Xiaomi is slowly but surely making its foray into the lifestyle segment in India. In 2015, the brand launched the Mi Band series of fitness bands in the country, and in 2016 we got the Mi Air Purifier 2. Then in 2017 Xiaomi rolled out its wireless router (the Mi Router 3C), and 2018 saw the biggest launch yet: TVs. Then in 2019 the brand debuted its Mi Water Purifier in the market.
Xiaomi sold over 4 million TVs in India in the last two years, consolidating its position as the number one smart TV maker in the country. While the Mi TV series is obviously an easy recommendation if you want an affordable smart TV that offers great value, not everyone is willing to upgrade their existing TVs just to access streaming services. Xiaomi says that 46% of all TVs sold in the country don't have any smart features at all, with that number translating to 34 million units.
Then there's the question of updates on TVs. Most TV manufacturer don't roll out regular updates (looking at you, Sony), so a few years down the line your TV's interface may start getting laggy and not receive new platform updates. This is particularly true for TVs running Android TV; most of these TVs don't get updates after two years. This is where a streaming box like the Xiaomi Mi Box makes all the difference.
This is an interesting launch for Xiaomi, because unlike the U.S., there isn't a decent Android TV streaming box available in India. NVIDIA doesn't sell the Shield TV in India, and aside from a few carrier bundles, there isn't a streaming box based on Android TV from a major manufacturer. That's changing today with the launch of the Mi Box 4K in India.
Xiaomi Mi Box 4K Details
The Mi Box 4K is a streaming box that runs Android TV. While it's launching under a new name in India, it is in fact the Mi Box S that has been available globally for some time now.
It comes with Netflix, Prime Video, Disney+ Hotstar, ZEE5, and YouTube out of the box, and you can always download additional apps from the Play Store. You also get 4K playback with HDR10, Dolby Audio, and DTS 2.0 digital. The streaming box has Chromecast built-in, and it works as a Cast receiver, giving you the ability to cast content from your phone or tablet directly to the streaming box. Think of it as a Chromecast Ultra with an Android TV interface and a remote.
Think of the Mi Box 4K as a Chromecast Ultra with an Android TV interface and a remote control.
Google Assistant is baked into the Mi Box 4K, and you also get a dedicated button on the remote control to invoke Assistant and issue commands. Like the Assistant on your phone, you can use the digital assistant on the Mi Box 4K to control smart home lights, get weather and other updates, and play your favorite TV shows and movies on Netflix and other streaming services.
As for the hardware itself, the Mi Box 4K is powered by an Amlogic S905X SoC with four Cortex A53 cores up to 2.0GHz, 2GB of RAM, and 8GB of storage. That may not be a lot in the context of phones, but it's plenty powerful for a streaming box. You also get a single HDMI 2.0b out, a USB 2.0 port for plugging in storage drives, and digital out. The Mi Box 4K also has Wi-Fi ac and Bluetooth 4.2, giving you the ability to connect your Bluetooth earbuds to the streaming box. And yes, you get a HDMI cable in the box.
The Mi Box 4K works with RM, MOV, VOB, AVI, MKV, TS, and MP4 video formats, and MP3, AAC, WMV, RM, and FLAC audio formats. An interesting addition is the inclusion of Data Saver on the Mi Box S. Xiaomi says it is the first manufacturer to offer the feature on a streaming box, and that is a big deal for markets like India. There's also a data counter, ideal for those tethering using their cellular data.
At the end of the day, the Mi Box 4K is the best way to easily add smarts to your existing TV. It comes with all the streaming services you care about, and with Chromecast built-in and Google Assistant integration, it ticks all the right boxes.
Xiaomi Mi Box 4K 4K HDR10 playback
I've used the Mi Box 4K for well over a year, and while the variant I used was the global model (Mi Box S), it is identical to what Xiaomi is launching in India. While it works as advertised, I ran into a lot of issues with 4K and HDR10 playback. In short, I could not get 4K content to play reliably on the streaming box.
I pointed this out to Xiaomi during the briefing for the Mi Box 4K and was told that there a lot of optimizations were undertaken to fix these issues. So I'm eager to test that out once I get my hands on the India variant of the Mi Box 4K. But if you are eyeing the streaming box, know that the 4K playback may not be all that it's made out to be.
Xiaomi Mi Box 4K Pricing in India
Xiaomi understands the Indian market very well, and therefore it's introducing the Mi Box 4K at a very attractive price point. The streaming box will go on sale in India for just ₹3,499 ($46), which is lower than the $69 retail price the streaming box commands in the U.S.
As I stated earlier, it is a big deal that Xiaomi is bringing the Mi Box 4K to India. There really isn't a good Android TV streaming box in the country, and the Mi Box 4K automatically becomes the go-to option in this category.
For some context, the regular 1080p Chromecast also costs ₹3,499 ($46), and the Mi Box 4K delivers Android TV and a great remote control. Even if you ignore the fact that 4K playback is flaky, the Mi Box 4K is an exciting product for the Indian market.
Xiaomi will kick off sales of the Mi Box 4K from May 11 on Mi.com and offline stores.
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