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 (opens in new tab): 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.

Xiaomi Mi Box

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.

The cables are on the short side, but at least they're included.

When it comes to cables, things are as basic as the box itself. The Mi Box ships with an HDMI cable in the box (unlike Amazon's Fire TV) though the cable itself is only about three feet long. The power cord is an integrated unit with a relatively large brick on the outlet end and a barrel connector on the box's end — the cord is also about three feet in length. Considering how inexpensive HDMI cables are it's hard to complain about having a short one in the box, but the short power cord without a standard connector (like USB-C or even Micro-USB) can hamstring the possibilities of placing the box around your entertainment center setup.

Every set top streamer is going to have its little hardware quirks, and the Mi Box overall isn't at any real disadvantage compared to the rest. For most people, simply plugging in the two included cables will be the only physical interaction they have with the Mi Box for months. And the one part of the experience you actually touch, the remote, feels nice enough and performs its intended functions perfectly.

Xiaomi Mi Box software

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.

Android TV really doesn't get enough credit for what it does well.

Android TV still doesn't offer a massive collection of apps, but all of the mainstays are here — Netflix, Hulu, Fox Sports, ESPN, Sling TV, Vudu, Pandora, CBS, Showtime, HBO Go, Plex, VLC ... the list of big names goes on. It is also a fantastic portal for Google's own media services, including YouTube, Google Play Movies & TV and Google Play Music. It's all enhanced further by the inclusion of Google Cast support, with tons of additional content offerings there. Though the Mi Box supports Bluetooth game controllers the game offerings just aren't there on Android TV — but to be fair the likes of the Fire TV haven't taken the gaming world by storm either.

I don't think Android TV gets enough credit for being a really good-looking and easy-to-use interface with most of the big-name apps that the average person is looking for. And when it's paired with the right hardware I'd take it over the competition, especially if you're at all hooked into the Google services ecosystem.

Xiaomi Mi Box resolution

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.

Xiaomi Mi Box

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 (opens in new tab) with better performance, near-identical content offerings and also a full remote, or a Roku 4 with similar characteristics (opens in new tab). For $30 less than the Mi Box you could snag the simpler Fire TV Stick with a remote (opens in new tab), or Roku's Streaming Stick competitor (opens in new tab).

The Mi Box sits in a weird middle ground; one that doesn't have many potential customers.

That puts the Mi Box in a weird middle ground, where it only really appeals to diehard Android fans who love Android TV itself, shunning boxes and sticks from Amazon and Roku, but also don't want to lay out the cash for something like the NVIDIA Shield Android TV. Because if you look just at performance and interaction with Google's ecosystem, the Chromecast Ultra is a better bet; and if you look at performance and availability of a remote while also having almost the exact same content offerings, Amazon and Roku offer better choices.

2.5 out of 5

Xiaomi's Mi Box (opens in new tab) is a very interesting offering that can succeed as a low-selling streamer that appeals to those who want Android TV exclusively and don't want to pay much for it. But as the flag-bearer that is the only recently released Android TV box, it lets down the ecosystem with its inconsistent performance and will not steal many customers away from Amazon, Roku and Google itself.

More: Where to buy the Xiaomi Mi Box

Andrew Martonik

Andrew was an Executive Editor, U.S. at Android Central between 2012 and 2020.

  • How does it play with external Hard drives?
  • Same as any other modern Android TV box — you can plug in external storage and have it adopted by the system and used as if it were internal storage. The Mi Box doesn't let you plug in USB storage and just browse, though ... you'll have to use a file manager of some sort at that point, which is clunky on a TV.
  • On my Nexus player I use an OTG cable to connect a USB/Ethernet hub and have a wireless keyboard as well as external storage installed. It is pretty handy since I installed the Opera browser. I'm kind of surprised Mi doesn't include a file manager. Would that be against Google TV rules? Getting the file manager was the most difficult part of the Nexus Player set up. I agree with others on the KODI aspect of the device. KODI is simply the Swiss Army Knife of media streamers.
  • Sure you could plug in a powered USB hub and put multiple USB devices into it if you want. It's just a standard USB-A port. And it's not hard to install a file manager on an Android TV. There are several, including ES File Manager, that let you install it right from the Play Store website remotely to the TV. Then you can browse external storage. But again, that's not really what Android TV was designed to do, so that's why Google doesn't include a file browser.
  • Oh I understand why Google doesn't include a file browser. I was curious why Xiaomi didn't add one. Google limit everything you do to eliminate as much support hassle as possible. Ever try to install Chrome on Windows to a drive other than C:? Google doesn't allow it.
  • In my opinion the Mi Box is a GREAT option for Kodi users!  No more side loading, or trickery to get a icon.  You just download Kodi from the Play store on your box.  ;)  I agree with Andrew you need to dial the settings to 1080, BUT that's all my TV supports anyways.  ;)
  • This x 1000. I guess Andrew doesn't use Kodi/SPMC, which is a shame. This Mi Box with Kodi > Chromecast Ultra > Sheild TV > Fire TV/Stick > Any Roku > Apple TV. Opens up a world of possibilities that a Chromecast can't even sniff at.
  • So a slight edit should be suggested then: the MI box is perfect for people who really want Android tv on the cheap and people who use kodi.
  • Or: "If you're not using Kodi, you're doing it wrong". LOL
  • I'm sure that you can upload Kodi to the Fire TV Stick (I've done it twice). If Shield TV has Android or Android TV, ditto. With the Chromecast you can have Kodi on your Android phone/tablet and cast it.
  • You're right. I got ahead of myself. LOL. The Shield TV are better than all of these. But I'll take the Mi Box over the Fire TV/Stick any day since it also supports Chromecast. But casting your Kodi instance from your phone or tablet to a Chromecast is definitely a subpar experience. I've done it before.
  • I cast Kodi from my tablet to my Chromecasts, and the experience is little different from having the same UI on the big screen. Using the correct Kodi extension and Localcast makes it easy peasy. No screen mirroring required!
  • But Kodi on the Shield TV is absolute butter. You download it directly from the play store without side loading. It sounds like you think the Mi box is the only set top that can load Kodi from the Play Store. That's not true. Also, installing the plugin to remove caching in Kodi stopped all buffering for me. Kodi on Shield TV is really hard to beat unless you are running it on a gaming PC.
  • Same comment from above. You're right. I got ahead of myself. LOL. The Shield TV are better than all of these. But I'll take the Mi Box over the Fire TV/Stick any day since it also supports Chromecast.
  • Just bought IdroidnationPro(definite upgrade from old 4.4 kit Kat box) , works fine so far. Had to uninstall kodi-17, then install kodi-16.1. Runs smoother. Can u give me a quick tutorial about the plugin u installed?
  • Other than watching torrents, what feature does Kodi have over stock Android TV?
  • There's too many to list. But the power of Kodi is really in the thousands of add-ons that are available for it. On top of that it supports UPnP and DLNA to stream music/pics/videos from your PC. You can also watch and record live TV (use it as a DVR). Supports the playback of almost any unencrypted audio or video format you can imagine.
  • Kodi + nvidia shield
  • but with nvidia shield i need to stream from my pc right? that doesnt work when its 2 floors up in the office, and the TV is in the basement. or am i missing something?
  • nvm just watched some youtubes .... and now im going to bestbuy.
  • Not sure how you justify that ranking. The Shield TV is just as capable, and can "actually" do 4K. Unless of course price is your #1 factor. But then other stuff is out of place...
  • Agreed. I have the Mi Box and it gets the job done for Kodi, far better than my FireStick. Its really fast and it works.
  • Kodi download natively to Android TV from the Play Store, you don't have to sideload it.
  • This review makes me very glad that I picked up a Shield TV during Amazon's last Prime Day sale. Also, one correction. The Shield TV doesn't come with a remote. It comes with a gamepad that works just fine for controlling media playback, but if you want a more traditionally-styled remote control like the one that the Mi Box ships with, you have to shell out a ridiculous $50.
  • They started offering the Shield Android TV with a remote instead of a controller mid-life, didn't they? Though all the listings for the Shield are out of stock at this point ... hard to know what was available when i was last looking. Point is taken, though.
  • Mine came with the remote and the GamePad and I didn't pay extra
  • Ah, interesting. Looks like they started offering several packages later on. I just checked my Amazon order out of curiosity, and mine shipped with *two* gamepads. I guess I just forgot about the second one because I never play multiplayer games on this thing.
  • Regarding the peformance at 4K, could the issue be the loading on the wireless it's attached to and not the box itself?
  • No, it's a hardware/software problem. The issues with 4K exist even playing local content and navigating the UI, nothing to do with the network.
  • Anyone use Vue with this box? I am curious how it performs at 1080p (not quite ready to move to 4k).
  • PlayStation Vue performance beautifully on the shield.
  • Vudu has an Android TV app now? I'll have to check that out when I get home because I could never find it. I had to resort to casting Vudu to my Nexus Player which can be iffy.
  • They do, and it works really well on the Shield TV. But it's not compatible with the Nexus Player, maybe because the device had already been discontinued by the time the app was released.
  • The Play Store telling you the app is not compatible and the apps compatibility are not the same thing. If an app isn't "optimized" for Android TV then the play store will tell you it isn't compatible. You can sideload it and there is a good chance it will work just fine but it may not fill the entire screen or it may require the use of a KB/mouse. It also might not generate a tile to click on so you need an app like SideLoad Launcher to create a folder tile where all you sideloaded apps can be launched. I've installed numerous apps this way and they work just fine on my Nexus Player.
  • Xioami knew this was underpowered for 4k. 1080p is fine but so basically every other option.
  • I have a mygica 1800 and Chromecast.The advantage over using Chromecast is that you can use vpn apps to watch content outside your region.
    All the movie , tv and music apps I have on my phone work fine. I even put nova launcher on it to improve the look of the standard android tv . I have a remote but find a keyboard and mouse way easier. Sideload the right apps and you don't even need to use Kodi.
  • Love mine.
  • Either I got a defected unit or something but this thing struggles playing 720p60 video after you leave it on standby for a few hours, after you reboot it does 60fps fine. It's not wifi that's the issue, I tried Ethernet thru USB as well Then you have software bugs preventing the adoptable storage process to fully complete. The process is suppose to change the mounting point to the storage device with more space so data would install there instead of the 5gb of available storage built in. Not to mention a lot of people can't use Netflix on it and neither Xiaomi or Netflix has a solution. Hell I can't even cast Netflix to it from my phone anymore... If you're just looking for a media device which this thing is with all the bugs that likely won't get fixed for a long while, get a Chromecast...
  • Cord cutters. The Mi Box includes Google Live Channels App. If you pair that with one of the HDHOmerun products, you get an awesome program guide only available on Android TV. It might not do 4K great, but for $69 a TV you no longer have to rent an HD Cable box. If Your require a DVR then get a Plex Pass and use Plex DVR. It is a moderate initial investment but you'll never have to pay to rent cable boxes again.
  • No Vudu app for Android TV. At least... I cant find it for my Nexus Player
  • Must be a supported devices restriction? Shows up on my Mi Box. (But also shows as not compatible with my Shield Android TV.)
  • I have two miboxes and love them. I don't care if they are not the most powerful machines, since I only use it to stream Netflix, Sling, Hulu, etc. and play Android games and old school games on emulator. I wouldn't think twice before recommending it.
  • Andrew, do you know what is the actual chip in this box? How does it compare with the likes of amlogic S912 in some of these new Chinese Android boxes? Thanks
  • I believe this is a MediaTek chip. I don't know anything about the amlogic S912.
  • It is an AmLogic S905 variant (cpu revision comes up as r0p4 in AIDA).
  • Assuming that this link has accurate information, this is the processor: Amlogic S905X-H quad core ARM Cortex-A53 @ up to 2.0GHz with penta-core Mali-450MP GPU @ 750 MHz http://www.cnx-software.com/2016/05/19/xiaomi-mi-box-comes-to-the-us-wit...
  • Yea I saw this also but didn't want to post as I didn't know if that is accurate info too. Do you have any experience with these Chinese boxes that include this chip (the S912)?
  • "Xiaomi's Mi Box is a very interesting offering that can succeed as a low-selling streamer that appeals to those who want Android TV exclusively and don't want to pay much for it. But as the flag-bearer that is the only recently released Android TV box, it lets down the ecosystem with its inconsistent performance and will not steal many customers away from Amazon, Roku and Google itself." What am I missing here? Based on spec alone, pound for pound, the MiBox does basically all the major things the Chromecast does Andrew on the dominate screen resolution we have today. 4K has a way to go before it is a standard resolution for the majority of us that use a TV. 99 percent of available broadcasts are in 1080p and 720p. A fraction hit 4K. I know these boxes want to sell product with the 4K "chatter" but we are simply not living in a 4K world yet.
  • I love my Mi Box. The only app not working that I've thrown at it is the Amazon video app, and I'm sure I'll figure that one out soon. I really love the fact that I can use my Dish Anywhere app to watch live TV or media from my DVR if I'm out of town. Also, being able to use my Bluetooth headphones while my wife is sleeping next to me in bed has been great. I have nothing capable of 4K, so it's not something I particularly care about. All I can say is that I've really enjoyed this little streamer whether using the remote or even casting from my phone, tablet, or computer. Unless something crazy happens with the box, I can't imagine regretting this purchase in any way.
  • Had my box for a couple of weeks and its great . I side loaded the amazon apk from XDA via a usb stick with no issues. I run a VPN service on the box and it works well but to get Amazon to work I have to shut it off. That the only issue, enjoy
  • I've had the Mi for two weeks and it works great. Creating a windows share makes sideloading a breeze. Any idea where I can get the prime video apk? Xda has blocked i had it working and lost with factory reset. Any help would be appreciated.
  • Hi there, I brought a MI BOX over the holidays with a hope to install Dish Anywhere and Comcast app and reduce my bill. Can you please advise as to how to install Dish anywhere you mentioned in your review?
  • HBO GO: Can anyone play two episodes of anything without rebooting? (Both HBO support and Xiaomi support pretty much gave me the "we don't care" response.) Mi box is enabling me to cut the cable cord, even though it's not perfect. It's definitely good enough, and I enjoy it more than using a chromecast.
  • Man, I love the IDEA of this player. 4K, 60 fps HDR playback for 70 dollars US! The reality is a complete ripoff though. Serious issues with Netflix, HBO GO, 4K playback, 4K menu performance and adoptable storage. On top of that, bad customer support and a lack of timely updates. At least Xiaomi and the various retailers selling the product are not shy to refund anyone's money. I'll give them credit for that. Also, it doesn't explode or catch on fire, it just can't do a lot of the things it's supposed to do without dropping frames, lagging or freezing up.
  • My main reasons for purchasing the Mi Box was to run Kodi and Plex. At 1080P, it looks fantastic. I won't be getting my 4K set for a few months. So, if it's software causing the 4K issues, maybe they'll patch it. If not, I'll buy something else for the 4K set, and move the Mi Box to the master bedroom, along with XBR9. I don't care about how this box performs, with the exception of Kodi and Plex...And I haven't been disappointed. I mean, seriously...It's only $69.00.
  • I would appreciate your insights-- I brought a MI BOX over the holidays hoping to install Dish Anywhere and Comcast app and reduce my equipment charges and trim extra fees. Though, when I try to install it using Play Store, none of the app shows up as available to install...any thoughts?
  • It's not the box itself it's the OS ( Operating System ) on the box . Comcast , Time Warner Cable (TWC) along with their new Parent Co. AKA " Spectrum " have refused to create an App for streaming boxes that use the Android TV ( notice the TV part ! ) OS . Big difference in platforms between Android and Android TV apps , we would think that after a few years of many complaints and loss of revenue ( as many have moved on to other Resources ) would persuade this Mega Corp. to quit with their Monopolized Restrictions over Viewers choices .