Home Reviews Xiaomi Mi Box review: Good price doesn t mean great value. Xiaomi mibox 5

Xiaomi Mi Box review: Good price doesn t mean great value. Xiaomi mibox 5

Xiaomi Mi Box review: Good price doesn‘t mean great value

The Android TV marketplace is. sparse. Though there are plenty of happy customers out there using the old Nexus Player or the high-end Shield Android TV, there just isn’t a vibrant grouping of choices in the same way you can find an Android phone to fit every want and need. Companies don’t see value in making an Android TV box that isn’t likely to sell in big numbers, particularly as Chromecast continues to eat away at the low end.

Enter Xiaomi with the Mi Box: a small, nondescript black box offering a full Android TV experience, 4K HDR video and a remote for just 69 — easily the lowest price for one of these devices running a fully sanctioned version of Android TV. Xiaomi has seen some success selling multiple generations of set top boxes under the Mi Box brand running its own customized version of Android adapted to the big screen, but this is its first swing at using Google’s proper TV-focused version of Android. And at the same time it’s one of only a handful of products it actually sells in the U.S.

Google clearly needs as many companies making Android TV devices as it can get, and Xiaomi would love to expand its brand presence in the U.S., so on the face of it this makes for a great partnership. But does the Xiaomi Mi Box with Android TV live up to the expectations of being “the box to get” — and crucially chosen over the Chromecast Ultra — for Android fans out there? The answer is in this review.

Gets the job done

Xiaomi Mi Box Hardware and accessories

The Mi Box is small and unassuming, and that’s just fine with me. Coming in black with a lightly textured plastic exterior, there’s nothing exciting here. At just 101 mm square it isn’t much larger than the Qi charging pad next to it in my entertainment center. It’s small enough that you could easily get away with stashing it behind another box or even double-sided taping it to the back of the TV if needed.

The little rounded square sits up off of any flat surface with a rubberized ring that keeps the relatively light box from sliding around from the bends of stiff cables. The ports are all hidden nicely on the back, and the only thing aside from that on the box is a small “Mi” logo on the top and a very faint white LED on the front edge indicating that the box is awake.

Xiaomi’s remote gets the job done, though it isn’t as sleek or nice as the one available for the (over twice as expensive) NVIDIA Shield Android TV. A circular directional pad with a button highlights the top while standard Android TV controls and a volume rocker sit underneath it. The remote is Bluetooth, of course, and runs on two AAA batteries that are included in the box. The one big downside for me here is that the remote doesn’t offer a 3.5 mm headphone jack for plugging in headphones for personal listening, which is something you get with boxes like the Roku 4 and Shield Android TV — then again, the Mi Box is less expensive too.

xiaomi, review, good, price, doesn, mean

Coming up short on 4K

Xiaomi Mi Box Software and experience

One of the strong suits of Android TV is that it’s nearly identical across boxes and TV sets that run the software. The idea is that you can pick up the remote to any Android TV device and navigate around freely, save for a few changes in the settings (for specific device functions). Xiaomi, like other Android TV makers, offers a “Mi Box recommends” section on the home screen showing some content apps that you’ve heard of before, but that’s it in terms of customizations.

Inside the Mi Box is a very run-of-the-mill spec arrangement, with a 2GHz quad-core (Cortex-A53) processor, 2GB of RAM and 8GB of storage — the latter of which capable of being expanded via a full-sized USB-A port on the back. That’s all about in line with what you get from other set top boxes in this price range, but unfortunately that hardware can’t provide a great experience when displaying content at its full advertised 4K resolution.

As I touched on separately before writing this full review, the Mi Box really chugs along when you leave it set to its default 4K resolution. It seems as though the hardware should be able to handle it, but somewhere along the line between that hardware and the software optimization it just can’t keep up a smooth frame rate in the same way that the Chromecast Ultra can. Things smooth out and work just fine when you set it to 1080p, and that’s probably fine for most people who don’t have a 4K TV let alone 4K content to watch, but for a box that’s marketed as supporting 4K resolution it’s a real bummer to admit defeat and lock it down to a lower resolution.

The one other software shortcoming on the Mi Box seems to be an exacerbation of an overall Android TV problem in that it doesn’t do a great job of automatically sleeping and waking up on its own. In what seems like an admission of the problem, unlike some other Android TV boxes the Mi Box actually has a “power” button on it, which you can press to forcibly sleep the box and then press again to wake it explicitly. If you don’t sleep the Mi Box it stays available all the time as a Google Cast target, which is good, but at the same time it also seems to randomly wake itself — and because of HDMI-CEC, it will turn on your TV in the process. After a few nights of waking up to my TV turning on to the Android TV interface, I started forcing it to sleep with the remote when I was done using it.

In an awkward position

Xiaomi Mi Box Bottom line

The addressable market for the Mi Box is much smaller than I originally thought when the box was first announced. At the same price as the new Chromecast Ultra, fans of the Google ecosystem will be better served by Google’s own streamer that offers more consistent performance and simpler setup. If the Chromecast Ultra’s lack of a physical remote is a shortcoming (which it undoubtably is for many), there are other options out there. For 20 more you could get Amazon’s Fire TV with better performance, near-identical content offerings and also a full remote, or a Roku 4 with similar characteristics. For 30 less than the Mi Box you could snag the simpler Fire TV Stick with a remote, or Roku’s Streaming Stick competitor.

There’s no compelling reason to get a Xiaomi Mi Box S, due to troublesome issues with its picture quality, sound levels and interface.

Tom’s Guide Verdict

There’s no compelling reason to get a Xiaomi Mi Box S, due to troublesome issues with its picture quality, sound levels and interface.


  • – Substandard picture and sound
  • – Lackluster remote
  • – Resolution and frame-rate issues

Why you can trust Tom’s Guide?

Our writers and editors spend hours analyzing and reviewing products, services, and apps to help find what’s best for you. Find out more about how we test, analyze, and rate.

Who remembers the Google Nexus Player? I remember the Google Nexus Player. Google’s intriguing little disc was the world’s introduction to Android TV, and while it wasn’t perfect, it held a lot of promise and a few pitfalls. Devices like the Nvidia Shield TV have delivered on that promise, while those like the Xiaomi Mi Box S (45) have kept a lot of the pitfalls intact.

To be fair, there’s nothing hellaciously wrong with the Mi Box S. It doesn‘t cost that much money; it provides a 4K HDR picture; it runs on the underrated Android TV OS. But everything the system does right comes with a sizable caveat. The Mi Box S isn’t any better than comparably priced gadgets; the picture quality and sound aren’t as good as you might expect, and the storage space isn’t sufficient to take full advantage of Android TV’s best features.

The Mi Box S has already dropped in price considerably since it first came out. If it continues to do so, it may be worth picking up to use as a secondary TV or just to see what Android TV is all about without dishing out the big bucks for a Shield TV. Otherwise, there’s no compelling reason to get a Mi Box S over similar devices from Amazon and Roku.


The Mi Box S earns some points right off the bat for actually coming in box form. Other companies seem to be terrified of producing a box, unless it’s for a large, premium product. The Roku Premiere (40) is so small and light that it gets hoisted by its own HDMI cable, while the Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K (50) is so big that it strains the “dongle” definition.

For those who have never used it, Android TV is a clean, navigable OS with a few helpful customization options — and a handful of very tedious menus to click through if you want to enable all customizations. When you start up the system, you’ll see a row of your most frequently used apps on top. As you scroll down, you’ll get personalized recommendations from each app, as well as options to find more apps and games. The Settings menu, which you can use to adjust the apps that appear on your home screen, is in the upper right.

Acquiring new apps can be a bit of a pain, because it takes a few clicks to get to any kind of store (and the store isn’t that well-organized). But once you have the programs you need, you’ll never be more than a few taps away from them. Overall, the Android TV interface isn’t as clean as Roku’s, but it’s not as distracting as Amazon’s, either.


Of all the Android TV systems I’ve set up, only the Mi Box S randomly restarted halfway through the process and then refused to pair with the remote control. Since the device hadn’t yet been paired with my phone, I had no option but to give it the cold boot and hope for the best. Even then, it claimed that it was done updating its software, then immediately launched another unskippable update while I was reading through the Setup menu. At least you have to do this only once.

What’s much more problematic, however, is that the Mi Box S has no idea how to handle video resolutions. One of its big selling points is that it supports 4K HDR content at an enviable price. But even when I hooked the Mi Box S up to a 4K HDR TV, the whole system defaulted to 720p with an SDR color spectrum. I was able to set things right in the menu, but then I had to choose from among about six different types of poorly explained 4K settings, including some that wrecked the frame rate and others that threw the color spectrum completely out of whack.

To be fair, the Mi Box S looked like it displayed content at the correct-ish resolutions once I got into the apps themselves. But they were always “close enough” approximations, never optimized experiences. Short of manually setting the resolution before every new piece of content I watched (and you can do this only from the main menu, not within apps), I had to either settle for lower resolutions or try to force lower-res content into strange frame rates. Most streaming devices have no trouble automatically adjusting these settings. I’m not sure why the Mi Box S is so finicky.

Remote Control

The remote control for the Mi Box S is also one of the weaker attempts I’ve seen lately. The device feels cheap and plastic, with buttons that jiggle around in their sockets and a directional pad that is much less precise than it looks.

This remote has a pretty minimalist button layout: a voice search button up top (you don’t have to hold it down — you just press and release, although this is never explained anywhere), a circular D-pad with a confirmation button in the middle, options, back and home.

At the very top, you have a power button (which doesn’t actually turn the device off but just puts it to sleep), and at the very bottom, you have volume controls (which don’t control the TV’s volume, just the Mi Box S’.) Compared to what you get with newer remotes from Roku and Amazon that can control your entire TV, the power and volume buttons here are an enormous letdown and feel like a holdover from an earlier, less refined era in streaming.

There are also dedicated buttons for Netflix and live TV. The Netflix button works as advertised; the live TV button does not do anything, as far as I can tell.


Where the Mi Box S really falls down is in performance. Picture quality, even when you set it properly, is not very good. Navigation has just enough of a lag to be noticeable. The device is almost silent, even when you pump up the volume all the way.

When I first played videos on the Mi Box S, I thought that my eyes were playing tricks on me. When I watched Daredevil on Netflix, the sparkling whites of Kingpin’s penthouse looked dull and yellow and the details on the furniture looked grainy and indistinct.

I was playing the content on a Samsung Smart TV and switched over to the set’s built-in Netflix app to compare. On Samsung’s Netflix app, Kingpin’s penthouse gleamed and glimmered in razor-sharp detail. I tried the same comparison on a 4K HDR test video of animal life in Costa Rica on YouTube and experienced in the same results. Each emerald lizard or umber snake stood out in vibrant, lifelike color on the TV’s app but appeared dull and a little grainy on the Mi Box S. Manually tweaking the resolution and frame rate, as described above, made things a little better, but not completely.

That’s to say nothing of the volume. With the sound pumped all the way up on the Mi Box S, I still had to turn the TV volume up to 50 (out of 100) before I could hear dialogue and to 75 before I could hear it without straining my ears. With the TV’s built-in apps, and with other streaming gadgets I’ve used, volume levels of between 15 and 30 were more than sufficient.

Beyond that, menu navigation is functional but not nearly as snappy as that on recent gadgets from Roku and Amazon. There’s a split-second delay between giving a command and seeing the system carry it out. It’s not going to ruin anyone’s day, at least at present, but I do wonder whether the Mi Box S will be able to keep up with Android TV as updates make it more complex and demanding.

Content and Apps

Like most other Android TV devices, the Mi Box S lacks Amazon Video, but it has access to just about every other major app you could want. (The Shield TV has Amazon Video, thanks to some wheeling and dealing on Nvidia’s part.) Netflix, Hulu, YouTube, Pandora, Spotify, Crackle, HBO Go/Now, Sling, Playstation Vue and every other major channel are present and accounted for. Android TV also has access to most stand-alone premium channels and channel-specific apps that work with existing cable subscriptions, like FXNow.

Another feather in the Mi Box S’ cap is that it has full access to Google Assistant. You can do all the standard stuff, like ask for restaurant recommendations and weather conditions. But if you have a Smart home setup, you can also control lights, thermometers, door locks and so forth. Google Assistant works well for the most part, but for some reason, no matter what location’s weather I looked up, Google Assistant would vocally tell me that the temperature was “zero degrees,” even though the information on screen was accurate. It’s an obnoxious bug, and I’ve never seen it on another Android TV system.

One area where Android TV does quite well is in its selection of games. A lot of excellent Android games have made the jump to Android TV, including Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic and a number of Final Fantasies. But the Mi Box S has only 5 GB storage, and 1.5GB of that is reserved for system files. You’re not going to be able to use the Mi Box S to play anything too demanding, which is too bad, since it could probably handle high-end games pretty well.

It’s also worth pointing out that like with other Android TV devices, you can use the Mi Box S as a Chromecast. Doing so doesn’t improve the picture or volume issues, but considering that an actual 4K Chromecast will set you back 70, the Mi Box S has price going for it.

Bottom Line

I couldn’t find it in my heart to like the Mi Box S very much. The picture quality is well below what I expected from a 4K HDR streaming device, the volume issues make streaming feel like a chore, and all of the little frustrations added up over time.

Still, I couldn’t find it in my heart to hate it, either. It’s an inexpensive way to experience one of my favorite streaming operating systems, it gives you full Google Assistant functionality, and it offers USB storage for less than 50.

I don’t think the Mi Box S should be anyone’s first stop for inexpensive 4K streaming; that would be the Roku Streaming Stick (60), the Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K or the Roku Premiere, depending on how much money you have to spend.

The Mi Box S isn’t for everyone, or even for most people. But until Google decides to try its hand at another first-party Android TV device, this device at least fills an empty market niche.

The Xiaomi Mi Box S may be cheap, but is it worth buying?

TechRadar Verdict

The Xiaomi Mi Box S doesn’t compare to the likes of the Nvidia Shield TV, but if you’re looking for Android TV on a budget, it’s an option to consider.


Why you can trust TechRadar

We spend hours testing every product or service we review, so you can be sure you’re buying the best. Find out more about how we test.

The TV streaming box industry is heating up. As cord-cutters increasingly ditch their cable subscriptions and turn to streaming, many are looking for a full-featured, Smart-home compatible streaming box that they can use to access content like Netflix, YouTube, and others.

Best Android TV box 2022. Top 5 Best Android TV Boxes For Gaming, TV, Streaming

Xiaomi is the latest to enter this streaming market with the new Xiaomi Mi Box S. But Xiaomi has some tough competition to go up against.

For starters, there’s Apple, which arguably dominates the space with the Apple TV and the newer Apple TV 4K. But there are dominant Android-based devices in the space, too: The Nvidia Shield TV is probably the most-loved and most powerful Android TV streaming box as it not only can play 4K content and serve as a PLEX server, but can also stream games from a networked PC.

Knowing what the competition is like, is it worth saving some cash and going for the Xiaomi Mi Box S, or should you save up a little more and go for Nvidia’s option instead? We put the Xiaomi Mi Box S to the test to find out.

Design and setup

The Xiaomi Mi Box S isn’t bad-looking, though it is a little boring. The box is square, and comes in at around 3.5 x 3.5 inches, or 10 x 10 cm. On the top of the device, you’ll find the Xiaomi logo, while on the back there’s a basic HDMI port, a USB port, a 3.5mm audio port, and a power port. The device in general is decidedly minimalistic, though, of course, that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

Physically setting up the Xiaomi Mi Box is very easy, as you might expect: Simply connect the HDMI port to your TV or a receiver, the power port to an outlet, and you should be good to go. Then, put the batteries in the remote, turn on your TV and the device, and follow the on-screen prompts.

Like any other Android device, you’ll be prompted to sign in to your Google account and asked for privacy preferences. If you’ve got other Android-based devices, Google will also look at apps in your account, and recommend some that you can download to the Mi Box S, helping speed up the process of getting the device personalized for your needs.

Interestingly enough, when we first set up the Xiaomi Mi Box S, it was set to output video at 720p. which made it not look so great on a 4K TV. Of course, the device does support 4K output, and it’s easy to switch to 4K in the settings, but it’s still a little weird that in 2018 the box is preset to play at 720p.

The remote is pretty basic too, which we see as a good thing.

At the top, you’ll find a power button, directly under which can be found the voice search button. That’s helpful for triggering Google Assistant, which you can use to trigger Smart home devices and control your TV. Under that, there’s a direction pad and selection button, then an apps button, back button, and home button. It’s all relatively easy to get used to, and anyone who’s familiar with Android devices and how they’re set up should have no trouble.

In general, the Xiaomi Mi Box S may look a little boring, but setup is easy enough for those that have set up an Android device before. though you may want to head to the Settings section and make sure that the box is outputting video at the highest resolution that your TV can handle.


The Xiaomi Mi Box S may be cheap, but that doesn’t mean it’s lacking in features: this 60 (around £50, AU80) streaming box supports 4K, and HDR.

Apart from supporting high-resolution video, the Mi Box S also has Android TV 8.1 built right into it. What that means is that you’ll be able to take advantage of the huge Android TV ecosystem of apps, plus services like Google Cast, the ability to mirror your Android phone, Google Assistant, and more.

Android TV also gives you access to a huge range of apps. There’s the obvious ones, like Netflix and YouTube, but there’s also a range of games and lesser-known services that might be helpful, like Google Assistant.

Assistant has become one of, if not the, most powerful digital assistants out there, and it’s nice to be able to use it to control your TV too. With HDMI CEC setup, you could use Google Assistant to control your entire home theater setup. including turning on and off your TV and receiver.


So how does the whole system work in daily use? Well, not bad, but it’s certainly not as zippy as the likes of the Nvidia Shield TV.

In fact, comparing the Xiaomi Mi Box S to the Shield TV highlights perhaps its biggest weakness. this is a streaming box, and that’s about it. While you could easily use the Nvidia Shield TV, and arguably the Apple TV too, to game on, the processing power needed for any gaming on the Mi Box S just isn’t there.

While it’s not going to appease any gamers in the audience, it’s still a decent streamer: for apps like Netflix and YouTube, we actually found that it was more than good enough. Sure, more performance-intensive tasks may cause the Mi Box S to struggle, but that’s what you’d expect to happen at this price point.

On top of a few niggling issues with performance, we had a few problems with the remote too. Sometimes, the remote wouldn’t turn the Mi Box S on, and when we first set it up it couldn’t trigger Google Assistant either. Resetting it fixed that issue, but it still shouldn’t have been an issue in the first place.


The Xiaomi Mi Box S has a lot going for it, but it’s not perfect. If you’re looking for an Android-based streaming box and don’t want to spend much, this is a decent device to go for. but you have to be willing to put up with a few bugs, a remote that doesn’t always work properly, and you won’t be able to use it for too many high-performance tasks.

Our recommendation? If all you’re looking for is a great Android-based streaming box and money isn’t much of an issue, then go with the Nvidia Shield TV. It’s a far more capable device that doesn’t suffer from the same bugs the Mi Box S has. Adversely, if cost is your biggest concern and you still want an alternative to the Mi Box S, consider a Chromecast instead.


I’ve got Smart apps on my HDTV, Xbox One, Blu-ray player and a Kodi nano PC. There are many redundancies across these machines when it comes to their Smart app suites, but each seems to have at least one feature that makes it indispensable for some reason.

The Holy Grail would be one box to rule them all (forgive my mix of mythological metaphors there), one device that is affordable, easy to use and has all the apps I want with the power to play all my media with high quality. At just 69, the new 4K-capable Mi Box Android TV module from Xiaomi promises to fill at least that first requirement, and maybe all of them.

Xiaomi Mi Box

Android TV is a branch of Google’s open-source operating system that was the tech-giant’s foray into the media player/streamer/server over-the-top (OTT) marketplace a few years ago. The first Android TV device to hit the market was the Nexus player, released in late 2014. Other devices followed, including Nvidia’s very popular and powerful Shield TV, virtually all of Sony’s Smart TV’s since 2015, as well as some HDTVs from Philips and Sharp. So while Google has announced that the Nexus player has been discontinued, Android TV is here to stay, at least for the foreseeable future.


Length: 3.97 inchesWidth: 3.97 inchesThickness: 0.77 inchesWeight: 0.3 lbColor: Black

Basic specs:

Output Resolution: Up to 4K 60fpsProcessor: Quad-core Cortex-A53 2.0GHzGPU: Mali 450 750MHzRAM: 2GB DDR3Flash: 8GB eMMCSystem: Android TV 6.0Security: Widevine L1 PlayReady 3.0

Wireless connectivity:

Wi-Fi: 802.11a/b/g/n/ac, Dual-Band Wi-Fi 2.4GHz/5GHzBluetooth: Bluetooth 4.0/3.0


VP9 Profile-2 up to 4K x 2K @ 60fpsH.265 HEVC MP-10 at L5.1, up to 4K x 2K at 60fpsH.264 AVC HPat L5.1, up to 4K x 2K at 30fpsH.264 MVC, up to 1080P at 60fpsSupports HDR10/HLG HDR processing (software upgrade required)


DTS 2.0 Digital Out, Dolby Digital PlusUp to 7.1 pass through


1 x HDMI 2.0a w/HDCP 2.21 x USB 2.01 x 3.5mm shared (analog, S/PDIF)

Other specs:

Remote: Bluetooth voice remote control, powered by 2 AAA batteriesIncluded accessories: Bluetooth voice remote control, HDMI cable, user guidePower input: 100~240V 50/60Hz input, 5.2V, 2.1A output



Xiaomi, Streaming, Streaming Box

Chinese tech giant Xiaomi (shee-YAOW-mee), who has been successfully selling high-end smartphones and other tech accessories outside the US for many years, released their first product for the US market in October: the Mi Box Android TV device. So while they are relatively unknown to US consumers, they do bring considerable tech development experience to the table. Why an Android TV box and not one of their highly regarded smartphones? One could argue that the smartphone market in the US is quite saturated at the moment, while the media box market is a little sparser. Also, the US mobile phone market presents many more regulations for a new-to-the-scene manufacturer to navigate. A media player allows Xiaomi to establish a brand presence before bringing their flagship products to the challenging US market.

The current media player market is dominated by four devices – Google’s Chromecast, Roku’s various players, Amazon’s Fire TV devices and the Apple TV. There are a many other devices out there, but these four big ones make up a staggering 99% of this not-so-niche category. (reference).

While Amazon’s Fire TV runs on Android, the experience is quite different from that of a true Android TV box. The aforementioned (and discontinued) Nexus player, and even Nvidia’s amazing (but expensive) Shield TV box, falls into the other slice of the pie, comprising the remaining 1% of the market. Depending on one’s perspective, these stats pose either an insurmountable challenge or an incredible opportunity. Apparently Xiaomi sees it as the latter, and we are lucky for that.

There are dozens of other Android-based media player boxes available from various online sources besides the ones I’ve mentioned above. Most are from brands you’ve never heard of, and would likely never hear from in the event your device required service. An exception may be some of the products from Minix who has a decent following within this tiny niche. Also, most of the other devices (Minix included) don’t run Google’s Android TV operating system, but rather some vanilla version of plain Android, tweaked to work with a remote instead of by touch. The Mi Box runs the Marshmallow version of Android TV, and for the price, specs, and given that Xiaomi is actually a fairly respectable (if somewhat unknown yet in the US) brand, the Mi Box has been garnering a lot of interest since it was announced last May at Google I/O.

On paper, the Mi Box is impressive: It’s tiny! At less than 4 x 4 x 1 inches, this smooth little wedge of rubber and plastic will fit virtually anywhere in or around your entertainment center. To give a better sense of its size, I’ve included a couple common items in the picture.

With Android 6.0 Marshmallow out-of-the-box, it promises not only access to the vast array of media-related apps in the Android Play store, but also enough processing horsepower for 4K/60p video, HDR (High Dynamic Range), Dolby Digital Plus and DTS (notice that DTS-HD/MA and Dolby TrueHD are missing; more on that later). Filling out the specs list are 2GB of RAM, 8GB of flash storage, 802.11a/b/c/n/ac Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.0, HDMI 2.0 and USB 2.0. The included remote is fairly small, about the size of a Roku remote, and has just 11 functions (power, four directions, select, back, home, mic/voice search and volume up/down.)

Right off the bat, the spec and feature list is missing a few key items, namely: 1) there is no hard-wire Ethernet connectivity. Sure you can plug in a USB-to-Ethernet adapter, but then you’re using up the only USB port on the device which would mean no storage expansion. Which brings me to – 2) only 8GB of onboard storage is included. Sure, with Android 6.0 and above you can plug in external USB storage and add it virtually to the system storage, which is great, but USB 2.0 for external storage? In this age of 10 32GB USB 3.0 flash sticks, not only does no one want to connect storage to USB 2.0, but why not bump the price 10% or so and include a comfortable 32GB of flash RAM in the first place? Finally, 3) audio codecs. Maybe it’s due to licensing fees or hardware restrictions, this is probably a cost-saving measure; but the absence of TrueHD and Master Audio from Dolby and DTS are probably deal-killers right off the bat for many HT/AV enthusiasts (again more on this later).

Regardless, the Xiaomi Mi Box Android TV still has a lot going for it for less than 75 out-the-door, so let’s dive in.

Initial setup was incredibly simple: install the remote batteries, connect HDMI and power, and turn on my HDTV and receiver. Xiaomi actually provided a three-image set of instructions showing these steps as part of the in-box literature. I found this to be kind of humorous and wonder if it wasn’t included to be somewhat tongue-in-cheek.

The Mi Box was already up and showing me how to pair the Bluetooth remote which happened very quickly. The system then asked if I had an Android tablet or phone, to which I answered yes. It then directed me to pair my phone (a Nexus 5X) with the Mi Box by entering “setup my device” into the Google search box. This put the phone into a search/pairing mode where it looked for the Mi Box (presumably connecting through Bluetooth at that time since the Mi Box was not yet on the Wi-Fi network.) Pairing the phone took a couple of tries, but on the third attempt it worked. I was then able to confirm my Google account, and all my Google settings were copied from my phone to the Mi Box, slick! Surprisingly this seemed to include the password for my Wi-Fi network, as the Mi Box connected successfully to it and never asked for a password.

Next I was prompted to install the Android TV app (remote control app) on my phone. I don’t normally like to use a touch screen device as a HDTV remote, since you have to look at the screen to see what button you’re pushing. However it does make it easier to type in account searches, credentials and settings, for example when setting up Netflix. As above, pairing was automatic, fast and easy.

After these initial steps were complete, the first thing I did was check for system updates, of which there was one. I selected it, and the system was updated and rebooted a few minutes later. During the update I was presented with a cartoon homage to the Mi Box’s Chinese heritage.

KlipperScreen on Mi-BOX-S

The included remote uses Bluetooth connectivity. I was a little concerned about this at first since my main universal remote, a Harmony 650, is IR-only and I didn’t want to have to use a second remote if the Mi Box was to become a standard part of my entertainment system. However, I noticed what appeared to be an IR receiver port on the front. There’s no indication in the product literature (in-box or online) that the Mi Box supports IR, but the classic dark-red window was there nonetheless.

I fired up the Harmony remote software on my laptop, and sure enough the Xiaomi appeared under the “Media Center PC” category. I typed “Mi Box” in the model category and it was added as a device to my Harmony 650. The original Mi Box remote has 11 functions and all of them were preloaded in the Harmony profile. So setup of the Harmony was very quick. I was also able to dust off and pair my two Ouya Bluetooth controllers (remember Ouya?) which might come in handy for gaming (although I’m not a big gamer). Bluetooth pairing took a while for some reason, but after about a minute of holding the Ouya controller close to the Mi Box with both in pairing mode; it was recognized and paired successfully.

xiaomi, review, good, price, doesn, mean

After completing initial setup, I set about the task of installing and configuring my preferred personal media apps. These include things like HBO-Go, Netflix, Vudu, Watch ESPN and Amazon Prime (more on Amazon shortly), as well as some third party apps which I got from the Play store. My media player software of choice is Kodi (formerly XBMC). I also occasionally use Plex, mostly when I’m not at home, but installed it anyway to test and compare to Kodi. I also use an HDHomeRun networked TV tuner which serves as a DVR. The HDHomeRun has its own DVR Live TV app for Android, but it also integrates well with Live TV for Kodi, and Android TV’s Live Channels function, which gives you a schedule grid and Live TV functionality straight from the main screen. Setting up Netflix, ESPN and Vudu was similar to setting them up on any other device, and fairly straightforward: enter credentials, then log in from a PC or tablet and enter a confirmation code to add the new device to your account. Plex client setup is similar. Kodi installed very quickly and without issue, and likewise for the HDHomeRun View/DVR client. (Note: the DVR part requires a backend running on a separate machine with ample storage.) All went smoothly and was similar to the installation and setup of similar device like Roku, Smart TVs, game consoles, etc. I had never set up Live Channels in Android TV before (given this is my first Android TV experience) and it also went very smoothly. The OS saw the HDHomeRun Prime device on my network and offered it up as a content source. I selected it, and within seconds it had loaded the channel list, guide data and I was browsing my Comcast channels. Yes! This is how it should be! We’ve come a long way since the days of xml file editing for channel and guide setup.

Speaking of Comcast, setting up HBO-Go was a big No-Go. Apparently Comcast had a falling out with either Google, HBO or both, as Comcast HBO subscribers cannot install HBO-Go on Android TV. Ironically, HBO-Go is available for, and works fine with the Comcast login on my Nexus 5X phone. But on the Mi Box (and apparently other Android TV boxes too) neither Comcast nor Xfinity come up as a provider option to prove that you are a paying HBO subscriber. This was news to me, and definitely made me feel like I wasn’t getting my money’s worth for an HBO subscription, compared to other customers who pay the same to other providers. At least I have HBO-Go on my Xbox One, and can always cancel and go month-to-month with HBO-Now (which costs more). The other major letdown on the app-side of things was the fact that Amazon Prime Video is not available on Android TV. This is a huge disappointment, as we use Amazon Prime a lot in our household. I found this a bit ironic since Amazon’s Fire OS is basically Android with an Amazonian skin, but Amazon has blocked its app from devices which compete with their Fire brand, apparently. Fortunately, I still have it as a Smart app on my Panasonic plasma, and as an app on the Xbox One. But now we’re down two heavily-used apps for the Mi Box.

So it’s not looking good for its chances to be “one box to rule them all.” Various Internet searches indicate that there may be ways to work around some of these limitations by side-loading various apps onto the device. While this may be fairly easy for some, it’s not a bulletproof solution (usually), so I am not going to consider these kinds of workarounds for this review.

The other option for unsupported apps is Google Cast, which is built-in to the Android TV software, and is therefore ready to go on the Mi Box. This is like Chromecast, or Miracast, except it can be done from any Android phone and does not require a Chromecast (or Miracast) device to be plugged into the TV. To start “casting” from my phone, there was nothing to do on the Mi Box; all I had to do was swipe down on my phone and tap the “cast” icon in the settings tray. This opened a list of local devices that were cast-compatible (the Mi Box was the only one in my house). I tapped the Mi Box, and my TV then became a copy of my phone’s screen. Anything I played on my phone (including both Amazon Prime and HBO-Go videos) was displayed on the big TV too, and the sound came through my A/V system. This was very easy to use, but of course requires you to use your phone to find and manage playback of whatever it is you want to watch. Again, for my preference, this is not ideal. However, for people comfortable with the idea of casting content to their HT system, this may be perfectly acceptable.

Navigation of the Android TV OS on the Xiaomi Mi Box was very smooth and quick. Apps start quickly while menus pop up and go away smoothly. The overall experience so far is excellent and lag-free. Even within apps, navigation seems smoother and faster than my other media-player options (Smart TV, Xbox One, and 2011-vintage NanoPC running Kodi). Kodi is a great example of this difference. Of course my comparison Kodi box is 5 years old now, but it still runs fine and plays every Full HD Blu-ray rip I throw at it with aplomb, not to mention the HDHomeRun DVR software. In fact, until trying out Kodi on the Mi Box, I wasn’t aware I was missing anything on my old NanoPC. But compared to the Mi Box, navigation and use of Kodi on my Kodi box is a little slow and laggy.

Most other apps that I tried out were also very pleasurable to use and navigate: Netflix, Vudu and WatchESPN all worked perfectly. I enjoyed a full episode each of Luke Cage and Jessica Jones on Netflix with no issues whatsoever. In fact, as with Kodi, the experience using Netflix on the Mi Box is actually better than on my 2013 Panasonic Smart TV, or on my Xbox One. Picture and sound quality was comparable between the three Netflix platforms.

xiaomi, review, good, price, doesn, mean

One app that did not seem to work well despite my best efforts was Plex. For the uninitiated, Plex is a two-part system: it requires the server half to be running somewhere on your network (mine runs on my Synology NAS) with client apps installed on various devices (tablets, phones, PCs, TVs, game consoles, media players, etc.), which then stream the media from the server to the client. When it works, it’s a lot like having your own personal Netflix, and it’s very cool. When it doesn’t, you go back to Kodi. The Plex client on the Mi Box just isn’t quite working right. I was unable to pass-through any audio tracks from my various MKV rips of Blu-ray movies. When pass-through was implemented, the video would skip and audio would lag by as much as ten seconds. With pass-through turned off, the video skipping was still present, but the audio kept pace with the video. Either way, playback of my movie collection was not acceptable. The Plex “channels” (streaming content from online video sources like PBS, Comedy Central, etc.) seemed to work OK, but Plex channels are largely redundant on most platforms since individual apps for such sources are available from the Android Play, iOS or Windows stores. The fact that Plex is problematic (and it’s not just my particular Mi Box – I’ve seen many similar complaints across various online discussion forums) is concerning, because the same Plex app works well on other Android TV devices (e.g. the Nexus Player, Nvidia Shield and Sony HDTVs.) So this would seem to indicate some problem with the Mi Box itself. That said, it’s about the only app that has proven troublesome for me so far. Plex’s tech and user-based support is usually pretty good, so if I keep the Mi Box, I’ll be working with them to try to resolve this.

For apps that weren’t available (Amazon, HBO-Go) or didn’t work (Plex), I was able to successfully use the Google Cast feature. I’d just start up a cast session from my phone and then play whatever content I wanted while watching and listening to it on my main system. Granted, the image quality was limited to the phone’s resolution, and the sound was decoded to Pro Logic 2.0; but I was able to watch an episode of Amazon’s The Man in the High Castle and overall A/V quality was acceptable. I also tested HBO-Go and Plex and both worked. But workarounds like this really just aren’t ideal. It’s part of the reason Google’s Chromecast never appealed to me. I don’t want to use two devices just to watch content on my main home entertainment system. I do like casting to the big screen when I want to share what’s on my phone with the whole family (or guests) simultaneously.

The voice search feature is only available if you use the included Bluetooth remote. Since I prefer to use a Harmony, which lacks the necessary microphone, I don’t actually use the voice search much. I did try it out though, and it works quite well, as anyone familiar with Android phones and “OK Google” would agree. The voice search is essentially (as far as I can tell) the same as is included in Android Marshmallow on mobile devices which is quite good. It gets even better with Android Nougat and word is there’s a Nougat build of Android TV forthcoming.

One big problem with the Mi Box that I briefly mentioned above is audio codec compatibility, or lack thereof. The Mi Box is not able to pass any lossless audio formats like Dolby TrueHD or DTS-HD Master Audio. The best it can do is Dolby Digital Plus (EAC-3, which is lossy like AC3 but with more bandwidth and channels) and traditional DTS 5.1. This is true even when playing files via Kodi which is capable of passing these audio formats. It’s hard to know if this is a software or a hardware limitation; meaning – could it be fixed with an update of the firmware and/or OS? I have sent a query to Xiaomi regarding this, but as of publication have not heard back from them. I’ll update this issue in the Комментарии и мнения владельцев below if and when I learn anything new. Regardless, without at least Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio (let alone Dolby Atmos or DTS:X), the Xiaomi Mi Box is unlikely to feature prominently in any home theater enthusiast’s main system.

I have one final gripe about usability: there are no standard transport controls (play, stop, pause, fwd, rwd, skip) on the remote, nor in the Harmony profile. So, every time you want to execute a standard transport function it’s a two (or three) button process: first push the select/enter button which brings up an on-screen display of the video’s timeline along with the standard transport function icons. Then navigate to the function you want and select it. This is annoying and cumbersome. Roku works the same way and I don’t like it. Media players should have direct transport function buttons, period.

I do not have an Ultra HD television or monitor, let alone one with HDR. My reference display is a Panasonic TC-P60VT60 1080p plasma. So while I could not directly observe the UHD and HDR capabilities of the Mi Box, I was actually able to confirm its ability to easily play back UHD video material using a download of the Elysium movie trailer. Using Kodi as the playback software, the UHD signal was down-converted by my TV to 1080p and played smoothly and looked fantastic. When I repeated this test on my old NanoPC Kodi box, the video played, but dropped many frames and stuttered and skipped all over the place. The old NanoPC’s hardware was not able to process the UHD video material and maintain the proper frame rate. Incidentally, UHD material down-converted to 1080p can look fabulous if done well. The 4:2:0 chroma sampling results in full 4:4:4 chroma space in the 1080p down-conversion. So for those of you with an eagle eye for color fidelity (and a high quality monitor to display it) you should give this a try some time. Most people won’t be able to see the difference but some will.



| Denial of responsibility | Contacts |RSS