Mi Smart Speaker Review: Mi Smart Speaker Review
Xiaomi has launched Mi Smart Speaker in India to suit the likes of Google Nest Mini and Amazon Echo Dot 3rd Gen. If you’ve been wondering about smart speakers from popular smartphone makers, you should know that the company has taken the initiative. The Smart Home category made a statement through its first ‘Smart Living’ event in 2018 that it was an internet company, while the public perception was that it was still limited to just thinking of a smartphone brand.
The Mi Smart Speaker is not Xiaomi’s first smart home or IoT product, but it is the company’s first speaker in India with a voice assistant. What makes it attractive is that it is as affordable as you would expect Xiaomi to be. The speaker is priced at Rs 3,999, and early buyers can get it for as low as Rs 3,499. That goes against Amazon and Google’s entry-level smart speakers, who not only make the hardware for the speakers but also own their respective virtual assistants – Alexa and Google Assistant – two mainstream assistants.
The real work of MI Smart Speakers is to bundle better prices from the above mentioned competitors to make a place for themselves in the market of entry-level smart speakers. Has Xiaomi been able to do that? We’ll find out.
Design and build
Mi Smart Speaker 131×104 x151mm and weighs 853g. These dimensions make it much larger than the donut-sized Google Home Mini and Amazon Echo Dot. The overall size of the speaker is four to five times larger than the Google Home Mini. While the size doesn’t add up to the speaker’s smarts, it does give it space for louder sound output, thanks to the larger drivers. But that’s something we’ll talk about later in the review.
In terms of design, it is made of a combination of center-wrapped metal mesh and the frame is made of ABS material with a warm matte finish. It’s fairly lightweight and the build is fairly good for an entry-level speaker. The company is making a big deal about the 10531 perforated grill, which apparently allows for audio distribution. This is similar to the design language of Sonos Play: 1, and it’s not a bad thing at all.
Above, it has touch-based buttons bordered by a ring of aurora light band in the corner. These buttons allow you to control the volume, turn the mic on / off and play / pause. Sadly the buttons are not backlit, which would make it difficult to identify in the dark. Aurora Light uses 24 LED light beads below to create different color gradients to add to its visual aesthetics. Two microphones are also placed on top of the speaker.
The bottom part pierces the sharp edges and instead has curved angles, with four rubber tips that can hold it firmly on most surfaces. There is no port on the body except one that facilitates the power cord. I’m probably nitpicking, but the quality of the power adapter isn’t available with the speaker’s build quality or with Echo and Google Home devices.
Microphone performance and voice response
Although the microphone and voice response are the backbone of any smart speaker, this is an area where Mi smart speakers fall short. Xiaomi uses two far-field microphones in it, placed on the top right to avoid any obstruction. However, we found it to be inconsistent at a high volume. I used it in a square room spread over an area of 200-250 square feet where the speaker is centered right next to my existing Google Home Mini.
It would be unfair to criticize too much about voice response because it works quite well at 70% volume, but I also can’t deny that you have to shout for it more than once when you increase the volume. Surprisingly, my Google Home Mini picks up my commands faster (over the same Wi-Fi network) and more accurately (over the same distance).
This is an area that, regardless of the price, should work the way it does. A voice assistant should be as responsive as a real person sitting in front of you. Imagine talking to someone next to you and trying too hard but not responding. Yeah Al that sounds pretty crap to me, Looks like BT aint for me either.
Like voice response, the audio quality of a smart speaker is important when making a purchase decision. After all, you must listen to music or even a podcast. It has a 2.5-inch, 12W full-range driver with a paper diaphragm, which makes it much better on paper than the Google Home Mini or Echo Dot 3rd Gen. The voice coil and U-shaped air duct design at the bottom of the loudspeaker make room for even more pitfalls, something that its competitors lack. It has ‘DTS Professional Tuning’, which converts it into human voice, soft and bass sound mode.
As expected, its sound output is much better than its competitors. The bus is prominent enough to be felt, but not something that can shake your window. I’ve played genres ranging from hip hop to 80s classic rock and it’s surprisingly impressive compared to what I’ve heard on smart speakers of the same price.
Sound quality, however, is not dynamic, although you can tune it to your needs using the EQ option in the Google app. It has a soft sound signature, which is good for music playback but not so much for voice. DTS tuning seems to have failed to eliminate unnecessary bass from podcasts or news. The bass, at times, crosses the middle and lower, which eventually confuses the audio in some cases. Still, choosing it over its smaller competitors at this price is undoubtedly no-brainer.
To get stereo playback, you can add up to two Mi Smart speakers to get more immersive audio output.
Smart home features
Like any Google Assistant-based smart speaker, it lets you perform basic tasks such as setting reminders, booking an Uber, controlling IoT-based devices, and more. The speaker also has a Chromecast built-in, which works just fine when I try to stream video and music on a smart TV. You can talk to Google in Hindi and English, and it responds to you with equal proficiency in the same language.
It can also be used as a standalone Bluetooth speaker if you lose Wi-Fi. All you have to do is instruct the assistant to “pair Bluetooth” and it will automatically switch to pairing mode. So far, there have been no problems connecting, pairing, or simply identifying speakers between supported apps.
The Mi Smart Speaker is pretty straightforward to set up. Since I have used and set up several smart speakers, I have handed over this task to my colleague who is setting up a smart speaker for the first time. You need to power up, install the speaker and go to the ‘Google Home’ app on your phone (available on iOS and Android) and it will automatically detect the speaker when it is nearby. Once the speaker is found, follow the instructions. There is no rocket science here.
When you set it up, the Google Home app will ask you to customize some of your favorite music and video streaming apps to suit your usage.
The last row
Mi Smart Speaker For the first time, a dream has come true for smart speaker buyers It blows Amazon Echo dot 3rd Gen and Google Nest Mini out of the bush in terms of audio quality and height. It does all that Google Assistant-based smart speakers can do, so the only downside is its inconsistent mic response, which can be overlooked due to the low price.