It is quite common to switch your smartphone every two or three years due to the rapid improvement in screen, charging, battery life and performance. However, two years is not much in the normal life cycle of a television, and many people are probably still using non-smart televisions that are five or more years old. Similarly, you can have a smart TV too, but bad software, lack of updates or poor app support have crippled your ability to watch online content. None of this is necessarily reason enough to buy a new TV altogether.
Xiaomi’s latest product, the Mi Box 4K, serves exactly that purpose. 3,499, the Mi Box 4K is a compact table-top streaming device that plugs into your TV’s HDMI port and makes it smart. Alternatively, it can also make a smart TV ‘smart’ with better software and app support. How does this affordable streaming box work, and what can you do with it? Find out in our review.
Who is Mi Box 4K for?
Xiaomi entered the smart television space in India with the Mi TV 4 55 in early 2018, and has established itself as one of the top brands in the industry thanks to its competitive pricing. However, in a little over two years, the Mi TV 4 55 hasn’t been receiving the latest Android TV update, and anyone who uses its smart functionality will be worried about what’s to come. Smart TVs that aren’t receiving software updates may lose support for major apps and services, or become slow to the point of being nearly impossible to use.
Another possible use case is for someone using a TV that was never smart in the beginning. Maybe you were happy with DTH and Cable TV till now, but now you want to give streaming services a shot. One way to do this is to buy a new television, but that won’t be an affordable option, and you might even feel bad about getting rid of a fully functional model before its time.
The Mi Box 4K runs the current version of Android TV – version 9 Pie – and is assured of an update to the next version when it rolls out. This naturally gives the device access to Android TV’s extensive collection of apps and games, all of which can be accessed and used with your HDMI-enabled TV.
How does Mi Box 4K work?
Like some of our favorite streaming devices, the Mi Box 4K is a standalone unit with its own capabilities and functions, resembling the Apple TV 4K when it comes to the form factor. It needs to be connected to the TV using the included HDMI cable and a power outlet. Once this is done, the Mi Box 4K is ready to be turned on and installed. Connectivity to the Internet is via Wi-Fi only, with Bluetooth 4.2 also supported for pairing with audio devices, game controllers, and the included remote.
Once you’ve got everything set up – including connecting your Google Account – the Mi Box 4K acts as a smart interface, sending picture and sound signals to your TV. If necessary, you can connect external speakers to the device using the Audio Out port on the Mi Box 4K, bypassing your TV’s speakers. It’s a hybrid port, so you can connect a digital or analog audio device to it to redirect sound.
The device is powered by a quad-core Amlogic processor, and packs 2GB of RAM and 8GB of internal storage for apps. As the name suggests, the Mi Box 4K supports streaming up to 4K resolution, as well as supports high dynamic range up to HDR10 format.
The Mi Box 4K has its own remote, which is used to navigate around the interface, open apps, and adjust volume, among other things. The remote is very similar to the Mi TV range, but slightly different to reflect the difference in software. While the Mi TV remote has a ‘Mi’ button to quickly access the PatchWall launcher, the Mi Box 4K remote has an app drawer button, as it only runs on Android TVs without PatchWall.
The remote connects to the device using Bluetooth, and is powered by two AAA batteries. As is the case with some of the Mi TV variants we reviewed recently, the battery is not included in the sales package, which is disappointing. The remote lacks a mute button, and its build quality is less than ideal. With HDMI CEC working, our TV remote control didn’t do everything on the Mi Box 4K, only with basic navigation.
What can you do with Mi Box 4K?
Like other standalone streaming devices, the Mi Box 4K gives you access to a vast collection of apps and games that you can use on your TV. Some apps are preinstalled on the Mi Box 4K, such as Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and YouTube, while others can be installed from the Google Play Store for Android TV. Apps for Android TV are among the most popular streaming services in India, and all the popular options worked well for us on the Mi Box 4K.
Like most Android TV devices, the Mi Box 4K comes with Google Chromecast functionality. It is similar to Chomecast Ultra, and supports casting at 4K resolution. You can mirror your screen or cast directly from supported apps on compatible devices. Interestingly, you can also plug a USB drive into the Mi Box 4K to play local content. Oddly, we didn’t find a preinstalled media player app, but the popular file manager app on the Google Play Store for Android TV was able to play content in a variety of file formats and resolutions, including HDR content.
The Mi Box 4K supports streaming up to 4K resolution, with support for HDR up to the HDR10 standard. The lack of support for the improved Dolby Vision standard is disappointing, and holds the Mi Box 4K a bit behind, especially considering that some TVs cost Rs. 30,000 now support the 12-bit standard.
HDR10 is good enough if your TV can handle it, and Netflix and Amazon Prime Video let you play all HDR10 content. Dolby Audio is also supported on the device, and this will come in handy when connected to a TV or sound system that also supports the audio format.
There’s also Google Assistant on the Mi Box 4K along with a dedicated button and microphone on the remote. It worked pretty much as expected. It can be connected to other Google Assistant devices for voice commands like Google Home. If you are using a mobile hotspot or other internet connection with a data cap, the Mi Box 4K has a data saver function that will help you monitor and reduce bandwidth consumption while streaming.
The Xiaomi Mi Box 4K isn’t necessarily what many people will need or want, but it serves its specific purpose impressively. While this isn’t the first Android TV-powered streaming device in India, it’s probably the only one that offers the full stock experience without any significant omissions or brand-centric overlays. It’s also 4K and HDR capable, which is a huge advantage at its price.
The biggest competition for the Mi Box 4K comes from the Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K. Although much more expensive at Rs. 5,999, the Fire TV Stick 4K supports apps like Apple TV that are not available on Android TV, and works with the improved Dolby Vision format. That said, the Fire TV Stick 4K finally finds a worthy competitor to the Mi Box 4K, which offers almost as much through capabilities at half the price.
Price (MRP): Rupee. 3,499
- Full blown Android TV, no bloatware
- 4K and HDR capable
- Hybrid audio out and USB port
- very good value
- Remote build quality is not ideal
- HDMI CEC doesn’t work at all
- no dolby vision
Rating (out of 5)
- Design and Specification: 4
- Features: 4
- Value for money: 4.5
- Overall: 4
Mi TV 4X vs Vu Cinema TV: Which is the best budget TV in India right now? We discussed this on Orbital, our weekly technology podcast, which you can subscribe to via Apple Podcasts either RSSDownload the episode, or just hit the play button below.