker has a cheap price for what is on offer, at least on paper. As the name suggests, you get 16W rated sound, IPX7 waterproof, and more. Is the portable Bluetooth speaker Mi 16W is the best you can buy in the segment of portable wireless speaker for less than Rs. 5,000? Find out in this review.
The portable Bluetooth speaker Mi (16W) looks and feels good
While many portable wireless speakers with a budget tend to sharpen lines and bright colors to look more attractive, I really like the simple and supple styling of the portable Bluetooth speaker Mi (16W). It looks similar to the Mi Outdoor Bluetooth Speaker, launched in 2020; the fabric-wrapped exterior, elastic cord and rubber buttons all reminded me of the smaller speaker.
Although you can position the Mi-Portable Bluetooth Speaker (16W) vertically, it is ideally placed horizontally on a table top and has rubber handles underneath to sit securely. With this orientation, the speakers push forward, and the buttons are on top. The controls include power, volume, playback, Bluetooth pairing, and a dedicated button for stereo wireless parade, usable if you have two of these speakers and want to use them together.
The buttons are easy to press, and leave no space for water to enter the sensitive electrical components of the Mi-Portable Bluetooth Speaker (16W). They cover most of the features you would need to operate the speaker directly without having to pick up your paired source device too often.
An IPX7 waterproof rating for the portable Bluetooth speaker I (16W) means that all kinds of exposures to the elements and even being fully immersed in water for a short time would 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 for the speaker is Bluetooth 5, with support for only the SBC Bluetooth codec.
The I Portable Bluetooth Speaker (16W) has an estimated output of 16W, divided between two identical 8W full ranges. There are two equalization modes – deep bass and normal – interchangeable by pressing the play / pause and ‘+’ button together. You can also call the default voice assistant of your smartphone by double pressing the switch button when the speaker is turned on.
Battery life is decent for a speaker of this size and output; the Mi Portable Bluetooth Speaker (16W) has a 2,600mAh battery that ran for about 9-10 hours per charge at moderate volumes. Charging is via the USB-C port, and it took about 3 hours to charge the speaker fully with 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.
Loud, sharp sound on the portable Bluetooth speaker I (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 sound signature, but of course a little louder thanks to two drivers emitting 8 W of sound each. This also details the sound a bit more, and performance is decent even at lower volumes.
Listening to Wait by Oliver Heldens at my desk, I had the speaker around the 30-40 percent volume level, and that created a decent sound over a short distance. Part of this is because the front shooters make sure the sound is aimed and accurate. While the beating in the low range of this dance floor could be heard even with low volumes, it did not have as much drive at all; instead, the speaker tended to emphasize the mid-range, which created a detailed and pleasing sound in the song.
Raising the volume by about 60 percent, Jaif de Lifafa sounded quite different, with deeper bass, tense and strong bass, and a much more energetic sound, especially in the last part of the track, where the tempo and melody are everything. In addition to being incredibly loud and packed, the sound remained clean and precise, with the song in the first half of the track sounding very clear. Sound quality at reasonable levels was significantly better than I had heard from most other options available for less than Rs. 5,000.
However increasing the volume close to the maximum level once again changed the sound slightly. The lows began to sound tumultuous and muddy, the highs began to crack under the pressure, and the middle distance tended to dissipate as well. Like any cheap speaker, the portable Bluetooth speaker Mi (16W) doesn’t hold up too well under intense voltage. I couldn’t hear much difference between the normal and “deep bass” equalization regimes; the first sounded a little cleaner, with the second giving the bass a slight blow.
At the highest volumes, it becomes loud enough to cover a large room or even more spacious outdoor settings. That said, the portable Bluetooth speaker Mi (16W) is best used at moderate volumes, at which point it’s loud enough for acceptable home listening. That’s the key difference between such a product and more expensive options like the UE Boom 3, which sounds good even with high volumes.
The decent mid-range devices produced by the portable Bluetooth speaker Mi (16W) meant I had a decent experience using it for an occasional voice call, although a speaker generally doesn’t give you as much accuracy in this department as a good pair of wireless headphones. .
The portable Bluetooth speaker Mi (16W) is impressive considering its price, for one key reason: it’s very loud. Sound quality is decent, and there’s a lot of beating and driving to satisfy bass lovers as well. It also helps that the speaker is rated IPX7 for water resistance, and offers good battery life for a device of its size and capabilities. Overall there is very little to complain about the portable Bluetooth speaker I (16W); it is quite easily the best one to buy for under Rs. 3,000.
Although this speaker didn’t quite hold up at the highest volumes, listening even around the 60-70 percent volume nonetheless makes for a pleasurable experience. At its price, the portable Bluetooth speaker Mi (16W) has great value for money, and is definitely worth checking out if you’re looking for a cheap wireless speaker right now.
Is HomePod mini is 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.