Xiaomi Mi True Wireless Earphones 2 has been one of the most anticipated foray from the Chinese smartphone maker. Every technology company and gadget brand wants to be an ecosystem player right now. The model adopted by Apple is the one every other brand wants to follow. In the case of Apple, people don’t just end up with an iPhone. They buy MacBook, iPad, Apple Watch and AirPods. In the case of some, they also get Apple TV and AirPort Extreme as an Apple lifestyle experience. Xiaomi has been one company aiming to provide such an experience in India for sometime.
The flagship Mi Store in Bengaluru is a proof for all the things Xiaomi wants to sell to consumers in India. In that quest, Xiaomi has taken a slow yet steady approach. It has brought in devices at a brisk pace. This is contrary to some following “Move Fast, Break Things” approaches in the country. This approach has helped Xiaomi succeed in ways we did not see. The company is already the market leader in the smart TV segment. While it now sells T-Shirt, backpacks and even beard trimmer, the true wireless earbuds was a long anticipated product.
True wireless earbuds, also called hearables, is growing as a category. The idea of truly wireless earbuds has won a lot of accolades from consumers, even in India. Xiaomi not stepping into the segment was a disservice and now that it has done, the question is whether it has done in the same fashion as it’s smartphone and TV business. Right off the bat, Xiaomi’s first true wireless earbuds in the country are not disruptive. However, the Mi True Wireless Earphones 2 have perfect synergy to succeed among Mi and Redmi smartphone users. I have been using them since late last week and I must say it surprised and astonished me at the same time. Here is my review.
Xiaomi Mi True Wireless Earphones 2: Design
This is the most controversial element of Mi True Wireless Earphones 2. I will address that in a bit but let’s start with Xiaomi’s ingenuity and smartness here. The case is rectangular with circular arcs at the edges that makes it really nice to hold. Xiaomi finished the case in matte white and it is so satisfying that you want to hold it as often as you can. I would have loved to see matte black option but in my time, the white finish has stayed clean. It is so well designed that I would argue this is the case that should not be inside your pocket. Rather, it is one that you can hold in your hand and feel good about it. This case is also about minimalism to its core.
It is compact, curved at the edges and has no branding at the front. There is only a single LED at the front to indicate charge status. At the right edge, there is a single button that helps you check battery status on the fly and pair with devices. This button is recessed into the case and has tactile feedback. The left edge is clear while the back side has brushed Mi branding and regulatory information. There is nothing at the top and the bottom is home to a USB Type-C port. I found this case to be a tight fit inside my coin pocket but your mileage might vary. The ingenuity of Xiaomi’s design engineering comes alive when you open the lid and see the earbuds for the first time. The half in-ear design of these earbuds seems like a copy of AirPods.
There is no denying that but it is not copied in the same way as Realme Buds Air. For me, the showstopper is the fact that the stem is finished in matte white while the earbuds have a glossy finish. This is a really good example of purposeful design. Xiaomi says a matte finish for earbuds would have made it fall out of the ear easily. I think they are right and this glossy finish also adds shine to an otherwise plaid earbud. The one thing I don’t like is the stem, which is huge. I don’t think it looks ugly popping out of your ear but it is definitely weird. I like Xiaomi’s matte approach against Realme’s glossy approach in this area. Regardless of which design you chose, these don’t scream copycat but are inspired by Apple’s trendsetter.
Xiaomi Mi True Wireless Earphones 2: Sound quality and call clarity
Ahead of the launch of Mi True Wireless Earphones 2, Xiaomi said it focused on three areas: 1. Sound Quality, 2. Call Clarity, and 3. Battery Life. In order to get the best sound experience, Xiaomi opted for a 14.2mm dynamic driver with Titanium composite diaphragm. In comparison to Jabra Elite 75t with 6mm dynamic drivers, these are larger but even Xiaomi admits that big does not mean better. The Chinese smartphone maker has particularly focused on getting Indian sound experience well. So, I obviously went to Spotify and played a Bollywood playlist. The tuning immediately comes alive when you play Genda Phool or Dus Bahaane 2.0 from Baaghi.
I listened to B Praak’s Kuch Bhi Ho Jaye, which has that tone you see with John Legend’s music and vocals, which fill the range. The clarity was top notch and the audio had no visible distortion. I found the same to be true with Kollywood music as well. Xiaomi has not overstretched the bass but rather kept it dynamic. The vocals, however, are punchy and clear. This characteristic also helps with listening to audiobooks, which we are doing a lot during the lockdown. I’m currently listening to a series of books narrated by Edoardo Ballerinia and his voice shines in the way as a symphony by Beethoven or Mozart would.
I also found these earbuds to be good for listening to podcasts like The Daily where Michael Barbaro stresses on each syllable in a characteristic of his own. Well, it sounded really well with my reference tracks including Aja by Steely Dan, Tabula Rasa, Carribean Blue by Enya to name a few. Yes, it did not have the bass clarity like Jabra Elite 75t but that does seem like a design by choice. I played some of my FLAC music including Fleetwood Mac’s Rhiannon and yes, Stevie Nicks signature nature came alive without much effort. I also found the earbuds to be plenty loud but since I tested these indoors, I don’t think my judgement is comprehensive.
I’m not sure when I will be able to once again get on a Mumbai local and really understand the potential of Mi True Wireless Earphones 2’s performance in full volume. My experience, however, has been really good in the time I spent with them. On the calling front, I never once saw anyone complain. Callers on the other end said I sounded the same way I would when speaking on the phone directly. Most did not hear any background noise. This could be because of the two microphones on each earbud to minimize external sound. However, don’t be fooled, this is not noise cancellation and even environmental noise cancellation was not noticeable. The only way to get better calling experience is to get mono Bluetooth headsets that are meant for calling.
Xiaomi Mi True Wireless Earphones 2: Connectivity and Battery Life
First things first, it takes around one hour and 15 minutes to fully charge the earbuds and the carrying case. Xiaomi claims 14 hours of battery life between charges and I found that claim to be rather accurate. During my time with these true wireless earbuds, I mostly used them at 70-80 percent sound. I found myself charging the case on the fourth day when used extensively. My use has been mostly limited to Microsoft Teams call, listening to audiobooks and podcasts. Since I am home at all times, I have been listening to music on my speakers. At 14 hours, they are not as long lasting as Jabra Elite 75t or Samsung Galaxy Buds+ but it does not cost five digits either.
The total battery life of 14 hours would be good enough for most users. However, do note that these are not quite good while playing games, where the lag is prominent. I also dislike the fact that quick pairing functionality is only limited to Xiaomi’s own devices running MIUI 11. As soon as you enable Bluetooth on your smartphone and open the lid, the device shows up. I tried it on Redmi Note 9 Pro Max and it worked without any issues most of the time. There were instances when it took a few seconds more than usual to show up. While it is limited to Mi and Redmi devices, I am glad that it’s there. My Jabra Elite 75t still relies on old school pairing functionality.
Xiaomi Mi True Wireless Earphones 2: Should you buy?
Last night, I kept the Mi True Wireless Earphones 2 outside the doorstep of my neighbour, who uses a Redmi K20 Pro. This morning, he left it outside my door and shared his thoughts on WhatsApp. Yeah, you can say this is the new normal. So, this long-time Xiaomi smartphone user said he liked the quick pairing function and also liked the sound quality. He, however, said that the bass is not as rich as audio products from brands like Sony or JBL. This person said he enjoyed listening to the Audible Suno app via these earbuds and thought that the fit and finish was worthy of the price. He also ended up placing an order for them this morning, where Amazon said delivery by Friday.
I am bringing you home with this example because the Mi True Wireless Earphones 2 seems like a must have for Xiaomi and Redmi smartphone users. At discounted price of Rs 3,999, it is a better deal than many others in this segment. True wireless earbuds market is not the one where the winner takes all.In fact, every player in this segment will have their own act to play. From Apple, Sony, Jabra to Xiaomi, Realme to Noise and boAt, every audio company will have their own independent play in this segment. The first true wireless earbuds from Xiaomi in India shows that it can appeal to its large user base. However, I still think this is just the first act. It will be followed by cheaper true wireless earbuds from Redmi, which could become the real disruptor.