If you’re in the market for a streaming box to up the smarts on your TV, whether it’s already smart or not. It’s also one of the more affordable Android TV boxes, which makes it just that much more desirable. We really enjoyed the fact that it has Chromecast built-in, which gives you more control over screen-sharing and Google Assistance. Other than that, it’s got a stellar library of apps that’ll impress just about any veteran streamer. You can get the Xiaomi Mi Box S from various retailers for R1,200.
Buying a TV box could be a hit or miss, as most of them are mass-produced and run on iffy software. Your best bet right now it opting for a certified Android box. That’s if you’re not leaning toward the Apple TV. Xiaomi’s range of Mi Boxes offer some great specs at the fraction of the price of other Android boxes, but are they any good?
We got our hands on the Mi Box S that retails for R1,200 from various retailers. And you know what? It’s a great piece of tech that could up your streaming game. Even if you have a smart TV. We know it’ll give older-gen TVs a renewed lease on life but could it make a modern smart TV even smarter?
Little black box
At first glance, the Mi Box S looks similar to its predecessor. Only this time, it’s smaller and squarer with rounded corners. On the inside, not much has changed with the Mi Box S sporting a Cortex-A53 Quad-core 64bit CPU, 2GB of RAM, 8GB of built-in storage, 802.11ac Wi-Fi capability and Bluetooth 4.2.
The design of the Mi Box S is simple, as you’d expect from a little black box. It’s got a single HDMI 2.0a, USB 2.0, audio out and a power input located at the back of the box and it’s equally simple to set up. The Mi Box S ships with Android TV 8.1 standard, but we made sure to do a proper update to Android 9 right after setup.
After everything’s set up and ready, the interface is easy enough to navigate if you’ve ever used any Android device. If you haven’t we’re sure you’ll be fine. Just make sure to climb out from under that rock first…
A cool addition is the redesign of the remote control. Contrary to the previous model, this one’s got dedicated Netflix, Live TV and a microphone button. The microphone button is a particularly interesting one because that indicates the Mi Box now has Chromecast built-in, giving you the ability to use Google Assistant voice controls.
The addition of Chromecast is a biggie — because this allows you to connect your TV to your smart home setup. Many lower-budget Smart TV brands still lack Chromecast, which makes it increasingly hard to pair your smart assistant with them. But linking and casting your Google Home (or smartphone’s content) to your TV is streamlined and simple enough for a child to figure out. Little buggers can figure out just about anything with a screen these days.
Disappointingly, the Google Assistant voice controls are unable to wake up the Mi Box S and you physically have to push a button to switch it on before connecting to the Assistant. First World problems, anyone? Asking it to switch off, however, is allowed. The weirdly named Live TV button is equally confusing and currently only allows trailers and rental content from Google TV. So… we rarely used that one.
Dynamite in small packages
Turns out the real power of the Mi Box S is in the Play Store App. Here, you’ll find thousands of apps and games optimised for TV. Netflix, Showmax, Amazon Prime, Spotify, Deezer, Redbull TV and Twitch — you name it, you’ll probably find it. The list of possibilities easily outweighs the content available on our test TV’s LG content store. We even managed to find obscure foreign streaming apps like Viki (for Mandarin series), Tubi, Crunchyroll (need that anime fix) and even Steam Link to jol some games on your TV.
The Mi Box S also apparently sports 4K streaming capabilities. At 1080p content runs smoothly but stream Ultra HDR 4K and you’ll notice unbearable lag with audio and video out of sync. So, we won’t recommend going over 1080p on this little box.
Xiaomi Mi Box S Verdict
If you’re in the market for a streaming box to up the smarts on your TV, whether it’s already smart or not. It’s also one of the more affordable Android TV boxes, which makes it just that much more desirable.
We really enjoyed the fact that it has Chromecast built-in, which gives you more control over screen-sharing and Google Assistance. Other than that, it’s got a stellar library of apps that’ll impress just about any veteran streamer. You can get the Xiaomi Mi Box S from various retailers for R1,200.