Android TV boxes haven't gotten much attention over the last two years. NVIDIA dominates this segment with the Shield TV, which not only plays 4K content but also streams games with ease. But the Shield TV starts off at $190 and isn't available globally. For a majority of users looking to pick up an affordable Android TV box, the default option is Xiaomi's Mi Box S.
I used the first-gen Mi Box for just over a year, and it isn't an exaggeration to say that it was the worst Xiaomi product I used. I often joked that I had Xiaomi's worst product connected to its best — the Mi Laser Projector. The Mi Box would constantly freeze, and it got to a point where I had to reboot it every single time before I could stream any content.
So when Xiaomi released a newer version of the Mi Box, I was excited. The Mi Box S shares the same hardware as its predecessor, but it runs Oreo out of the box and comes with a voice remote that lets you launch your favorite TV shows and movies by issuing voice commands to Google Assistant.
Considering the amount of issues I had with the Mi Box, I wanted to use the Mi Box S for a few months before writing a review. So with three solid months of usage under the belt, here's what I think of Xiaomi's latest Android TV box.
- Great value
- Brand-new remote control
- Streams 1080p content without any issues
- Google Assistant built-in
- 4K streaming is laggy
- Cast doesn't work when box is off
The Mi Box S has a pretty basic design: it's just a rectangular box made out of plastic with rounded edges. The reason for its boxy design is a larger heat sink that does a much better job dissipating heat away from the internal hardware. Round the back you have ports for power, audio-out, USB drive, and HDMI 2.0a.
There's no dedicated Ethernet port, but it has a newer Wi-Fi ac 2x2 MIMO module that does a much better job staying connected to your home Wi-Fi network. I had a lot of issues with Wi-Fi connectivity on the Mi Box, but that just wasn't the case on the Mi Box S — it had rock-solid connectivity throughout.
As for the hardware on offer, the Mi Box S is powered by an Amlogic S905X SoC that has four Cortex A53 cores clocked up to 2.0GHz. There's 2GB of RAM and 8GB of internal storage, and if the specs look familiar, it's because they haven't changed from the Mi Box.
You do get a new remote with dedicated buttons for Netflix and invoking Google Assistant. The Assistant integration allows you to quickly launch TV shows or play videos on YouTube by issuing voice commands. The interface itself is identical to what you'd find on any Android TV device, and you get access to Play Store to download thousands of apps optimized for the TV.
I primarily used the Mi Box S with the 1080p Mi Laser Projector. Although the Mi Box S shares the same hardware as its predecessor, I didn't see any performance issues. A lot of that has to do with the fact that the device runs Android 8.1 Oreo out of the box, which has numerous bug fixes baked in.
Furthermore, Xiaomi has done a much better job issuing updates to the Mi Box S. I got two updates laden with bug fixes in the three months I used the device, and with Xiaomi committing to rolling out constant updates, the Mi Box S will be assured to get the latest Android TV builds as they become available.
That said, the entire experience falls apart when you try to stream 4K content. I hooked up the Mi Box S to Xiaomi's 4K Mi TV Pro, and the interface immediately started to lag.
The internal hardware is to blame here — it just doesn't have the grunt to push 4K HDR content. So if you're looking for a sub-$100 streaming device for 4K content, you're better off going with Roku or Amazon.
Another area where the Mi Box S falls short is casting videos from your phone. As it is an Android TV device, it works as a Cast target. The only downside is that the feature is only enabled when the box itself is switched on, which defeats the purpose altogether. My Sony Android TV shows up as a Cast target even when the screen is off, but I have to manually turn on the Mi Box S before it shows up in the list.
Xiaomi Mi Box S Bottom line
The Mi Box S isn't quite as capable as the Shield TV, but then again it costs less than a third of what NVIDIA charges for its streaming box. If you're looking for an affordable Android TV box to stream 1080p content, it is the default option right now.
The remote is a great new addition, and aside from the fact that it doesn't handle 4K content, I had no issues with the Mi Box S. If you're looking for a streaming solution that reliably plays 4K HDR content, you'll have to look to Amazon or Roku.
Harish Jonnalagadda is a Senior Editor overseeing Asia at Android Central. He leads the site's coverage of Chinese phone brands, contributing to reviews, features, and buying guides. He also writes about storage servers, audio products, and the semiconductor industry. Contact him on Twitter at @chunkynerd.
I hear Jetstream one at Walmart does better
Got the Jetstream. I love it. Haven't been able to cast on it. Was thinking external hard drive via USB for Plex server. Still messing with it.
If you are having difficulty casting on the Jetstream trying clearing data and reboot. Worked for me. I liked the Jetstream so much that I bought a second one. Having an ethernet port makes streaming that much better too.
> The Mi Box S is much better than its predecessor This doesn't really make sense to me. The boxes are almost identical except the original had an IR receiver, and the new one has a remote with a few more buttons. Xiaomi are still supporting the original box with updates -- it actually received the latest patches for issues that were on both boxes a short while before the MiBox S. I will say that those patches were long overdue, though. There's still a big issue that affects me and is on both versions of the MiBox, where videos with DolbyDigital+ get audio dropouts on my receiver. This wasn't the case with the previous Nougat OS. Kodi can transcode from DD+ to DD on the fly, which works well for me. For other sources (e.g. Play movies, Netflix), I have to just force it in to stereo instead.
i have a mibox 3 which is identical and the last product.
if he had that than the remote is Bluetooth not IR as you mentioned. yes those audio issues you mentioned are the problems that should have been in a proper review.
my mibox 3 now properly decodes dd+ to dd after the latest update.
one problem still remains is DTS that still borked and convert to DD though works fine via kodi. i use plex and emby with sony receiver.
I use my Google home to turn it on with voice, and then I can cast easily.
I have a Sheild TV and two Mi Box S's. The Mi box S is a far better experience. The remote is way better on the Mi Box S.
this is not a review, it's like the general nit picks you get after a week using any product. you failed to mention what streaming service you're having issues with?
did you tried any local 4k content to check the 4k issues?
does any of your 4k content was lagging or just the navigation menu/screen? i never turned the device off so no idea if it wakes up or not for me. that could be annoying at best.
Netflix 4K And YouTube 4K work great for me. Get USB to Ethernet adapter. Kodi and teatv work excellent as well.
I bought the MI S for $60 from Walmart and use it for streaming 1080p video on plex over my crappy 2.4ghz wifi and it works like a charm! Chromecast support works but I prefer the plex options. My previous box was the old Google nexus TV disk which was slow and crashy. The MI box s is responsive and very crash proof in comparison.
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