It’s not everyday that the headphone industry sets new standards, in fact, there’s little that can be changed about a product that is so perfect in its core. Yet with the “truly wireless” earbuds gaining traction after the beautifully constructed AirPod hit the market, it was inevitable that budget-oriented companies like Xiaomi would eventually enter the market – and as much as I’m a Xiaomi fan, the airdots simply feel like a mistake that should have stayed in the drawing board.
The Xiaomi Air Dots are marketed as a “cheap alternative to Air Pods” but upon first opening the device, I found anything but. The unboxing experience will neatly present you to the two earbuds, the device’s charging case, a micro USB cable and a slew of interchangeable buds so that you find the perfect fit.
In the last months of 2018, it’s hard to justify a micro USB cable, specially when most of the company’s smartphones have come to adopt USB C, even on the lower end with phones like the Xiaomi 6X. To make matters even worse, it is an extremely short cable, meaning that users should expect to have to set the device right next to the charging brick in order to charge. It isn’t all bad however, as the charging case’s small battery is quick to top up, not taking longer than half a hour to reach 100% (more on battery later).
Talking about the device itself, I was pleasantly surprised when I first glanced at the earbuds themselves, they have a lightweight yet premium feel with a touch-sensitive surface on the front allowing for device interaction ranging from a double tap for assistant to a single tap for pause and continue control options.
“The Xiaomi Air Dots are marketed as a “cheap alternative to Air Pods” but upon first opening the device, I found anything but.”
Pairing is just as much of a joy as it is a pain. While the pairing process is as quick as turning on your device’s bluetooth settings and allowing the earbuds to the rest, it quickly becomes pronounced that Xiaomi didn’t exactly mean for these to be used together. Instead of pairing as one entity like the Icon X or AirPods, the Xiaomi Air Dots pair as individual left and right earbuds instead, meaning that they can be used solo – something that will become an enormous problem as we continue this review.
Upon first impressions, the Xiaomi Air Dots have a very pleasant sound profile, offering enough bass to make modern pop enjoyable while also being neutral, making just about any genre a joy. This isn’t to say that its the perfect pair of headphones because the AirPods offer a lot more clarity, especially when it comes to instrumentals, and a lot more volume too, especially from the left earbud, but considering the price difference, it’s hard to say this wasn’t expected.
Where I was most impressed was in the battery department. Both earbuds offer 4 hours of playback each, which is nearly tripled to a total of 10 hours when they earbuds are used separately. The charging case offers enough juice to top the device three times, making it last a solid amount of time, especially if the earbuds are put back in their case after use.
But my experience with these earbuds came to a halt on day three. I have to admit, I was quite impressed, so much so that I was about to wrap this review with words of encouragement and a high score, but then the earbuds simply stopped working. Nothing apparent had happened to them, I put them back in their case while driving, then when I most needed them during my lunch break, they simply wouldn’t allow for stereo. After a bit of research, I came to find that this has been a very common issue, so much so that many other reviewers have claimed to have ordered two to three different pairs- that’s when I knew there was a production problem.
Yet despite my anger for buying a defective unit, two things come very important in concluding this review: for one, not all units are defective, and I’ve heard of many people who have had a very joyful experience with their pair this far. Secondly, being called the youth edition in Chinese points out that a pro version is probably to be released in the upcoming months, meaning that many of my complaints may be resolved, but as of now, the Xiaomi AirDots feel like an outdated and incomplete package despite the great price.
Xiaomi has pioneered the art of entering and reshaping luxury industries, but for a product that had so much promise, the Xiaomi Air Dots got a lot wrong. While the sound and build quality of the buds are respectable, the lack of USB C presence, the convoluted idea of pairing two earbuds separately and the chance that your unit breaks as miserably as mine did make the Air Dots a tough recommendation. It may only cost $39.99, but considering that you may go through a few units before finding a perfect fit, you might as well go for the AirPods or its other sleeve of creditable competitors instead.