Electronics brands Xiaomi and Realme have been competing in India for some time now, and have looked beyond the smartphone market to grow their respective user bases. While Xiaomi has the edge in the television segment, Realme has taken a lead in the audio and accessories space, thanks to some major launches across the wireless and home audio segment in the past few months. Xiaomi's latest products hope to gain some ground in the audio segment, backed by the company's typical approach of offering great features at competitive prices.
The Mi Neckband Bluetooth Earphones Pro and Mi Portable Bluetooth Speaker (16W) have been launched in India, priced at Rs. 1,799 and Rs. 2,499 respectively. The former offers active noise cancellation, while the latter has a rated sound output of 16W, promising to be very loud. Good battery life is also touted as a key feature of both products. I've taken a quick look at both new audio products; read on for my first impressions.
Launched well over a year after the Mi Neckband Bluetooth Earphones, the ‘Pro' model sports one major new feature – active noise cancellation. In other aspects, this headset is largely similar to the previous model; you get a classic tried-and-tested neckband-style design with short cables connecting the earpieces to the flexible neckband. Build quality is good and the fit is comfortable. The earpieces latch together magnetically for easy storage when not in use, but this sensibly doesn't control the power state of the headset. There's also IPX5 water resistance on the earphones.
The battery, and other components are in the neckband. All of the controls, as well as the Micro-USB charging port are on the right side. There is no good reason for wireless earphones to not have USB Type-C for charging anymore, and although a cable is included in the box, it's quite annoying to have to deal with the now dated Micro-USB standard. There's no app for the headphones, but this isn't something I missed at all, since the controls and usage are pretty straightforward.
Active noise cancellation is switched on or off with a simple press of the dedicated button, and seemed to make a small impact on the listening experience. The Mi Neckband Bluetooth Earphones Pro is powered by 10mm dynamic drivers, and the sonic signature is definitely bass-heavy. Although not excessive or muddy, the warm sound may not be for everyone.
A quick look at the settings when paired with an Android phone confirmed that the SBC and AAC Bluetooth codecs are supported on the Mi Neckband Bluetooth Earphones Pro, an improvement over the non-Pro model which supports just the SBC Bluetooth codec. Battery life is claimed to be 20 hours of playback time per charge; we'll test this properly in our review of the Mi Neckband Bluetooth Earphones Pro.
Arguably the most important specification on a portable speaker is how loud it gets, and the Mi Portable Bluetooth Speaker (16W) is rated for a pretty high sound output of 16W as the name suggests. This is the key feature of this wireless speaker, but there's also IPX7 water resistance, and the ability to quickly link two units to use as a stereo wireless pair.
The Mi Portable Bluetooth Speaker (16W) has a fabric-wrapped exterior and is available in two colours, black and blue. The physical buttons at the top are made of rubber and have a good tactile feel when pressed. There are buttons to control power, playback, volume, and Bluetooth pairing, along with a dedicated button for wireless stereo pairing which can be used if you have two of these speakers.
The speaker is large and heavy, and has a lace-like string on one end that you can use to carry it with. There are two 8W drivers under the fabric wrap, and small rubber grips at the bottom for the speaker to sit securely on a tabletop. The right side has a tight rubber flap, under which the USB Type-C port for charging and 3.5mm auxiliary input socket can be found. I found it quite hard to open, but this is likely deliberate since it's meant to protect the ports from water damage and maintain the IPX7 water resistance rating.
There are two equaliser modes – Deep Bass and Normal – and you can switch between them at any time by pressing the Volume Up and Play/Pause buttons together. I could only hear a small difference in sound between the two modes during my initial experience. I found the speaker to be loud and the sound clean, but I will of course talk more about this as well as the differences between the equaliser modes in my full review.
Xiaomi's newest audio products are quite impressive as far as the specifications and features go. Like most other Xiaomi products available today, they're priced reasonably as well. The Mi Neckband Bluetooth Earphones Pro is among the most affordable active noise cancelling headsets you can buy today, while 16W of output and IPX7 water resistance give the Mi Portable Bluetooth Speaker a significant edge.
There is, of course, much more to these products, and we'll talk about them in much more detail in our reviews. However, my first impressions are largely positive, and it's definitely worth taking a look at these if you're looking to buy new affordable wireless earphones or a wireless speaker.
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