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Xiaomi has often acted as an enabler (opens in new tab) for the masses. It did that with smartphones, and is now trying to create ripples with smart connected devices. With an even stronger focus on tech beyond smartphones for 2020, it has been able to make products usually associated with affluence, affordable and accessible. The Mi Box 4K is a quintessential offering following the same belief — bringing a decent Smart TV experience to those who may not have one.
While Xiaomi made a name for itself in the smartphone space, TVs are a very different ballgame. It’s a high involvement product that is shared between multiple users and is not changed nearly as often. This means that the willingness to jump on the Smart TV bandwagon may not always be backed by the ability to purchase. The Mi Box 4K exists to help such consumers.
Xiaomi estimates that about 50% of all modern TVs currently in use are still not Smart TVs. This includes two distinct sets of consumers: Those with a high-end TV that lacks smart features and those with basic TVs that do not offer a great content experience. The Mi Box 4K aims to provide contentment to both of these segments.
It is a simple plug and play solution that injects new life into not-so-Smart TVs. Spoiler alert: It does the job admirably well; Maybe it’s just this period where we all are consuming a lot more content online, or the fact that I fall squarely into the aforementioned target groups of people stuck with an underwhelming Smart TV setup. If you think your TV can do better but is held back by software capabilities, look no further than the Mi Box 4K. It’s an easy to recommend product for those people who specifically need to address that issue.
Price and availability
The Xiaomi Mi Box 4K Ultra HD streaming player was launched in India (opens in new tab) in May, alongside the Mi TWS 2. It is priced at just Rs 3,499 and is available from Mi.com and Flipkart (opens in new tab).
The initial setup is pretty straightforward for the Mi Box 4K. All you’ll need is a power socket for the adapter and a TV with an HDMI port. For optimal results, use an HDMI 2.0b (opens in new tab) port, which will also enable HLG and HDR. Not all HDMI ports on the TV are equal, so spend some time to figure that out, especially if you are looking to take full advantage of the 4K HDR capabilities.
Once switched on, the Mi Box will take you through a simple setup process for the WiFi connection. You can do that via a phone connected on the same network or by manually typing in the user credentials. It can take a few minutes to get configured. To get the most out of your TV, ensure that it gets a strong WiFi reception. There’s likely to be a major software update upon first boot, which will enable a lot more features.
The setup process for the Chromecast and Bluetooth audio is also standard, and will barely take a few minutes. The latter allows viewers to consume content via earphones too, for a private experience. Keyboards and mice can also be connected.
After this, you can start using the TV normally and all your apps and features will be in place. Some platforms come pre-installed while the others can be downloaded from the Play Store. Suggested apps include a file manager and a media player to play content locally off a pen drive or hard disk.
It runs off a 64-bit Amlogic processor with Android TV OS 9.0, and performs very smoothly. Other internal specifications include 2GB of RAM, 8GB of storage (for apps) and a Mali 450 GPU.
Built and design
Unlike phones, TVs and connected devices are usually the centrepiece of a living room, and thus, call for better designs that will be seen by many. While the Mi Box 4K isn’t the most elegant device of its kind, it takes the minimal route with a tiny matte black box that resembles a puck. It may seem similar to the Apple TV box, but is a lot more discreet in my opinion. It’s devoid of any unnecessary embellishments, with just a tiny logo on the top and a status LED on the front.
It isn’t too big or heavy, and can be easily tucked away. If you want, you can actually hide it behind the TV’s frame or in the cabinet, as the remote will continue to function. It’s easy to blend in.
It has a decent port selection too, consisting of a DC power in, HDMI 2.0 out, a USB 2.0 port as well as a hybrid audio port. The USB port can be used to connect a pen drive or a hard drive to stream media locally. It also supports a lot more formats than what TVs generally do, which is an underrated boon. Similarly, the audio jack also supports pass-through, and can be connected to external speakers for a better audio experience. Alternatively, Bluetooth headphones and speakers can also be paired.
A remote is also included in the package to navigate through the interface. It runs over Bluetooth instead of infrared, so you won’t need to point it at the box to use. It is powered by two AAA batteries, which are not included.
It has a petite, lightweight design with a matte finish. Navigating the UI is pretty simple too. The remote has a D-pad to move around, a button to select, and a couple to go back to the home screen or the app drawer. OTT platforms such as Netflix and Amazon Prime Video have a dedicated button on the remote for quick access. There’s also a Google Assistant shortcut for voice commands, which makes the usage a lot easier and quicker.