Xiaomi is just huge. They have a gadget for pretty much everything; smartphones, lamps, smart home tech, robot vacuums, you name it! If there is a company out there that has a consumer gadget product, you can bet that Xiaomi has its own equivalent offering. The Apple AirPods, for example, have more than just a few competitors, and Xiaomi, of course, have their option too. The Xiaomi Mi Airdots Pro are almost identical, for nearly half the cost. Surely they can’t be any good, can they?
- Good audio with clear frequencies
- Decent battery life
- Cool case with Type-C port
- Noise cancellation that works well
- Aesthetic is down to personal preference
- No volume/Track select controls
- Some connectivity issues
The Xiaomi Mi Airdots Pro (to give them their full name) are very similar to the Apple AirPods they are inspired by. Compact and with some smart features, they aim to provide not only a more wallet-friendly alternative to the Apple branded buds but look to deliver something a little different to their previously released Airdots, which were smaller and more ‘bud-like’ than ‘pod-like’.
The package opens up to reveal the charging cradle, Airdots Pros, a quick start guide and a USB Type-C charging cable, along with some spare buds.
To say I’ve never been a fan of the Airpod look would be an understatement. Not only did I think they were flimsy looking (despite never falling out of my ears when testing them), but I also thought this was yet another indication of a large corporation relying on their loyal customer base to ‘InstaBuy’ their products.
When I was approached to check out the Xiaomi versions, I wanted to see for myself first-hand whether they would manage to deliver on the areas I’d already poo-pooed them on, namely, comfort and fit, sound quality and battery life.
- Impedance – 16 ohms
- Bluetooth Range – 10M
- Connectivity – Bluetooth 4.2 LE
- Driver Size – 8mm
- Sensitivity – 98dB
- Frequency Response – 20-20kHz
- Battery – 410mAh
- Weight – 5.8 grams each
- Dimensions – 50 x 40 x 30mm
- Playback time – 10 hours
- Charging – USB Type-C
- Protection – IPX4
Design & Comfort
Let’s start off with that design I spoke of. I’m still not a huge fan of the ‘broken earbud’ look, and the Xiaomi Mi Airdots Pros have done nothing to change that. I think at this point it’s purely a personal preference, and others, specifically those that find the Airpods attractive, will find these similarly so.
The Airdots Pros, along with their included carry case are of a matte plastic construction, and feel largely smooth, with just a touch of texture along the chassis. The Airdots Pros themselves have an off-angle bud to them to allow fitting into the ear canal to be an easy process, as well as charging points on their base. Each bud has a pinhole microphone for Voice Assistance or phone calls, along with a proximity sensor and a microphone for noise cancellation. Yes, these little Xiaomi dots have noise cancellation abilities. More on that later.
The rear of the Airdots Pros have a metallic ring around their touch control area which looks quite smart and is easy to reach when they are in use. It’s on the outside of the bud as it sits in your ear canal, so any tapping forces the bud further into your ear which is a flawed design I’ve seen on many other truly wireless solutions. It’s a shame it’s here as well. An up/down motion would be infinitely more comfortable.
Speaking of comfort, these actually sit in my ears nicely, don’t fall out, and don’t have me wriggling in slight pain after a few hours use. All of that is a positive as you may expect. That is at least one of the preconceptions I had of these types of devices well and truly squashed, at least on the Xiaomi Mi Airdots Pros anyway. They feel lightweight and I hardly noticed I had them in.
Performance & Use
Of course, this is a key section. Looking like you’re flexing massive stacks of cash when secretly you’re purchasing a bargain, by comparison, is completely pointless if they don’t deliver at least close to the same performance as the wallet-breaking version, right? So we’ll cover off the audio first.
I was actually quite shocked by just how much low end I got from these. I’ve heard better on Bluetooth-connected headphones, but in terms of the truly wireless variety, these are right up there. It’s not bass for bass’ sake either. It has a nuance to it which isn’t anything close to some of the more higher-end devices I’ve used with my smartphone, but it has, well, something, which sounds really quite warm and contained. It was an interesting listen.
The mids are decent without being mind-blowing, and the highs follow suit, with perhaps a little less clarity than some might like. I did find that was highly dependant on the genre of music I was listening to. Hip-Hop, Dubstep, Dance, all maintain what I would consider being a good separation between frequencies, whilst genres which consist of percussion or acoustic sets along with acapella samples did seem a little dull at the highest of highs, but nothing overly worrying.
During these testing sessions, I didn’t have a single bud fall out, which was great going as sometimes this was in the gym. I could take advantage of this location by virtue of the fact the Xiaomi Mi Airdots Pro have IPX4 water resistance which means that workout sessions are absolutely within their remit.
Controlling your music playback is a little more tricky. The touch controls are easy to master, they are just limited. A double-tap on the right-hand bud and the music will pause, and will restart when you repeat that gesture. Do the same on the left, and your Voice Assistant of choice will kick in. Touches can also be used to answer and hang up phone calls, but there is sadly no volume control, or even track skipping control. In 2019, I would suggest this was close to an unforgivable oversight. Having to use your phone to control the playback of tracks on wireless headphones kind of defeats the object to my mind.
One aspect Xiaomi do get right here though is noise cancellation. Not only do the Xiaomi Mi Airdots Pro have it, but it’s also actually quite good. Tap and hold on the right bud enables it, something you’re alerted to by the Asian lady announcing it in words I couldn’t even begin to pronounce, and you’re transformed into an incredibly quiet realm. It’s not Bose QC35 quality, but, in the gym, and walking down the street, I really noticed that a lot of the extraneous noises were kept in check, which is something other buds at this price seriously fail to deliver. Constant noise was drowned out almost immediately with some discreet noises popping up only occasionally. Thankfully the music quality persisted too. Nice one Xiaomi!
Connectivity isn’t something that should be an issue in 2019. It shouldn’t have been an issue in 2018, 2017, 2016, or a few more years further back either as Bluetooth is nothing new. Obviously, it depends on the quality of the chip you’re using to maintain that connection, and here, with the Xiaomi Mi Airdots Pro, I have to report that I have had a few mishaps. Firstly, pairing out of the box is just extremely easy. Take the Airdots Pros out and they will immediately pair to your device (if you have Bluetooth on of course). They also stay connected and playing from your device until you take them out of your ears. At that point, the sensor detecting proximity (or light, I’m not sure) triggers pausing of the music, and will disconnect entirely if they are put back into their charging cradle. This is a neat function, but I’d still love some way to turn them off entirely at any point. I’m just old fashioned.
During playback however, I did notice the occasional hiccup when I put my phone in my jacket pocket (no more than 50cm from the Airdots Pros themselves) when walking around shops. IT was momentary, but it was there, and I could replicate it with ease. In the open air, whilst in the garden, I specifically walked away from my phone sat on a table, and managed to get to 6 metres only before there were some noticeable distortions every now and then. Not the most amazing experience, but seeing as how most people will no doubt have their phone readily available I’m sure it won’t become a widespread problem. I do see this in other similar devices though, especially those using older Bluetooth versions to connect.
Battery life was as expected with me managing to get around 9 hours of playback in testing when in reality I only really ever use them for 3 hours before putting them back in the charger. It would be nice if the charger had more than one LED to notify of the charging status but again, I’m old fashioned. It does ‘just work, but I’d like to see it just working.
The Xiaomi Mi Airdots Pro might have a stupid name (and they do), but they have a lot going for them. Good sound quality, ample battery life for most, IPX4 splash resistance and noise cancellation that is more than just a specification on paper – it actually delivers.
The design still irks me, but personal preference is going to determine whether it’s a thing for you or not. What might irk you a little more, or less depending on your state of mind, are the touch controls, and specifically the lack of volume and track selection capabilities. If I didn’t have a playlist for the gym, these wouldn’t even get to my ears most of the time, which is sad.
Given the price of these versus the Airpods they are obviously aimed at, I don’t think you can argue these have a good value attachment to them. That value comes at a price of cutting some other features which, if you’re anything like me, might have you wavering over hitting the buy button on these – it simply depends how often you’ll be changing your track manually, or if you have a smartwatch you can do that from (as one helpful tech reviewer suggested to me).