Xiaomi is best known for its smartphones in international markets, but it’s a much smaller player in the US. Instead of focusing on smartphones, Xiaomi’s North American efforts have centered around smart devices, including a line of Android TV players. One of these products is the Xiaomi Mi Box S. The Mi Box S offers a compelling set of features, including 4K support. But in this crowded market, is it really worth buying? We aim to find out in our Xiaomi Mi Box S review.
What you need to know about the Xiaomi Mi Box S
- Xiaomi Mi Box S: $59.99/£64.99/Rs. 4,999
The Xiaomi Mi Box S costs $59.99 in the US, which is $10 more than its current main competitor, the Chromecast with Google TV. It’s also a bit more expensive than the TiVo Stream 4K, which is a more direct competitor as it also lacks the Chromecast’s Google TV UI.
This smart TV box is bigger than a regular streaming stick and sits next to your TV, as opposed to hiding behind it. The Xiaomi Mi Box S is powered by Android TV, a quad-core processor, 2GB of RAM, and 8GB of storage. While the specs may not seem impressive in 2021, that’s enough power to handle 4K at 60fps. It also supports HDR. Video quality is a significant step above the lower-end Xiaomi Mi TV Stick.
The Xiaomi Mi Box S offers Android TV in a larger form factor, instead of going the dongle route. Unlike its smaller brother the Mi TV Stick, the Mi Box S supports 4K HDR video quality at 60fps, which is on par with similarly priced competitors. It even gets close to the video quality of the Nvidia Shield TV. Audio is also reliable thanks to Dolby Audio and DTS 2.0 support.
Android TV buyer’s guide: All you need to know about Google’s TV platform
As with the Xiaomi Mi TV Stick, you get a clean stock Android TV experience. There are no additions like you’d find with the TiVo Stream 4K, and it lacks Google Chromecast’s newer Google TV UI. We can consider this a good or a bad thing, depending on your tastes. If you’re coming from an older Android TV device though, you’ll find the experience extremely familiar. That also means you can expect the usual extras like Chromecast support, which lets you send content from your mobile device directly to the Android TV player.
This simplicity in design extends to the remote as well. While TiVo added a bunch of extra buttons to their streamer’s remote, the Mi Box S’ remote is super easy to use. There are your typical power and volume buttons, some shortcuts to Amazon Prime Video and Netflix, and even a handy button that lets you summon Google Assistant to find out what’s on or to even ask simple questions or control your smart home.
What’s not so good?
If we’re being honest, the bad outweighs the good when it comes to performance. We had the same general experience with the Mi TV Stick, which isn’t surprising as the Mi Box S uses the same processor, just with an extra gigabyte of RAM (2GB total). While we feel the Mi Box S performs better than the Stick, both the Chromecast with Google TV and the TiVo Stream 4K outperform it while coming in $10 to $15 less, respectively, than the Mi Box S’ $60 retail price.
The remote is actually pretty decent, but it’s not as small and attractive as the Google Chromecast with Google TV remote, or as functional as TiVo’s more ergonomic remote. As a small aside, we also found it annoying that Mi didn’t even include the couple AAA batteries required. Remotes usually include the first set of batteries, and so this seems like a cheap move for a product that’s already on the pricey side.
Xiaomi Mi Box S review: Should I buy it?
It’s hard to recommend the Xiaomi Mi Box S when it doesn’t do enough to differentiate itself from the competition. In fact, it’s more expensive than its main competitor, the Chromecast with Google TV, and we know many of you might also enjoy the upgrade to the Google TV UI. Google’s device also outperforms Xiaomi’s, hides better behind a TV, and has a better-designed remote.
Also read: The best Android TV devices
As for other alternatives, the TiVo Stream 4K offers better video quality and faster performance at a lower price. If you’re willing to step outside of the Android TV ecosystem there are also great options from Roku and Amazon’s Fire TV range.
If the price was right we could see its place in the market. Considering its performance, capabilities, and current price — there are better choices out there.