Please like and subscribe if you enjoyed the video! It would help us a lot.
The all new and highly anticipated TV Box from Xiaomi is now available globally. There was a CN only version for some time, but now we have the global version on our test bench.
This time the Xiaomi Mi Box S comes with the Oreo version of Android TV Operating System (OS) pre-installed.
Packaging – Specifications
The white-orang packaging is similar to the one of the previous model, only smaller.
At the back you will find all basic selling points and overall features of the Mi Box S, with the standouts being the 4K+HDR support, the built in 4K Chromecast, proper licensing (Netflix) and Google assistant (voice).
Inside you will find only the basics. The main unit itself, the power adapter, an HDMI cable, the remote and some basic documentation.
Hardware wise, not much has changed from the previous version (non-S).
We still get the, still capable, Amlogic S905X quad core CPU alongside with the Mali-450 GPU and 2GB of DDR3 RAM. Storage is still limited to a 8GB eMMC module, but that is to be expected from a TV Box mainly targeted to streaming services.
Connectivity is still minimal with only 1x USB 2.0 port, the HDMI one and the Audio jack out.
Networking is still wireless only with a very fast Wi-Fi dual band AC module, while the Bluetooth version was upgraded to 4.2 version. For those who prefer wired network connection, there are several USB->RJ45 converters that can offer a 100Mbit speeds.
A Google 4K Chromecast is also built in that can justify the price of the Mi Box S on its own.
The latest Android TV version is preinstalled (Oreo 8.1).
Media Player – Remote
The new Mi Box S is now even smaller compared to its predecessor, but by much. There are still rounded corners, but the curved top is gone thus providing a more “boxy” and simple look. The color is still ash-black so it will look good wherever you decide to place it. Build materials are plastic but we did not expect something different at this price point. There is a small front LED that lights up when the device is powered.
All connections are located at the back so cable management should be easy. There is no external antenna for the Wi-Fi.
The most visible change is the remote. Although it carries the same minimalistic design of the previous model, it now has a totally different layout.
We now get a dedicated Netflix button while the voice button was moved to the top, right below the power button. It uses a Bluetooth connection so no direct targeting is required, leading to a much better and hassle free user experience taking also into account the small number of buttons available (no numeri c ones). We wish the remote had a backlit mode, but it is not to be expected for the price range. (* Don’t ask about the “live” button, we still haven’t figured out what it is for. Failed to launch several live TV apps)
Menus – Settings
There is no better user interface than Google’s Android TV.
In its latest version (Oreo, 8.1) we get simplicity, customization and interactivity in one –feast for the eyes- launcher.
Compared to previous Android TV version (6.0) you will have to make light tweaking in order to get the most out of it and fine tune it to your liking, but the end result justifies the effort.
You get rows of icons, with each one (row) being represented by an application, with the exception of the applications row at the top. You are able to customize or delete any row (for example, if you prefer Netflix over Google Movies you can delete or move the later to the bottom) and add your favorite applications. Integration with You-Tube/Netflix/Spotify is top grade, with results appearing based on your liking and recent activity.
Nothing changed in the settings menu. It would be unwise to change something that works great anyway. Settings menu occupies the right part of the screen and all the settings you will ever need are at your disposal for better compatibility with your setup. In case you are not familiar with some of them, it is better to leave the default setting.
With the hardware being practically the same as the previous model, we did not expect something revolutionary.
Browsing is fast and switching between apps is faster than what we expected from a 2GB RAM device. Application launching is faster than the previous model since the eMMC ROM module is now newer and faster.
Performance as a streamer is very good. Netflix goes all the way up to 4K with HDR support (HDR10), and if you have a capable dual band router, you can max out the bitrate of the video service. Unfortunately, Mi Box does not support Dolby ATMOS tracks and Dolby Vision with the later due to hardware/SoC limitations.
KODI performance (once you install it from Play Store) is also very good, both for the price and the specs. You still get 4K+HDR but with only up to DTS/DD/ Multi-PCM audio. HD Audio pass through is not supported for the Mi Box S model. The infamous 24p judder exists due to lack of auto frame rate switching (this feature may arrive in a future firmware update). Pull down conversion works very well though and minimizes the effect. Progressive playback performance is way better than the interlaced one, so keep it in mind for TV channels and home recordings. You also get very good performance from other streaming services like HBO and others (There are regional restrictions per each streaming service). Just make sure to install the latest firmware update that solves playback related issues. Amazon Prime is once again incompatible with the Mi Box, just like with all other Android based ones (Nvidia Shield supports it via their direct partnership).
Gaming performance is typical, so it is better to omit recent, heavy textured 3D titles. Casual games like Beach Buggy Racing have very good performance. Don’t forget to pair a Bluetooth gamepad for better results.
Network performance via dual band Wi-Fi is excellent with with the Mi Box S. Although no official specs are released, it appears to be a high speed implementation with actual performance/bandwidth up to 170-190Mbps. If you own an equally capable access point/router then you will most probably won’t need a USB->RJ45 converter to achieve maximum streaming performance. With our trusty Netgear EX7000 in the same room, we had no issues with playback performance of high bit-rate 1080p files. Wi-Fi performance is similar to the one by Nvidia Shield.
Overall system performance is snappy, although you may experience small lags from time to time. Google has made efforts to optimize its Android TV launcher in order to secure good performance to mid-range SoCs like this one.
Google’s Play Store is pre-installed in its TV version that filters all applications not officially optimized for TV viewing. You can always side-load the one you want in case you need one that is not found (we did with Google Chrome).
One major selling point for the Mi Box S is the integrated, 4K capable, Chromecast function. In this way you practically have a 70-90$ Ultra Chromecast unit as well that justifies the price of the Mi Box S even more. Using our smartphone, we streamed Netflix, YouTube and Google Photos/Videos with absolutely no problem or glitch.
The 8GB of internal ROM leaves only ~5GB of free space that is very limited in case you want to install a large volume of apps and games (especially the later). At least you are able to format an external USB storage as system. In this way you will lose the USB connectivity, so it is better to install a USB hub first. Note that NTFS USB drives don’t support write mode.
Xiaomi Mi Box S supports over the air (OTA) firmware updates.
Xiaomi Mi Box S is rather an evolutionary than a revolutionary successor to the highly popular Mi Box. We would like a faster SoC, more RAM and storage space but probably Xiaomi and Google (Mi Box was promoted by Google during their 2018 presentation) don’t want it to deviate from its original target group.
It is very good for streaming services and all-around performance, although it lacks some major features compared to the competition like Dolby Vision, Dolby ATMOS and auto frame rate switching. At least it gets all the basics right, has a great and snappy user interface and includes a 4K Chromecast function that costs alone usually more than its price.
It is also very affordable with price ranging from 49$ (season discounts) up to 99$ (depends from the country/region).
If this review helped you towards making your decision, we would appreciate if you made your order through the following affiliate link(s). This way we will be able to review more products in the future.