Mi Box S is the Chinese Xiaomi set-top box that runs Android TV, 4K and HDR10 videos, compatible with Dolby DTS sound and features the built-in Chromecast. It seems like a hell of a deal, but the device has some hard to ignore issues.
The Mi Box S is 9.5 cm square, less than 2 cm thick and weighs only 147 g, being very tiny and light. The kit comes with the remote control with two AAA batteries, a power supply and an HDMI 2.0 cable, both of which are very short. I had to break my head to position the box so that it connected to the outlet and the TV at the same time.
The box also includes an HDMI 2.0A port, a USB-A 2.0 port for various functions and an audio output, to connect the set-top box to an external sound system.
The device is a solid matte plastic, making it very compact and easy to transport. I would advise however to dispense with the HDMI cable that comes with the kit and use a longer one, while it would be interesting to get an extension cable to power it, allowing you to place it wherever you want.
Anyway, the Xiaomi Mi Box S is so small that it is easy to place it in any corner of your shelf, and the communication between it and the remote control is not affected by using Bluetooth; on the other hand, an infrared sensor would be very welcome in order to decrease the delay.
Regarding the software, the Mi Box S runs Android TV version 8.1, and whoever used TVs from Sony, Vizio or TCL already knows the template as the presentation is exactly the same. Installed apps and their contents are arranged on the right, while the app tray is accessed on the left; it’s from the Google Play Store app, where you’ll download more apps and games.
The design is simple and features quick animations, apart from a long delay between the controls on the control and the response on TV. For the rest, it is an Android, with a good part of the functions that you expect to find in a cell phone adapted to work on a TV.
You can not only install apps via external sources but also exploit the developer functions, which must be enabled the same way as always: going to the settings and pressing the central button on the remote control several times. In other words, hacking and customizing it as easy as making a bet on the Belmont Stakes odds on Twinspires.
Regarding the Hardware, connecting the Mi Box S proved to be more problematic than it should be: first he didn’t recognize the remote control via Bluetooth 4.1; it was necessary to reconnect the box and then do the pairing again, which this time worked. After connecting to the Wi-Fi network and signing in with your Google account, the Android TV interface finally loaded.
The Mi Box S was simply unable to set the face resolution, and even in the settings, it continued to suggest that it would be better used in 1080p at 50 Hz, when it is fully capable of running at the 60 Hz limit of the box (in fact, it can go up to 120 Hz).
The remote control is made of matte plastic and extremely light, with somewhat soft buttons and no pattern. The Back and Google Assistant are elevated, different from the Clickwheel confirmation (concave) and the others (straight). It gives the impression of being extremely fragile.
To sum up, even if the box has some unpleasant first impressions, it can be fully adapted and used to its maximum potential as a reliable Android TV. For around $ 70, turn your old LED TV into a fully smart TV and enjoy Netflix more comfortably.