Review: Xiaomi Mi Box S
The Mi Box S is a big leap into the Android TV market, but not because of its own merits but rather the lack of competition.
You'd be forgiven to think that Xiaomi isn't a big brand. In large parts of the world, the Chinese company is only taking its first steps. Especially in most of western Europe Xiaomi is only known to a rather a small group of tech enthusiasts. The company was called the Apple of China before it went international and has had some considerable success with Android phones.
The Mi Box S
The box itself is rather unpresuming. It's small, about 2 credit cards large and functions as a set-top box. That 'little' box is capable of driving 4K video at 60HZ to your TV or monitor in HDR if you want. And have you noticed yet that its an Android TV box?
In the box you'll find:
- a surprisingly decent remote control
- a user manual
- some batteries
- a power adapter
- a HDMI Cable
Driving the Mi Box S is a rather old quadcore processor (Cortex-A53) with 2GB DDR3 memory and a rather small amount of storage (8GB). The processor is capable but isn't exactly what you'd call top-of-the-line. The choice might also not surprise anyone who has been following Xiaomi's set-top boxes from the past. This is the same hardware as the previous version of the box. That gets us to the RAM and the storage, which is again the same as the original Mi Box.
The big difference is the software and especially the fact that Google certified this box and that carries weight. Especially because it gives a lot of hope for future updates. So far the update to Android TV 8.1 has seen the light of day and that did give the Mi Box a new lease on life.
The Conundrum: streaming or gaming
So this box has a rather ancient processor, a limited amount of RAM and not much storage at all. For a streaming box that is just fine. Netflix doesn't take up that much space and it doesn't need too much RAM either.
If you are trying to game on this box, you might be in for a rather harsh time. The Mi Box S is capable of running (some) games decently but that is about it. For about \$/€60-70 you can't expect the world and you sure aren't getting it. If gaming is your intended purpose for this box, buy the Nvidia Shield instead or buy an Xbox or PS4.
If you are into streaming content then the Mi Box S will do nicely, with one big caveat at the moment: the lack of support for Amazon Prime Video. This problem will be solved soon as Google and Amazon have decided to be friends again. Most other services are supported.
As for connections on the box, you'll find that it's a hit and miss. It does support 4K HDR video over its HDMI 2.0A-port and it does have a 3.5mm plug for audio which doubles as an S/PDIF connector. However, it lacks an ethernet port. Thankfully the USB-A port that it does come with can solve that problem in a hurry. But you will be giving up on you expandable storage unless you buy a combined Ethernet/USB hub (like this one).
The Mi Box S is a streaming box and it's not making any excuses at \~70 Dollar/Euro. It can run games but just don't. If you want something akin to an Android console, then there are better options like the Shield TV.
The choice for 8GB of storage is a bit curious. Doubling the storage wouldn't have cost a lot. 8GB is just a bit too much on the lean side. You can expand it with a USB-stick but for all inten
If you are an Amazon Prime customer you are out of luck. That is until Amazon releases the update to their app I mentioned. You won't be able to scroll through the content through an app, but you will be able to use the Chromecast functionality that is built into the Mi Box S.
If you want anything more than a streaming box, then don't buy the Xiaomi but go wild and spend a little more on an Nvidia Shield.
None of the content in this review is sponsored. I bought the product myself. There are no affiliate links in this article, save for the humble banner which helps me cover the cost of my server.