Mi Box by Xiaomi might be most surprising roll out for streaming media players this fall
Xiaomi’s Mi Box seems to be taking a shot at just about every potential competitor in the set top box market.
If you’ve ever seen the movie X-Men Origins: Wolverine, the Mi Box is kind of like the Weapon XI character that absorbed all the cool powers of other mutants.
Mi Box operates with 4K Android TV, the same software used for the NVIDIA Shield TV. The Shield is known as arguably the most powerful 4K Android streamer on the market, but it comes with a $200 price tag.
Mi Box is being sold exclusively at Wal-Mart at less than half that price. And if you order it through their web site, shipping is free. You can access apps like Netflix and YouTube and stream 4K content. Mi Box streams up to 60 frames per second in High Dynamic Resolution (HRD).
5 facts about Xiaomi Mi Box
- Uses Google Cast
- Remote control has Google Voice
- Powered by Android TV 6.0
- Streams Sling TV or PlayStation Vue
- 5GHz bandwidth/HDR 10
Fans of the Nexus Player will likely admire (and perhaps even buy) the Mi Box because of their Android TV kinship. Streaming app favorites like Kodi and Plex are present on Mi Box and on point. Google’s Live Channels app also lets you watch live over-the-air channels. The app also brings in web-based feeds from platforms like Pluto TV.
Mi Box games, superior voice remote to Fire TV and Roku
For fans of Android games, Mi Box can access many of the same titles via the Google Play store that you can play on NVIDIA Shield TV. The Mi Box game remote is sold separately, but third party controllers are also compatible.
Not to leave any competitor untouched, Mi Box also comes with Google Cast technology. Google Cast is best known as the technology that supports Google Chromecast. It allows people to share TV shows, music and games from a smartphone or tablet to a TV.
Mi Box also has features that are distinctly its own.
With Mi’s voice remote, there was one feature that impressed me, which my Amazon Fire TV voice-powered remote does not have. If a user says to the Mi remote, “What’s the name of that movie where Jim Carrey gets his memory is erased?”
The Mi Box pulls up “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind” ready to watch on Google Play. My Amazon Fire TV can’t do that, and neither can Roku. Generally, I would need to say a show’s title, or the name of an actor or director for a Roku or Amazon Fire TV remote. It’s a feature that you will also see on NVIDIA Shield TV.
Users of SPMC have also discovered that you can use voice as well. Mi Box also has volume control on its remote control.
Mi Box vs. Roku, Fire TV, NVIDIA Shield
The two companies that may have the most to worry about are Roku and NVIDIA Shield TV.
That’s because of Mi Box is being sold for $69, a price far lower than a number of competitors while offering many of their best features mentioned above.
If you have never bought a media streaming box, and are trying to figure out what to buy, let me give you a quick snapshot of today’s streaming landscape.
There’s a wave of new media streaming devices that came to the market this fall. Many of them are geared at being the next great device for watching High Dynamic Range (HDR) video content on TVs with 4K resolution.
The Roku Ultra comes with HDR and 4K streaming along with a voice-search feature on its remote for $129. The Roku Premiere+ has HDR and 4K streaming at $99. Google Chromecast Ultra ($69) is offering 4K streaming with HDR, but without a remote. You can use your smartphone as a remote instead. Amazon Fire TV occupies the 4K space as well, but Apple TV does not.
You can check out our review here on Roku Premiere+, and why it’s a worthy competitor for Mi Box.
Mi Box offering $50 coupon to try Sling TV
Xiaomi Mi Box is exclusively being sold at Wal-Mart. But your best bet in getting your hands on a Mi Box may be by ordering it online. The Chinese-based company is making an aggressive push into the U.S. market with a tempting $76 coupon package that’s included with a Mi Box purchase. Customers get a $50 credit towards trying out at least a couple of months of Sling TV. A 3-month trial of Pandora and $5 credit with movie-streaming service Vudu is also included.
Mi Box channels with Android TV
There is another side of the streaming box market that manufacturers like Roku and Amazon are trying to dominate.
With the streaming box market still in its infancy, manufacturers also want to be the brand that is the entry point for new consumers not wanting to spend a lot of money. The price point here is the $30 to $40 range.
Two of the new Roku models, the Roku Express and Express+, want to attract TV consumers that have yet to discover the joys of delving into streaming services that are turning the cable TV industry on its head.
When Roku announced their new lineup of devices three weeks ago, the secondary narrative lost in the shuffle was about the content bonanza. Roku now has 100+ streaming channels, offering movies, TV shows and music.
Mi Box squarely places itself in the middle of low-to-high price points in the streaming box landscape. It doesn’t have the hardware that tech enthusiasts love with the NVIDIA Shield TV, but it offers hundreds of channels and games found on Android TV boxes.
Mi Box uses wireless 5GHz bandwidth
I prefer to use an Ethernet connection at home with an Amazon Fire TV. I do this because it gives me an unwavering feed from PlayStation Vue and my other apps. You will need a USB Ethernet adapter to do it with Mi Box. But I was impressed to see that Mi Box supports wireless streaming from 5GHz bandwidth. My reviews of the best WiFi extenders and best wireless modems for cord cutters stress the importance of having 5GHz capability.
Mi Box demonstrates first hand what’s possible with the faster 5GHz Internet signal. Just make sure you have the right equipment (like a 4K television) in your home to receive the full benefit of a 5GHz connection.
Mi Box has only 8GB of internal storage so you can fill it up fairly easily with apps and games. So a thumb drive might be in order for expanded storage.
Does Sling TV work on Mi Box?
Yes, if you’re a Sling TV fan, you’re in luck. If you are satisfied with a Sling TV channel lineup, Mi Box could be a great option for a household that opts for live streaming TV instead of traditional cable.
Sony announced on Oct. 27 that PlayStation Vue now works on Android TV running Android OS 4.4 or higher.
There is no support for Amazon Prime or iTunes. If Mi Box wants to play the long game in the streaming market, those holes will need to eventually be filled in.
That said, there are some fairly interesting discussions happening about side loading apps on the Mi Box that are worth checking out.
But starting with Sling TV at least offers one option for cord cutters. The Live TV app integration with HDHomerun is a great option for cord cutters as well.
HDR is the future of television. The vast spectrum of brightness and color is like nothing we’ve ever seen before. But like with all leaps in technology, it isn’t that simple. There’s a bit of a format war going on among TV manufacturers. There are currently two standards of HDR. One format is HDR10, the other is Dolby Vision.
HDR10 is the leading standard at the moment, and that’s what you’ll get with a Mi Box, the new Roku Premiere+, Roku Ultra and Chromecast Ultra.
Check out more detailed stats on the Mi Box here at the Wal-Mart web site. If you bought a new Mi Box, drop us a comment below and let other readers know what you think about it. You can also buy a Mi Box game controller now at eBay.