ZMI PurPods TWS Bluetooth 5.2 10 hour Battery Life IPX4

General Information

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- Dual coaxial frequency-divided dynamic coils: Clean highs and sonorous bass
- Dual-mic call noise reduction: Make quality calls
- 10 hours of battery life for the earbuds*: Up to 32 hours of bud use with charging case
- Q-smart adaptive technology: Adaptive volume
- Convenient voice assistant access: intelligence enabled by voice control
- Use the default voice assistant on the phone operating system.
- IPX4 waterproofing*: Suitable for more sports scenarios
- Rich in sound effects: Details for a better listening experience
- Comfortable to wear: Thoughtful details prevent pressure on ears

Model Number: TW101ZM
Charge Type: USB-C
Battery Capacity: 48mAh
Case Capacity: 490mAh
Protocols: BLE/HSP/HFP/A2DP/AVRCP
Codecs: SBC/AAC

Includes:

3 x Pair Ear Tips
2 x Earbuds
1 x Charge Case
1 x Charge Cable
1 x User Guide

Latest reviews

regancipher

100+ Head-Fier
ZMI? Who? 10 hours battery life? Whaaaat?!
Pros: Sound Profile, Battery Life, BT5.2, Build Quality, App Support, Price, Low Latency, Features for the price
Cons: No QI, Mic is OK, Difficulty connecting to Windows
How I review: (See Previous Reviews)

Model: ZMI Purpods TW101ZM
Price: MSRP $44.99
Distributor: Aliexpress
Vendor Website: ZMI

Manufacturer Blurb:
  • Model: ZMI Purpods TW101ZM
  • Driver: 9mm
  • Earbud Weight: 5.5g
  • Case Weight: 40.2g
  • Gross Weight: 45.7g
  • Earbud Dimensions: 34.5mm stem from neck, 37mm total
  • Case Dimensions: 60mm x 52mm x 23mm
  • Earbud Battery Capacity: 48 mAh
  • Case Battery Capacity: 490 mAh
  • Earbuds Charging Time: 50% charge in 30 minutes, 5 minutes gives 1 hour
  • Audio Format: AAC / SBC
  • Music Playtime: 10 Hours*
  • Earbuds and Case Fully Charged Music Playtime: 32 Hours*
  • Speaker Impedance: 32 Ω
  • Bluetooth Range: 10m advertised
  • Bluetooth: Bluetooth® 5.2
  • Bluetooth Protocols: BLE/ HSP/ HFP/ A2DP/ AVRCP
  • Input: 5V 0.5A
  • IPX4 Water Resistance
Includes:

1 x Pair wireless headphones
1 x USB Type-C Charge Case (no wireless charging)
1 x USB Type-C Charge Cable
3 x Pair Silicone Tips
1 x User manual, warranty card

Real Life Experience

Last time around I reviewed the Enacfire offering. Everyone has heard of Enacfire because they are the first name that pops up on Amazon. But ZMI...who?!

ZMI contacted me and asked if I would be willing to review a sample of their new release, the TW101ZM. Despite not paying for these buds, ZMI agreed to my terms and conditions: I give an honest review, warts and all, and if I don't like them I will send them back and post the review anyway :D To be honest this puts a lot of vendors off, but ZMI were pretty insistent, so they must have been confident I'd like them.

Of course, ZMI did ring a bell. They don't roll off the tongue due to being relative newcomers - Jiangsu Zimi Electronic Technology Co. Ltd joined the Xiaomi ecological chain back in 2013 and are one of the many investments the global giant has brought into their ecosystem as they target world domination.

Unsurprisingly, Xiaomi phone owners get some nice extra features with the PurPods, and the model reviewed here is their second high profile TWS release. Announced at the end of January, the TW101ZM followed up the TW100ZM - released in October 2020, and one of the first on the market supporting Bluetooth 5.2, 35dB ANC and 10 hours battery life. This is the little sister - aesthetically it is almost identical, but there is sadly no ANC and no QI. Still, I was looking forward to reviewing, albeit with a little trepidation, since...well...I had never heard of them! On my video review on instagram I couldn't even find them to tag them!

The earbud market is going through a period of transition right now with supply chain issues bringing new players to the market. Many of the newer releases have featured chips from BES and Pixart, and in response Airoha have picked up production, and it appears from the superb battery life and stable 5.2 connection that it is the newer Airoha chip range that has been used here, as was the case with the PurPods Pro. ZMI may not be well known in the West, but the proliferation of case options for these buds on Aliexpress and the maturity of the app suggest this is a carefully planned side step from Xiaomi - nobody makes debut releases this good.

The Unboxing - 7.5/10

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There is something very FIIL-esque about the unboxing, with the hardened cardboard enclosure portraying features with mini logos on the sides. The back features much of the device specifics, and they disclose more than many vendors, although most of it is in Chinese.

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In the bottom right hand corner is a QR code which takes you to their 'ZMI hear' app - more on that later.

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The FIIL-esque logos give that 'Xiaomi' impression straight away - this is clearly in a different league to the Enacfire/Tao/Mpow boxes, and the headlines are pretty clear:
  • Adaptive Volume Adjustment
  • Fast Charging Support
  • 10 hours charge off a single charge
  • Dual-Coaxial Frequency-Divided Dynamic Coils
  • Dual Mic Noise Reduction
  • True Wireless Stereo
  • Bluetooth 5.2
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There is a mini-guide (all in Chinese), user guide (Chinese and English only), app guidance card (English) and a selection of larger/smaller tips. They come factory fitted with the Medium. There is also a USB Type-C charger cable.

The Case - 7.5/10

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Nothing too snazzy going on here, but the case is obviously well thought out and oozes high quality.

It is almost identical to the case of the PurPods Pro, but is missing the metal surround on the magnetic and sturdy hinge, and the surround in the USB-C charge socket sits less flush against the case.

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The almost certainly contributes to it being around 5g lighter fully loaded than the Pro, because with the earbuds, we get a combined weight of 51.23g, compared with the PurPods Pro coming in at 57.6g, and the buds being around 1g heavier in aggregation.

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At 51.23g, this is one of the heavier cases I have reviewed - over 10g heavier than the BOYA BY-AP4, and 15g heavier than the Soundpeats TrueAir 2 - but it certainly doesn't feel like it, with the weight distributed across a flat surface area.

The ZMI logo button is held down for a few seconds to initiate pairing, and the light above flashes white until it pairs, when it turns green. Opening the case initiates 'Hall-Switch' mode, which means fast connectivity as soon as you open the case. And it is lightning speed, the chime of connectivity (which was annoyingly loud on the pro but is quieter on these) sounds almost immediately.

When you open the case, the light above it turns green. When you charge them, the light changes colour depending on how much charge is left, using the red/amber/green we see on the 1More Comfobuds and Galaxy Buds Live. The colour remains while charging, which is a nice touch.

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ZMI have taken the 'envelope' approach to the case design, measuring in 60mm wide. The pictures really don't do the case justice - the white glossy finish is much nicer than your typical bright white cases, although it makes it difficult to photograph well.

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The height is 51-52mm. Whilst these measurements seem large (they are, relatively) the bevelled edges make it seem much smaller than it is.

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Aside from the bevel, the depth is an impressive 23mm. This completely changes the dynamics of the case and makes them incredibly pocket friendly, much more so than the pill shape or cigarette box style used by the likes of QCY T10 and Taotronics 92 respectively, despite being smaller.

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These dimensions make it similar in portability to the TaoTronics SoundLiberty 80 and 95, although it is far nicer in appearance than both of those models. The 95 was just plain ugly, and the 80 has degraded quickly over time.

Putting the buds back in the case is often a problem when placed vertically (see my FIIL CC2 review), but it is no issue with the PurPods. The hinge is well-designed and magnetic, and overall the build quality of the case is very good. There is no lip for single-handed use, but this doesn't bother me.

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The case is charged by USB Type-C, and gives an additional 2 and a bit charges - this may seem low, but when you consider they deliver 10 hours battery off one charge, it puts it into perspective a bit!

They also offer two quick charge modes - 50% full charge after 15 minutes, and 5 minutes gives an hour, making them superb commuter buds. I've had them a week and still only charged the case for the sake of testing the lights out - they still haven't run out of juice even once!

They lose a point for no wireless charging - hey, there's always room for improvement! (The pro does have this feature).

The USB-C charge point is at the base, a bug bear for me as I like to stand the case up while it is charging, but I understand why and it's a trade off that doesn't bother me too much. They use the KRCONN Jingrui Industrial Co input to facilitate charging, and the board features an input surge protection chip and Yutai ETA7014 voltage protection chip. Not unusual components, and seen before in RealMe and Urbanista cases previously.

The Ergonomics - 8/10, Build Quality - 7.5/10

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Weighing in at 5.52g per bud, the PurPods are certainly not the lightest buds out there.

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Nor are they the shortest - measuring between 34 at their shortest and 37m at their longest - similar to the Soundpeats TrueAir2.

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The design is rather unique - well, other than the 'fruity you know what' - and combine the rounded head of the QCY T10 with the stem length of the 1More Comfobuds to good effect.

Like the FIIL CC2, they position the charging connectors at the base, making them a good choice for those with nickel allergies as they will not come into direct contact with the skin. The element is silvery in colour, so you don't have ugly brass coloured circles showing

There is also a call mic in between the charge connectors, and the curved stem tries to bring the mic closer to the mouth by tracking with your jawline, and it's very effective.

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As you can see, the buds feature two holes at the top. One is to relieve pressure - these buds have excellent passive noise cancellation, but as we know silicone buds can be intrusive. That hole serves to relieve that and does a good job - for prolonged use they are actually very comfortable. I had switched off silicone based buds until I used these because I hated that feeling of stepping out of a submarine when you take the buds out, but the vents do their job very well.

There is also an ambient sound mic just below it, used for ambient noise reduction. Both mics are silicone MEMS mics, and are held in with rubber. Unfortunately, this, like many earbuds, results in the IP rating only being IPX4, but it does retain the weight displacement well - any heavier and they may not have been as comfortable.

Two big differences from the previous model - there is no gradient to show where the touch controls are (this doesn't pose a problem - the stems pick up your touches ok). The other is the finish of the driver surround.

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This time it's pure white, but again it is oval, so be careful how you position those tips. On the subject of the tips, I didn't feel the need to switch them for spinfits on this occasion- the supplied tips were adequate.

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Overall, they sit in the ears pretty well, and look well finished for the price point. Passive noise isolation and comfort combine to demonstrate an extremely well-thought-out design that are more than suitable for all-day use.

Audio Quality - 8.5/10 (for the price paid), 8/10 (raw score)

Sound is subjective - it's hard to review something on the basis of whether I like it or not, so I am always in two minds over whether to score this section without objective testing. Unfortunately my acoustic mic setup is out of service at the moment as I've been taking proctored exams and had to clear my workspace, so I can only offer subjective views here.

Out of the box they are refreshingly balanced. The bass is toned down, although there is a touch of sibilance in female vocals - nothing too painful, but evident. Luckily the app has lots of presets, they EQ really nicely in Wavelet, and respond well to adjustments.

I tested them out with the usual suspects - Saint Etienne, Aha, Calvin Harris, Pavarotti...etc. Detail is really good. Sound separation is neat and tidy, and you don't realise quite how good it is til you compare with poorer quality buds like the QCY T10. 'Bleeding Love' by Leona for example just distorts like mad with the QCY and many others, on the PurPods it's crystal clear. The piano and John Legend's vocal range in 'All of Me' are both detailed and rich.

If you were really picky, the sound stage is arguably a shade too narrow for my liking, but unquestionably very good by TWS standards, and opens up in bassier tracks. 'Shout' by Tears For Fears and 'Stars' by Simply Red show the best in the buds, but also the areas for improvement - the instrument separation in the latter in particular is so good you can hear tambourines. On YouTube Music. I ain't even kidding! Mick's vocals can sometimes slip a little when it gets really congested, but then again, it is a streaming service!

You could also add that the EQ does seem necessary for certain music styles. Opera benefits from balanced. RnB from Vocal or Bass. Even though they are fine tunes, barely noticeable on initiation, they do make a difference.

Call Quality - 8.5/10 Indoors, 8/10 outdoors

ZMI advertise their mics as a key selling feature, and whilst they aren't the best feature of the buds, they aren't bad at all.

Indoors, your voice is extremely natural and clear. In fact, it's very well delivered in very stable environments, but it can dip out if you get a brief spurt of ambient noise.

Outdoors, there is a very evident attempt at compression, and they do a good job of compressing traffic and other typical outdoor everyday sounds. The problem is you can sound a tad over-compressed yourself, but again, I've heard far worse at this price point. The 1More Comfobuds - which I like a lot, compress your voice more and let ambient sound through more. It will come down to personal preference which style you prefer.

The overriding evidence is that earbuds are handling calls far better today than they were 12 months ago. ZMI got the design spot on, both in ergonomics and at the component level, to facilitate clear

Connectivity and Features - 9/10

ZMI have squeezed a load of features into the product, so this could take a while! The chipset is Bluetooth 5.2 - and shows HD Audio in Android - excellent. Connectivity is pretty good - 10m-ish LOS, but solid and fast. There's no lagging with gestures, and after a few issues connecting on Windows, Bluetooth Tweaker eventually reported 189 Ms on SBC. The latency is noticeably reduced on Android. What's interesting here is they have reduced the maximum bitrate on AAC, forcing the use of SBC. This is pretty unusual (although not unprecedented - Edifier did the same with the NB2) and we know Android has difficulty with AAC, and given this is aimed primarily at Xiaomi phone owners (they get the benefit of a pretty nice little widget) this is completely understandable.

Now onto the features. Firstly - the in ear detection - you need to take both out for it to pause. Bravo. I don't know how many times I've taken a bud out to scratch my ear and everything has paused with other earbuds and I've been like, huh?! You can also switch it off in the app.

The app is refreshingly beautiful! It actually feels like an app, rather than an excuse to data harvest! No registration, no weird privileges...just install and away you go.

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On the main screen, once connected, it is very clear the options you have available. The battery left in the buds and the case is nicely positioned at the top and gets your attention easily. Whilst the EQ is limited to 4 options, again they are all visible directly in your eye line.

EQSMART Adaptive volume - which, well, adapts the volume depending on the ambient sound - is an underrated additional feature which I've come to get used to in my car.

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Updating firmware is always a chore with TWS. The firmware update failed first time - when doesn't it! No issues second time, and took a fraction of the time that the 1More Comfobuds do - a total of just under 3 minutes.

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If you lose them, you can activate 'find my device', which plays an audible chime, and even tailor the response in case you've only lost one bud

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You can also customise controls to a degree. Double click is the only control you can change - it's voice assistant by default, I prefer volume, but you can choose play/pause, previous/next, volume, voice assistant or gaming mode. On the subject of controls - they are limited. Double-taps are your only option. Maybe this could improve in the future, but it doesn't bother me too much.

Oh yeah - gaming mode - an afterthought in the array of options. This reduces the latency further. Now this is probably the only area of development for the app - you can't switch gaming mode on and off without setting that option as a gesture - it would be nice to have this as a toggle in the app, but ZMI make it clear in the documentation they don't recommend leaving gaming mode on for longer than is necessary, so perhaps that's deliberate. It doesn't really matter as the latency is more than adequate in standard mode. The chip is, I'm pretty sure, Airoha, so no aptx, but still respectable latency - virtually lipsync in YouTube on my Poco X3.

There is no ANC - you need the pro for that - but the passive isolation is excellent without the intrusiveness you feel with certain models, no doubt mitigated by the design as mentioned in the Ergonomics section - but the absence of ambient mode is going to rule these out for many after being spoiled with ANC for so long. If you want ANC and ambient mode, pick the pro.

On the subject of the Poco - sadly it isn't within the portfolio of Xiaomi phones which benefit from the widget, which can give you an overview of battery quickly and connect marginally easier.

The one blot on the copy book was connectivity with Windows 10, but nothing new there. Windows handles Bluetooth as well as my waistline has handled 12 months of lockdown. At first, the buds were recognised, but not as an audio device. Once windows stopped thinking they were an audio book, they became difficult to connect. On about the 7th or 8th try they connected, and have been fine since.

Battery Life - 9/10

The battery life is outrageous. 10 hours from one charge, and as we've already said, lots of quick charge options. I haven't run them dead yet but pro rata they are performing as advertised. Only the Soundpeats Sonic come close - in fact, it's actually even better.

No wireless, but when you're charging as little as this, it's less of an issue. 32 hours total make them weekenders, especially if you can nab a quick half an hour charge off someone's usb socket!

Final Summary

At an MSRP of $44.99 the ZMI PurPods are in the budget end of the TWS market, but my god they don't feel like it. the sound quality is very impressive on Android. On IOS it didn't seem quite as good - and there is no app support as yet. Having since come back to edit the review with my codec findings, it's pretty clear these are not aimed at iPhone users!

Overall it is hard to find fault with the ZMI PurPods - they have solid mics, a great app, amazing battery life, good latency, great fit and a portable case. If you listed every feature you wanted in a set of TWS, only wireless charging, extensive controls and ANC are missing - but if you want them (bar the controls), the Pro is also available (I haven't tested that model yet, but hope too imminently)

I hadn't heard of ZMI before. I have now, and I don't think this is the last we will hear of them. Very pleased to give them a score comparable to the FIIL T1XS - one of the best TWS on the market in the sub $50 range right now.

Video review now uploaded to instagram - @regancipher. Well done ZMI!

Price Weighted Score: 88%
Raw Score: 86%

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