BlueAnt X3i review Bluetooth speaker

BlueAnt X3i Bluetooth speaker review: bang for your buck

9

Big enough to rock a small space, but small enough to slip in your carry bag, the BlueAnt X3i Bluetooth speaker ensures you’ll have music wherever you go.

As a general rule, the value of a portable Bluetooth speaker is more about convenience than performance – especially in the $200 to $300 price range. It’s never going to match the sound quality of a dedicated high-end speaker sitting in the corner of your lounge room. Nor is it going to match the power of a giant yet supposedly “portable” party box that requires a sherpa to lug it around.

But just like cameras, the best speaker is the one you have with you. Whether you’re chilling in the backyard, kicking back in the park or partying at the beach – a portable Bluetooth speaker that you can throw in your bag ensures that you’re the life of the party. Bonus points if – like the BlueAnt X3i Bluetooth speaker – the unit can survive an unexpected dunking and keep on partying.

BlueAnt X3i Bluetooth speaker first impressions

Out of the box, the BlueAnt X3i Bluetooth speaker is a bit heftier than you might expect, considering the price tag. Many portable speakers in this category are roughly the bulk of a 600ml soft drink bottle, whereas the X3i comes in closer to a 1-litre bottle of milk and tips the scales at 1.1 kg.

That bulk is certainly promising when it comes to sound quality, but the initial trade-off is that it’s going to weigh you down a bit more when you’re on the move. It’s a shame that BlueAnt didn’t build in a handle or mounting loop. Even a soft carry case would be a welcome addition, also helping protect the speaker as it bounces around in your bag. The weight isn’t really a major issue if you’re loading everything into your car or even schlepping it on the bus, but you won’t want to carry it for hours.

When it’s time to put down the speaker and crank up the music, the BlueAnt X3i’s qualities start to shine through. Place it on the table and it certainly looks the part. The elegant and understated style says quality, avoiding the garish designs sometimes used to hype up cheap and nasty portable speakers.

Unlike some portable Bluetooth speakers, the BlueAnt X3i is only designed to sit on its side. Rather than pump out audio in all directions, it mostly throws sound to the front and sides – thanks to those generous passive radiators.

That means it’s best placed off to the side of the party rather than smack in the middle of the space. The squat, solid design and rubber feet reduce the chances of someone accidentally knocking it off the table.

On the top, large but subtle play/pause and volume controls are easy to access, along with dedicated power and bass boost buttons. At the back, you can pop out a waterproof plug to expose USB-A, USB-C and auxiliary inputs.

BlueAnt X3i Bluetooth speaker specifications

Speakers2 x 57 mm drivers, 2 x passive radiators
Frequency response150 Hz to 20 kHz
Power output15W*2 (RMS) @10% THD
Bluetooth5.0
Bluetooth profilesA2DP, HSP, HFP
InputsUSB-A, USB-C, 3.5mm aux jack
Battery3.7V 9600 mAh
PowerDC 5V 3A via USB-C, supplied AC adaptor
Power suppliedDC 5V 1A via USB-A
ColoursSlate Black, Ocean Blue & Crimson Red
RuggednessIP67
Dimensions95mm diameter, 230 mm length
Weight1.1 kg
Price$249 RRP
Warranty1 year
Official websiteBlueAnt

Features

All those inputs on the back help make the BlueAnt X3i Bluetooth speaker a versatile device when you’re on the go. 

The speaker charges via USB-C, with a 9600 mAh onboard battery that’s good for about 15 hours. Along with this, it can also act as a power bank and charge a device attached via USB-A. At 5V 1A it’s not exactly fast-charging, but it’s enough to keep your phone alive so the music doesn’t fall silent.

It’s easy to stream music to the speaker from your smartphone, tablet or notebook via Bluetooth, with the built-in mic so you can make hands-free calls or summon the smart assistant on your phone. There’s also an old-school 3.5 mm audio line-in, just in case you want to plug it into a different audio source like an old MP3 or portable CD player. You can also pair two X3i speakers together for a wider sound, supporting a connection range of up to 30 metres.

What’s also impressive is the IP67 ruggedness, allowing the speaker to survive a dunking should it come to grief poolside or at the beach.

Audiophiles might be disappointed that the BlueAnt X3i only supports Bluetooth 5.0 with the A2DP profile only handling the basic SBC codec. That means you’re falling short on sound quality compared to Bluetooth speakers which handle higher quality formats like AAC and aptX (assuming your player and music source also supports them).

While they’re high-end formats, you do find them in some portable Bluetooth speakers around this price range. To be fair, you’re more likely to notice the improvement from these formats when wearing high-end headphones, or listening carefully to your favourite music via great Hi-Fi speakers.

Realistically, the improvement of something like AAC is probably lost when listening to a portable speaker thump out your favourite tunes in the background.

Quality

Crank up the BlueAnt X3i Bluetooth speaker and it’s loud enough to rock a small room or outside space such as a patio. It really pumps out sound and can easily fill bigger spaces if you’re looking for atmosphere rather than a dance party.

The box promises “booming audio with deep bass,” but so do they all. The X3i comes with an optional “bass boost” button but that’s a bit misleading. I’d say engaging it is mandatory if you want decent sound at high volumes, otherwise it sounds a little tinny.

Even with bass boost enabled, you can hit at least 90% volume without distortion. It’s a warm full-bodied sound and fat bass, with plenty of power although not truly thumping. The audio is a fraction flat and murky when you dig down into the detail, perhaps only a sore point for audiophiles who would rather spend more money elsewhere. For everyone else, it’s not enough to complain about, considering it’s aimed at backyard parties rather than listening parties.

Who is the BlueAnt X3i Bluetooth speaker for?

The BlueAnt X3i Bluetooth speaker delivers impressive sound considering the size and price tag. Of course, like most portable Bluetooth speakers in this price range, it’s not intended for nuanced listening – it’s more for bashing out Barnsey than Beethoven.

It’s not the most portable of portable speakers, but in return you get plenty of bang for your buck and a battery life that will party all night.

BlueAnt X3i Bluetooth Speaker
More Barnsey than Beethoven, the BlueAnt X3i Bluetooth speaker is nonetheless an impressive audio device for its size and price.
Features
8.5
Value for money
9
Performance
8.5
Ease of use
10
Design
9
Positives
Loud and full-bodied with little distortion
Long battery life, doubles as battery pack
3.5mm aux input
Negatives
Bulky with no handle
No high-end Bluetooth codecs
9