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Xiaomi's latest offering in the crowded true wireless earbuds space, the 'from $199' Xiaomi Buds 3T Pro, needs to stand out against plenty of competition around that price point. We've found the Buds 3T Pro online at El Corte Inglés for £175.86 (~$231).
The design isn't to my taste: the long protruding stems and shiny plastic build material of my Gloss White review units just don't appeal visually, and I find the plastic is more slippery in my ears than buds that rest entirely in the ear. None of the four provided tip sizes resolved this issue completely. It looks as though the Carbon Black alternative has a more matte finish that might prove more tactile and grippy.
Having noted that, the buds are lightweight at 4.9g (1.73oz) each and comfortable to wear. Their IP55 rating means they'll resist dust ('dust protected') and water ('water jets'), but anyone looking for buds designed to withstand the rigours of sports would do better to look elsewhere. My current favourites are the Jabra Elite 4 Active. The case, which is compact with a neat curved shape, sat in my jacket pocket easily.
I found working with the buds a little challenging, because features are controlled via buttons on the stems. I was forever dislodging a bud when I wanted to pause or play audio. At least audio stops when a bud is removed, so I didn't have to backtrack on spoken word content to pick up what I'd missed while fiddling to reinsert a bud.
However, what's most frustrating about the Xiaomi Buds 3T Pro is that fine control is only available to users of Xiaomi and Redmi handsets, and only a subset of handsets at that. There is no downloadable app for users of other handsets. Users of the select few Xiaomi and Redmi handsets can change the on-bud controls, get firmware updates to the buds and fine-tune the ANC settings, as well as see details of the battery level of both buds and case. Those handsets are: Xiaomi 12 Pro, Xiaomi 12, Xiaomi 11T Pro, Xiaomi 11T, Mi 11, Mi Note 10, Mi Note 10 Lite.
Without access to a Xiaomi phone I was left with the default control settings and a truncated features list. You can't control volume on the buds, for example, which is a great shame.
The stem buttons allowed me to use either bud to: toggle ANC with a pinch and hold; play, pause, answer and end calls with a single pinch; use a double-pinch to skip to the next track or decline a call; and use a triple-pinch to skip forward a track.
With access to a compatible Xiaomi handset I would have been able to flick between Transparent mode (designed to let some sound through so you can have a conversation without removing the buds), Noise Cancelling On and Noise Cancelling Off, as well as change the power of ANC to fine-tune how much sound I wanted to let in. For me it was just a case of having ANC either on or off. When on, ANC did a fair job of blocking out ambient sounds.
I had no access at all to dimensional audio, a technique designed to enhance the soundscape by going beyond traditional stereo, and ensuring that sounds come from the direction intended by accompanying video. A Track Head Movement feature means that as the wearer moves around the sound moves with them. This could be great, and it's a shame I couldn't experience it. Dimensional audio, immersive sound and head movement tracking are available only on the Xiaomi 12 Pro, Xiaomi 12, Xiaomi 11T Pro, and Mi 11.
Battery life is a saving grace. Xiaomi quotes the buds lasting up to 6 hours, and a total of 24 hours of life with a fully charged case when ANC is not being used. I found there was always plenty of battery capacity when I needed it, and bursts of charge while topping up my phone were all I needed to keep things going throughout the review period. Charging is via USB-C, and wireless Qi charging is also supported.
While sound quality and battery life are good, there are frustrating aspects to the Xiaomi Buds 3T Pro. The controls are fiddly, but the biggest drawback is that anyone without a recent Xiaomi or Redmi handset only gets a limited range of features.