Looking for an affordable way to stream content to your TV? The Xiaomi Mi Box might be your best bet. At just $69, it’s one of the cheapest options on the Android TV marketplace. And don’t roll your eyes just yet; the entry-level price tag needn’t equate to a sub-par experience. Why? Well, you can find out more in this Xiaomi Mi Box review.
A 4-inch square standing about 0.75 inches tall, the Mi is surprisingly compact. And elegant too; the matte black plastic housing keeps everything (read ports) tucked at the back for a minimalist look. Save for the ‘Mi’ logo and tiny LED, you won’t find any punctuations on the front face.
Under the hood, things are as basic as the device itself. Here’s what you can expect:
-Quad-core 2GHz Amlogic S905X-H Processor
-750MHz Mali-450 GPU
-2GB DDR3 RAM
-8GB eMMC Flash storage (Expandable via USB)
-HDMI 2.0 (Cable included)
-Bluetooth remote with voice control
-4K HDR Support
-Dolby Digital Plus and DTS audio encoding
Setting up the device for first-time use is pretty-straightforward. You simply plug it into a power source and hook it up to your TV using the supplied HDMI cable. Upon switching it on, a graphic will appear on your screen to help you pair the remote with the player. An on-screen animation will then take you through the usual config routine (selecting your preferred language, connecting to your Wi-Fi network, etc).
You will probably be surprised by the lack of dedicated Ethernet port if you’re coming from another Android TV platform. Don’t fret though — the Mi does allow for a wired connection if Wi-Fi isn’t an option. You will however have to use a USB adapter.
Do keep in mind that this is an Android device; you will need to sign into your Google account in order to use it. You could do so directly on screen, but this will involve a 2-step verification process. Of course, you could still complete the setup using your Android phone/tablet.
At the risk of sounding like a broken record, don’t expect any out-of-the-world features on the Mi remote. The only notable feature is the power-off button — not particularly interesting, but then again, not many streaming platforms have it as standard. Other than that, it packs the usual volume controls and a directional pad containing playback commands (play, pause, etc). You can also use a generic remote system if, for any reason, you don’t like the one provided by the manufacturer.
Xiaomi’s hardware package seems pretty good so far, but it’s the Android TV OS that really brings the device to life. This comes with built-in Google Cast support, which lets you launch videos from your desktop, phone or tablet. Most of the major streaming apps are supported by the platform, but you’ll have to install them by visiting the Google Play Store from the device.
The Mi, like most Android streaming devices, comes with a bunch of ‘recommended’ apps on the home screen. The remote will let you navigate through quickly, and you can fly across rows of items by holding down on the directional pad. As a whole, the Mi Box’s UI is cleaner and significantly breezier compared to the average Blu-ray player.
Another highlight of the Android TV OS is the voice recognition feature. This, as you’ve likely guessed, allows you to navigate the menu using voice commands. After activating the feature using the remote, you can search for content, launch apps or change channels using the relevant commands. The system also supports non-TV queries, including information on the weather and answers to trivia questions.
-Versatile: The device offers just about all the streaming services you’d expect, from Netflix and Hulu Plus to YouTube Red.
-Compact: As highlighted earlier, the Mi is small enough to fit anywhere you might want it to go.
-Affordable: Don’t expect to find a cheaper Android TV box — not one that runs a sanctioned version of the platform anyway.
-Flexible: With a handful of connectivity options, and the ability to side-load apps, the device should be a joy for those who like to go the extra mile in customization.
-The outer casing isn’t as robust as you’d expect.
-No access to Amazon’s library or Prime Video.
Of course, a platform like the Mi Box is only as good as its streaming performance. The device does live up to its specs in that regard, delivering 4K video with Dolby Digital Plus soundtracks. Both Netflix and YouTube work great, with the latter offering the option to watch content in lower resolutions.
But then again, the Mi does little to hide that it’s one of the cheapest options out there. Or, more significantly, that it marked Xiaomi’s entry into the set-top box market. This becomes clear when you compare it to pricier, more polished devices like the highly-acclaimed Roku 4. The latter, while having a lot in common with the Mi, delivers a superior experience thanks to the more seasoned operating system. Oh, and it comes with an Ethernet port too!
What if you stick within the Android TV ecosystem? The Mi finds competition from Google’s own Chromecast Ultra. This is a $69 streaming stick that supports 4K video and HDR content. One reviewer noted that the Chromecast Ultra offers a smoother ‘performance and a simpler setup. However, it’s worth pointing out that unlike the Mi, this isn’t a dedicated streamer. The Chromecast Ultra is best described as a media bridge; a device that streams content from a more powerful source (laptop, tablet, or smartphone). You’ll also have to do without a physical remote.
There are plenty other devices on the market, of course. But unless you’re willing to fork out 3 figures for something like the NVIDIA Shield, the Mi is your best bet. It occupies a rather lonely spot on the market — other devices are either too expensive or tailored specifically for enthusiasts, or both. With its ease of use and pocket-friendly price, the Xiaomi Mi Box represents a clear breakaway from this trend. As long as you can put up with a few rough edges, this little box will significantly upgrade your streaming experience.