Xiaomi Mi Band 6, Mi Watch Lite, or Mi Watch: which one is right for you?

Are you planning to buy a Xiaomi fitness tracker or a smartwatch? Are you undecided on which model, or even which type of wearable is right for your particular needs? Then you’ve come to the right place. In this article, we are comparing three of the most popular smartwatches from Xiaomi: the Xiaomi Mi Smart Band 6, the Xiaomi Mi Watch Lite, and the Xiaomi Mi Watch. If you want to know what fitness device to buy, keep reading:

The contenders

With a market for wearables dominated by Apple (39.8 million units sold by the end of Q3 2021) and with Samsung gaining ground with the Galaxy Watch 4 (12.7 million units), Xiaomi has consistently positioned itself as a low-cost, high-value alternative. And so far, this strategy allowed them to remain in the top three, with 12.7 million units sold during the third quarter of 2021. Their smartwatches have fewer features but offer great battery life, a good design, and unbeatable prices. The three wearable devices that we recently received for testing have made a good impression on us and are proof that you don’t need to spend upwards of 300 USD to get access to reliable fitness tracking or basic smartwatch functions. In fact, you can benefit from most of the features for a third of that price! Without further ado, the three contestants (with links to their respective reviews):

  • Xiaomi Mi Smart Band 6 - a fitness tracker by design, with some pleasant surprises, like SpO2 measurement and a superb AMOLED screen
  • Xiaomi Mi Watch Lite - a small, good-looking, entry-level smartwatch with some fitness tracking features
  • Xiaomi Mi Watch - a big, rugged smartwatch that combines solid fitness tracking with many features that are only available on larger wearables - a larger screen, an amazing battery life, smoother operation

The Mi Watch (left), the Mi Watch Lite (center), and the Mi Smart Band 6 (right)

Each of them has its own target audience, its own strengths and weaknesses. We won’t be focusing too much on the common features (like the fact that they all connect to the smartphone using the Xiaomi Wear app), and instead, we will point out the differences. In the next section, we make an objective assessment of their features and specs, and then we evaluate them subjectively, based on our experience with them. Finally, we help you decide by putting all the information together. Onwards!

Objective assessment

When you buy a wearable (or any tech, really), the first thing you will look at is the technical specifications. So let’s focus on numbers. Here is a comparison chart with the specs for all three models:

Comparing specifications

From the numbers alone, you can’t really tell which of the three is better, they each have their strengths. The only visible issue is the lack of an AMOLED screen on the Mi Watch Lite. Moving from one device to the more expensive one, we can see a clear increase in battery capacity, screen size, and weight. Next, let’s look at the sensors. We’ve highlighted the differences in the table below:

Comparing sensors

You can now see the Xiaomi Mi Smart Band 6 starts to lag behind its brothers. It’s normal, considering the price difference. The big reason to move from a Mi Smart Band 6 to a Mi Watch Lite is the GPS sensor. But wait, if the Xiaomi Mi Watch Lite has more or less the same sensors as the Xiaomi Mi Watch, why buy the latter? Well, let’s look at a summary of each smartwatch’s functions:

Comparing features

From this table, we can conclude that the Mi Watch has a full set of features, while the other two are missing a few. One notable mention is that since the Mi Watch Lite doesn’t have an AMOLED screen, there’s no always-on available for this model. Also, although all three have heart-rate sensors, only the Mi Smart Band 6 and the Mi Watch allow for blood oxygen measurement.

Not all heart rate sensors are created equal

Objectively, it seems like the Xiaomi Mi Watch is the winner, since it has features its brothers don’t, a large AMOLED screen, a full set of sensors, and the battery life is the best of the three. For some, though, its large size and the price might be offputting. Depending on the features you need and the budget you have, the Mi Smart Band 6 and the Mi Watch Lite can be exactly what you’re looking for.

Subjective evaluation

Beyond the numbers, you want the wearable that you buy to look good, to be easy to use and live with. Let’s quickly evaluate some subjective aspects of each smartwatch.

The design

Sometimes, even pictures don’t tell the whole story. In regards to build quality and materials, our opinion is that the Xiaomi Mi Watch gets a win. Its reinforced chassis and ribbed strap feel more premium and the whole watch feels more solid. Plus, it has the classic look of a sports watch, with two big buttons and a large dial. However, the Mi Watch Lite is more versatile. It looks more classy, with rounded edges, it’s significantly smaller (although the numbers don’t show that) and its single button doesn’t protrude out of its body. As for the Mi Smart Band 6, it’s the lightest, but it’s also the tallest, and its body is completely hidden by the one-piece strap, which acts like a frame for the tiny tracker. We think that its design is generic and, if the design is a criterion, you should look at its more expensive siblings.

Smartwatch height is a good indicator for comfort when monitoring sleep

The screen

The screen is, in our opinion, one of the most important aspects of a smartwatch. It’s what makes or breaks the experience. And here, the worst experience was with the Mi Watch Lite. Its screen technology is outdated, resulting in rather poor viewing angles, average maximum brightness, and a clear color shift when looking at the watch from different angles. It doesn’t make it unusable by any means. It’s just that, unfortunately, it has to stand next to the Mi Smart Band 6 and the Mi Watch, and they both have gorgeous-looking AMOLED screens. The Mi Watch Lite, just like the Mi Watch, has automatic brightness adjustment, a feature unavailable on the Mi Smart Band 6. Subjectively, the Mi Watch wins here too, since its large screen can fit more info and you have more room to interact with it. On top of that, it has always-on capability, which makes Mi Watch easier to live with for people coming from classic watches or those who are annoyed by the raise to wake function.

...you can always get all of them if you can't decide

The user interface

Closely linked to the screen size and quality, the user interface is also really important for a good experience. All three models use a proprietary operating system, and you can’t add more apps or widgets. The user interface for each is adapted to the size and shape of the screen: while on the Mi Smart Band 6, the menu items are arranged on a single column which you can scroll through, the widgets on the other two smartwatches are arranged on three columns. With more real estate, the Mi Watch easily wins this category, too. The animations are smooth, the graphics are nice, and the watch faces actually change the look of the watch. On all three smartwatches, we disliked the lack of names for the icons, and on the Mi Watch Lite, we were really annoyed by the lack of animations.

The Xiaomi Mi Watch Lite widget menu

For example, scrolling through the menu is done in the same way on all three devices: you swipe up or down. But while on the other two, the widget menu would follow your finger and scroll smoothly, on the Mi Watch Lite, swiping up or down only switches between the two pages of the widget menu, without any animation. Besides being unattractive visually, this also has a side effect: without any visual cue, you don’t know if your touch was registered by the watch until the page switches. Thus, the smartwatch gives the impression of being laggy and slow to respond to commands.

Health and fitness monitoring

Surprisingly, the Mi Smart Band 6 takes the win here. In our tests, it had the most reliable readings, especially on sleep sessions. Also, it has SpO2 monitoring and it reliably starts and pauses workout sessions automatically. The Mi Smart Band 6 does require the presence of a smartphone to accurately track the distances, but when GPS data is provided by the phone, tracking works just as good as on the other two. The Mi Watch comes a close second, with the added benefit of having integrated GPS, a huge number of workouts to choose from, and other features, like an altimeter and a barometer.

Heart rate monitoring is generally accurate, with small exceptions

The Mi Watch Lite is the least interesting for fitness enthusiasts, with the fewest workouts, the most unreliable heart rate readings, and the largest delay in detecting physical activities. The GPS sensor is as fast as the one in the Mi Watch.

Smartwatch features

The Mi Watch Lite and the Mi Watch are closely matched here. The Mi Smart Band 6 is heavily hindered by the size of its screen when showing notifications, and it doesn’t offer the option to secure it with a password when not wearing it. The Mi Watch has a slight edge with the introduction of support for Amazon’s digital assistant, Alexa. This is made possible by the presence of a microphone on the device, as opposed to the other two.

Comfort while wearing the smartwatch

For some, comfort is the most important criterion for choosing a smartwatch or fitness tracker. We’ve worn all three of the devices for more than a week each (non-stop), and here are our conclusions.

  • The Xiaomi Mi Smart Band 6 is the most difficult to put on the wrist. It’s also pretty hard to remove, but that’s a good thing, since you don’t want it to fall off or get stolen. The strap can be adjusted within the same range as the Mi Watch Lite. Overall, although it is very light to the point that you forget it’s there, its narrow strap is the least comfortable and leaves the most visible marks when wearing it tightly.
  • The Xiaomi Mi Watch Lite is the most comfortable to wear on small wrists. The smartwatch is light, small, and the strap is sufficiently adjustable. If you sleep with the smartwatch on, it’s also the most comfortable of the three.
  • The Xiaomi Mi Watch has the most well-designed strap: although wide, it has ventilation holes; it has two loops for fastening the excess strap, of which one locks onto the holes in the strap; the adjustment range is the greatest of the three devices. However, the size of the watch itself makes it uncomfortable for people with small wrists.

A badly-designed strap can be a deal-breaker when buying a smartwatch

Subjectively, it wouldn’t be fair to pick a definitive winner. We realize that each user has a different set of requirements, a different physical build, a different aesthetic preference, so we can only point out the strengths and weaknesses of each of the three.

Which Xiaomi wearable is right for you?

Now that you have all the information, here are our recommendations. Of course, each user will be slightly different, but if you:

…are primarily interested in fitness tracking and have a small budget, go with the Xiaomi Mi Band 6. It’s an awesome fitness tracker with a quality screen.

The Xiaomi Mi Smart Band 6

…are an active individual and want workout monitoring, but want more smartwatch features and you have a larger budget, pick the Xiaomi Mi Watch. It looks really cool, it ticks most of the boxes on the spec sheet, and its build quality is very good.

The Xiaomi Mi Watch

…have small wrists and/or you are interested in a good-looking and comfortable smartwatch with basic features, go for the Xiaomi Mi Watch Lite.

The Xiaomi Mi Watch Lite

We’d love to know which one you picked as your day-to-day companion. Did you go with one of the three? If so, are you satisfied with your choice? Let us know in the comments!

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