It seems most companies are offering a smart speaker these days, and recently Xiaomi launched its own smart speaker. It’s their first real entry into the Australian market with a device of this sort.

The Xiaomi Mi Smart Speaker is a Google Assistant driven speaker that offers some surprisingly good value.

The Hardware

While it’s not what you’d call a conventional look, its actually pretty slick and perhaps, a touch smaller than you’d expect it to be.

The metallic silver mesh front, with white trim, won’t “fit in” for some homes; in some it will stand out quite well as a feature device. That metallic design makes it feel pretty robust, although you would hope that a permanently fixed device like a speaker wouldn’t need to take too many knocks.

The controls are simple and consistent with many other Assistant speakers, offering a single touchpoint for volume controls, play/pause and to mute the microphone. Personally, I like the aesthetic of it and would happily have it in my living room as a permanent fixture.

Setup – Exactly as you expect from an Assistant device, but there’s a catch

Setting up the Xiaomi Mi Smart Speaker is as simple as you would expect. Once the speaker is powered on, it appears in your Google Home app as a new speaker then you follow the bouncing ball. The microphones are very good for control of the Assistant, even from across the room or down the hallway. Although, it is not as good as the Nest Audio at detecting responses if you’ve got other noises happening.

For general operation, there are no surprises in what the Xiaomi Mi Smart Speaker can do. It behaves the same as any other Google Assistant speaker would be expected to.

The catch is, under Google Assistant you don’t get all the functions

Overseas there’s an app you can use instead of linking to Assistant which doesn’t really work here due to region locking. What this gains you, in honesty, isn’t a whole lot and it takes away a lot of other — Assistant based — functions. This is very much a “catch-all” option for some of the overseas markets where Google mightn’t be available, but obviously, it is here and so I’d rather stick with Assistant.

Attached to the Xiaomi Home app, you get a bit of extra sound tuning for the speaker and some control over the visualisation on the Aurora light strip that rims the top of the speaker and that’s it…

There’s some decent hardware in the speaker too, which offers a broad sound range.

How does it sound?

I’m very fortunate to have an abundance of speakers in my home because we love our music, so I’ve been able to compare it to several other speakers. The abridged version is that it’s pretty good, but not astounding.

I’d put it on par with the first generation of Google Home speakers:

  • The high range isn’t bad
  • The mid-range is decent
  • The bass feels like it’s underpowered. It’s present but a bit flat

At the end of the day, it’s not a bad experience but the audio is a bit flat without doing some specific tuning. My wife described it as sounding like there is a pillow over the speaker, it’s just missing some “crispness” to the sound.

That’s not to say specifically that it’s a bad speaker; in fact, if you’re after something to primarily be an Assistant device, with a better capacity than a Nest Mini, then the extra coin (assuming you don’t want to go to the Nest Audio level) is probably worth it.

I found that when put side by side with the Nest Audio, the Nest wins hands down across all volumes. If you put the Xiaomi against a Nest Mini, at low volume they’re far more comparable, but the absence of bass on the Nest Mini results in the Xiaomi winning this battle. That all makes sense when you consider (at the time of writing this review) that the:

  • Nest Mini costs $59.00
  • Xiaomi Mi Smart Speaker costs $85
  • Nest Audio costs $129

If you’re looking for a speaker to provide some background music, without spending the cash on a higher-end speaker – this is likely a pretty solid option. I specifically choose the word background, as I found the volume capacity somewhat low if you’re looking for a party speaker.

Conclusion: Is it worth the money?

The Xiaomi Smart Speaker falls in an interesting and vaguely awkward middle ground: It’s a good Assistant device, but not a great speaker and there’s only a small difference to go up to a better sounding speaker or save some cash if you’re just after a control base for your smart home.

It’s got some really good points going for it which include the looks, the simple controls and the integration with Assistant.

Unfortunately, it does fall a bit short on the audio for what you would potentially want at this price range.

Based on my experience with this speaker, I’d say it’s a decent buy but not a great experience.

With a price of $85, it could do with a price drop of $15 to $20, down to a comparable ($10 – $15 higher) buy to the Nest Mini would make it a pretty enticing offer.