Android TV is making it into the smart TV scene quite frequently lately with some Vizio, Sony and LeEco TVs using the operating system as well as the Nvidia Shield TV using it as well. This being said, what if you don’t have a TV of these brands, or $200 to spend on a Shield TV and either don’t own a smart TV or dislike your smart TV’s operating system? Let’s see if this little TV box can solve your problems.
I have been using the Xiaomi Mi Box for the past year as my main way of streaming content with two different TVs, one a 1080p basic TV and with a 4K HDR enabled LG Smart TV. With this being said the Xiaomi Mi Box does include the capability to stream in 4K HDR natively with very little lag. The only major issues I’ve encountered was the widespread Netflix outage on the Mi Box (which has since been solved), and the rare app force close, and videos randomly not loading even while internet is present. I’m not going to bother going through all the specs although it does only have 8gb of storage, a low end quad core processor and 2gb of ram so don’t be thinking you’ll be doing any gaming on this. The Mi Box also has a proprietary power jack, 1 HDMI 2.0a port, and a USB A 2.0 port. The only port I wish they had added was either an RJ-45 jack for ethernet or the USB 2.0 be a USB 3.0, however for $69 these small gripes can be overlooked.
The main reason I enjoy the Xiaomi Mi Box so much is because it is a Chromecast Ultra, with an operating system I can move from TV to TV without having to worry about setting up a new operating system. This is also an Android operating system so there is a good chance you’ll find support for streaming apps you’re looking for. The best part is, if the Mi Box doesn’t support an app and that app supports casting via Chromecast it works as a Chromecast as well. These features make the Mi Box more versatile than a Chromecast Ultra while giving you the same capabilities as an Ultra for the same MSRP of $69.
The Xiaomi Mi Box isn’t perfect though. The main problem with it is software support from Xiaomi and app developers, I’ve seen very few updates to this box, with the most recent being the July 2017 security patch. This is unacceptable as Android 7.0 for Android TV is out and has had a beta out since October of 2017. The new update would hopefully being security patches and software stability as well as welcome additions to picture in picture. A fix to the loading problem, which is a software based issue as the router is right next to the box and I have 100mbps internet, should have been solved long ago. Lastly, if you’re hoping you can give Xiaomi a call for support then think again, they have notoriously bad customer support, however you get what you pay for.
The next issue I have is app support from software developers. Popular apps such as Crunchyroll haven’t been updated since February of 2017, that’s going on 11 months of no software updates, which is ridiculous as the Android app is being updated all the time. The Google app hasn’t had a proper update on this version of Android TV since November 2016. If you want any new Google features you would have had to side load them, which is wrong. Google Assistant could be compatible however Google is keeping many users out if the manufacturer doesn’t update the software on their devices.
My conclusion is the Xiaomi Mi Box is a better streaming solution than the one built in to your TV, but not by much. With many TV operating systems (minus Roku) missing many major apps, and not as robust screencasting software as Chromecast I would say to give the Mi Box a shot. $69 is not a lot to spend, and it comes with a remote and HDMI cable. If you’re looking for a streaming box that has cutting edge specs, up to date software, and minimal bugs then look towards the Shield TV, but if you can live with some hiccups that may or may not be fixed and you only really want to stream on your TV with an easy to understand operating system then go with this.
If you want to pick up the Xiaomi Mi Box you can find it here