Xiaomi have released another Bluetooth speaker in the form of the Xiaomi Mi Portable Bluetooth Speaker. Incredibly compact and stylishly designed, does this little speaker have the sound to match? Read my review to find out!
Xiaomi have kept up their tradition of keeping inclusions to a minimum and their new speaker is no different.
Inside the box, you’ll get the Xiaomi Bluetooth speaker, a rubber band to keep the controls from spinning and a Chinese instruction manual. I’m disappointed that Xiaomi didn’t include a micro USB cable for charging as it feels like an inclusion that really should be in the box.
Xiaomi Bluetooth Speaker Review: Design
Xiaomi’s latest Bluetooth speaker sports a brand new cylindrical design. It’s a sleek, matte- finished tube with the speaker located on the top of the unit.
Both black and white versions are available, but I’ve opted for the black variant.
The front of the unit sports a small dual-color power LED whilst the rear has a micro USB port for charging.
The top of the unit is actually the controls. It’s one of the most minimalist yet elegant control systems I’ve seen in a long time.
Pressing and holding down the top will turn the speaker on or pause the current track if you’re already listening to music. Turning the top section controls the volumes.
The entire unit feels incredibly well made, as is par for the course for Xiaomi speakers.
Xiaomi Bluetooth Speaker Review: Using It
Powering up the speaker is done by holding down the top of the unit for a few seconds. The device automatically jumps into pairing mode.
Pairing is a matter of selecting the speaker in your phone’s Bluetooth menu. The speaker’s name is all in Chinese but it should be easy enough to figure out which one it is.
When it pairs up, there’s a spoken confirmation (in Chinese) and you’ll be ready to go.
Music playback is essentially controlled entirely by your smartphone. You can pause/play the track by pressing the top of the speaker.
The speaker’s volume is tied to your smartphone rather than being independent like some of the speakers I’ve tested recently. Thus, turning the control of the speaker will adjust the volume on your smartphone too.
Battery life was good, with 3-4 hours of playback leaving me with 50% battery remaining so I feel comfortable with Xiaomi’s estimate of 7 hours.
Xiaomi Bluetooth Speaker Review: Audio Quality
Xiaomi’s Bluetooth speakers are rarely a slouch in audio quality and their latest is no different.
The Xiaomi Bluetooth speaker offers excellent low and mid performance. Bass is impressive too though it does tend to dominate when you hit maximum volume.
Volume is pretty impressive from such a compact speaker. It’s plenty for a small or medium room but it won’t compete with a proper stereo system. I didn’t experience any distortion at all during testing either.
Xiaomi’s latest Bluetooth speaker is another winner. It brings their usual excellent build and sound quality with stylish design.
The lack of aux in may be disappointing for some but the design, quality and unique control method more than make up for it. Thoroughly recommended.
The Xiaomi Bluetooth Speaker is available from Everbuying for under $30. Use coupon EXMSP to get it for $27.59.
Mpow have included a good set of inclusions in the box:
1x Mpow AquaPro Bluetooth speaker
1x micro USB charging cable
1x 3.5mm-to-3.5mm audio cable
1x English Instruction Manual
There’s no power adapter in the box, but the Mpow AquaPro charges via micro USB so pretty much any USB charger should do the job.
Mpow AquaPro Review: Design
The Mpow AquaPro is a surprisingly compact Bluetooth speaker. At around 100x100mm and being reasonably lightweight, it’s the ideal size to chuck into your bag to take around with you.
The unit’s square design is dominated by its large speaker grill, its grey contrasting with the bright green casing. The grills and rear plates feature panel detail and fake screws adding to the rugged aesthetic.
Pretty much everything is hard plastic though so it does feel a little on the cheap side.
The top of the unit houses the device’s four buttons: power, play/pause and skip tracks. To keep the unit waterproof, the buttons are embossed in the plastic frame. This gives the buttons a cheap feel but it’s an understandable design decision.
A rubber flap on the right side hides the unit’s micro USB and Aux in ports. There’s also an SOS button which activates an incredibly loud alarm if you need it.
On terms of build quality, the Mpow AquaPro feels well made though its heavy reliance on plastic does cheapen its feel. It’s designed to be waterproof not ultra-rugged like the Mpow Armor Plus so I can’t image it’ll stand too much physical abuse.
Mpow AquaPro Review: Using It
Charging the internal 800mAh battery via micro USB takes around a couple of hours.
After powering up the unit by holding down the power button, it’s ready to pair. Just select Mpow AquaPro from your smartphone’s Bluetooth menu. The speaker will reconnect automatically to the last paired device quickly.
Music playback is controlled via your smartphone or the onboard controls. The volume buttons also pull double-duty. Holding them down skips tracks.
Aux in works as expected. Just plug the included 3.5mm cable into the speaker and your phone and you can play your favorite tracks from devices that don’t support Bluetooth.
The SOS function is impressively loud, sounding a siren after holding down the button for a few seconds. However, it can only be triggered when the speaker is switched on which is frustrating. If you were in an emergency situation, I hardly doubt you’d want to both power up the speaker and trigger the SOS function when needed.
The Mpow AquaPro is waterproof, capable of being submerged under 1m of water for up to 30 minutes. It’ll also float so it’s also easy to fetch if it falls into a swimming pool or river. That’s an impressive feat that makes the AquaPro an excellent candidate for those with an adventurer streak.
The in-built 800mAh battery should be good for around 8 hours of usage according to Mpow. After a week of regular usage, this seems to be about right.
Mpow AquaPro Review: Sound Quality
The Mpow AquaPro’s audio quality is impressive, particularly when you take into account its waterproof status.
At low to moderate volumes, the speaker sounds fantastic. Audio is nice and clear with good mids and highs, though bass may be a little light for some users. I personally liked how it sounded as I prefer more balanced audio than drowning my tracks in bass.
When you hit maximum volume though, the bass can’t quite keep up, with audio sounding harsher due to dominant mids and highs. Overall clarity is maintained however and I didn’t experience any distortion at all.
It’s important to note that audiophiles aren’t the target audience though, so the waterproofing will be worth the audio quality tradeoff.
The Mpow AquaPro’s volume is independent from your smartphone’s volume. By maxing out both your phone’s and the speaker’s volume, you can output an impressive amount of sound from the unit’s 3W speaker. It’ll be plenty for a small to medium sized room.
Mpow AquaPro Review: Microphone Quality
The Mpow AquaPro also features a built-in microphone. The function is a “nice to have” but the tiny microphone isn’t sensitive enough so the person on the other end tended to have difficulty hearing me. Audio quality when receiving a call was excellent though.
The Mpow AquaPro is a great little Bluetooth speaker. It’s compact, well-made and sounds great. Couple that with it’s waterproof design and SOS features, it’s a solid package if you need the extra durability it affords.
Though the plastic feels a little cheap, the Mpow AquaPro is great value and the perfect speaker to accompany you on your adventures.
Connectivity: Bluetooth 4.0+EDR (A2DP, AVRCP), 3.5mm Aux In
Range: Approx. 10m
Battery Life (Rated): 10-12 hours (Playback)
Power: micro USB 2.0 port for charging
What’s In The Box?
Blitzwolf have provided a solid set of inclusions. Inside the box, you’ll get:
1x Blitzwolf F1 Bluetooth Speaker
1x 3.5mm to 3.5mm audio cable
1x Micro USB charging cable
1x Wrist Strap
1x Instruction Manual
Blitzwolf F1 Review: Design
The Blitzwolf F1 looks fantastic The Blitzwolf F1 features a solid aluminium shell that has a nice sandblasted finish. Each speaker grill has it’s own pattern, with a bold X on the front and a diamond on the rear.
It’s also a good size – around the size of a pencil case. This means that it’s small enough to chuck in a bag and take with you.
The top of the speaker features 5 diamond-shaped rubber buttons for skipping tracks (oddly labelled as +/-), answering calls/pairing, play/pause and a power button. There’s also a tiny hole for the microphone.
Only the larger Call/Pairing button is backlit. I would have liked to see them all lit up to make it easier to use in the dark but it’s not a big issue.
The ends of the speaker are capped with contrasting red rubber. A flap on the right side hides the charging and Aux in port, resulting in a very clean looking unit. These rubber flaps also help the unit achieve its IPX-5 rating, with Blitzwolf claiming that the unit should be safe from splashes, dust and drops.
The left side has a connector for a wrist strap which is nice inclusion but I have to admit I didn’t use it at all while I was reviewing the unit.
Blitzwolf F1 Review: Using It
Holding down the power button for a few seconds boots the unit. Pairing is done like pretty much every other Bluetooth speaker, by selecting the “Blitzwolf F1” from your smartphone’s Bluetooth menu. There’s a tone that lets you know when it’s paired that sounds pleasant unlike a recent speaker I reviewed.
Music playback is either controlled via your phone or the unit’s onboard controls. Whilst the Play/Pause button’s function is obvious, the +/- buttons actually pull double duty. A short press will skip tracks whilst holding them down will adjust the speaker’s internal volume. This is actually independent of your smartphone’s volume so you can push the speaker pretty hard.
There’s also the Call button which will answer an incoming call on the speaker, whilst holding it down will put the speaker into Pairing mode.
The Bluetooth connection is rock solid, and I didn’t experience any breakups at the 10m limit, even through a wall. Bluetooth can be a bit of a drainer on your smartphone’s battery though. Thankfully, the Blitzwolf F1 supports Bluetooth 4.0, meaning the speaker sips energy from your smartphone when paired.
Auxiliary input is handy for devices that don’t support Bluetooth. Connecting up the included 3.5mm cable automatically switches the speaker to using the cabled connection making it incredibly easy to use.
Blitzwolf claims that the speaker should be good for around 10-12 hours and that feels about right. After a few hours of blasting sweet metal, I’m only down to 75% so their estimate seems right.
Blitzwolf F1 Review: Sound Quality
The Blitzwolf F1 is a great sounding Bluetooth speaker. I found low, mids and highs to be fairly balanced. It’s clear the dedicated subwoofer is at work here, as most Bluetooth speakers sound tinny due to tiny drivers not being able to cope with lower frequencies.
Bass-heavy tracks such as Hard by Tech N9ne and Bass Face by The Midnight Beast sounded great, maintaining their punch. Mellow tracks showed off good detail whilst the chaos of death metal balanced bass with treble to ensure the complex vocals remained clear over powerful drum beats.
That said, at maximum volume, highs became slightly more pronounced as the subwoofer tried to match the drivers volume. That said, audio still sounded excellent, outperforming most other speakers in this price range.
Distortion was incredibly rare, with only a single test track creating some slight crackling at maximum volume.
Speaking of volume, the Blitzwolf F1 is pretty loud. According to my sound meter, I was able to hit 95db at 30cm at 90 at 1m, which is pretty impressive, particularly for such a compact unit. BlYou won’t be replacing your home theatre or dedicated stereo system with it, but filling up a small to medium sized room was no issue.
The hands free feature is a nice addition but in practice is pretty useless. Whilst I had no issue hearing the person on the other end, the Blitzwolf F1’s microphone simply isn’t sensitive enough so I could barely be heard. Don’t throw out your Bluetooth headset just yet.
Should You Get One?
The Blitzwolf F1 is an impressive Bluetooth speaker. With great audio quality, a good mix of features and top-notch build, the Blitzwolf is a great option that offers the style and most of the features of Xiaomi’s top-of-the-line speaker without the price tag. A great option.
You can get the Blitzwolf F1 Bluetooth speaker from Banggood for around $35.
The Mpow Armor Plus is an incredibly rugged Bluetooth speaker packing dual 8W drivers, a subwoofer and aux in. It certainly looks the part, but how does it sound? Read our Mpow Armor Plus review to find out!
I want to say thanks to Mpow for sending me a sample to review.
Mpow have included an good set of inclusions in the box:
1x Mpow Armor Plus Bluetooth speaker
1x micro USB charging cable
1x 3.5mm-to-3.5mm audio cable
1x Carry Bag
1x English Instruction Manual
There’s no power adapter in the box, but the Mpow Armor Plus charges via micro USB so pretty much any USB charger should do the job.
Mpow Armor Plus Review: Design
Taking the Mpow Armor Plus out of the box, you’re struck by just how militaristic this speaker is. The whole unit’s a stylish gun-metal grey, with strong geometric features. From its chunky style to dark colour scheme to geometric angles and exposed screws, this unit looks ready for battle. I love it.
The whole body of the unit is covered in thick silicone to protect the unit, including the buttons. The buttons are embossed into the rubber, protecting the electronics from dust and water. There’s all the key buttons here, including power, skip tracks, volume controls and a button to answer phone calls.
The unit is dominated by the massive metal speaker grills on the front and rear and surrounded by a chunky plastic frame. There’s a massive Mpow logo on the front of the unit. A rubber flap on the right side hides the unit’s micro USB and aux in ports.
The unit’s heavy, weighing in at a hefty 1.3kg, though that’s not surprising given the large battery and rugged design. It’s not the most portable Bluetooth speaker but that’s not what it’s designed for. It’s designed to be placed somewhere and be ready to take a beating, like on in the outdoors or on a building site.
The unit feels well-made and, whilst I wasn’t willing to try to beat it to the edge of death, it had no issues surviving a few waist high drops with only minor scratches.
Mpow Armor Plus Review: Using It
The massive 5200mAh battery takes a good few hours to charge.
Holding down the power button for a few seconds boots the speaker into pairing mode. Simply pick the Mpow Armor Plus from your smartphones Bluetooth menu and you’re ready to go. The speaker will reconnect automatically to the last paired device quickly.
Speaking of pairing, there’s handy spoken cues for turning on the unit and pairing. However, the “Power On” cue always starts a fraction of a second into the sound clip. It doesn’t affect usage at all but it sounds odd and is a disappointing oversight.
Music playback can be controlled via your smartphone or the onboard controls, allowing you to pause or skip tracks easily.
Audio volume on the speaker is separate from that on the phone so by maxing out the phone and speaker volume, you can achieve some serious volume thanks to the unit’s dual 8W drivers.
Behind the thick rubber flap is the 5V 2.1A USB port that can be used for charging your gadgets. Whilst I replace a dedicated power bank with the Mpow Armor Plus, the feature is definitely handy if you’re away from a power outlet – like out camping.
The Mpow Armor Plus is water resistant but not waterproof. It’ll handle splashes fine but don’t submerge it unless you want a dead speaker.
Battery life was good. I was easily able to get around a week of regular use so Mpow’s 22 hour estimate seems about right.
Mpow Armor Plus Review: Sound Quality
Sound quality is a mixed bag. When I initially tested out the speaker, I thought it sounded pretty average. However, later found out there’s actually two audio modes, indoor and outdoor, that sound drastically different.
The speakers outdoor mode (seemingly the default mode out of the box) prioritises bass over everything else. Music sounds muddy, with subtle elements drowned out by the units surprisingly powerful lows.
This seems to cause an odd fluctuating volume effect, with treble -centric passages appearing louder than those demanding more bass.
Thankfully, pressing the phone button toggles the unit into indoor mode. There’s no way to tell which mode you’ve changed to, as a genetic thunk only alerts you that you’ve changed modes.
Indoor mode causes music to sound far more balanced, with treble getting a welcomed boost. The weird volume fluctuations also disappeared too.
Thankfully, there appears to be a memory mode so it’ll stay in the same audio mode when you turn on the speaker next time.
In terms of volume, the Mpow Armor Plus it’s capable of some serious volume, easily filling a medium to large room with music.
I didn’t notice any clipping or distortion during testing, even at maximum volume which is a massive plus.
Mpow Armor Plus Review: Microphone Quality
I wouldn’t recommend using the Mpow Armor Plus as a handsfree device, despite it’s built in microphone. Audio quality is fine for recieving a call, with the audio being loud and clear enough.
However, trying to speak to the person on the other end is terrible. The microphone is simply not sensitive enough so the person on the end can’t hear you at all.
Should You Get One?
The Mpow Armor Plus has me conflicted. From an purely audiophile perspective, it’s pretty average – not amazing but not terrible. However, the Mpow Armor Plus is a decent speaker that definitely handles the “Armor” part of its namesake well.
If you’re wanting a speaker that you can throw around and can pump out plenty of volume and bass, the Mpow Armor Plus is a respectable option. Those looking for a solution for listening to music around the house should consider other alternatives.