NEW DELHI: Chinese internet company Xiaomi wants to enter Indian homes in every way possible. The company sells everything from smartphones to TVs and even toothbrushes now. The Mi Box 4K fits seamlessly in that ecosystem. The idea, obviously, is that if you want to stick to your old dumb TV then this will make it smart.
From a utility point of view, the Mi Box 4K does exactly what the Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K would. Which is probably why Xiaomi’s asking price is lower than the 4K Fire TV Stick. The Fire TV Stick 4K will cost you Rs. 5,999, whereas the Mi Box 4K is priced at Rs. 3,499.
The Mi Box though runs on Android and brings the familiar AndroidTV interface to your screen. The important difference is that the Mi Box runs on Android, whereas the Fire Stick runs on a forked version of Android. This would have been a huge difference a few years ago, but the app ecosystem is pretty similar by now, in the sense that the most popular apps are available on both platforms. This includes names like Netflix, Disney+Hotstar, Amazon Prime Video, Zee5, news channel apps and more.
However, Android support allows the Mi Box to support Google Cast. With this, you can cast content wirelessly from your phone to the television, as long as they’re on the same WiFi network. To be clear, Fire Sticks also support a version of this technology, but Google cast is much more seamless and ubiquitous across Android devices.
Both devices also support 4K and HDR10 playback, which pretty much assures the best video quality you can. The Mi Box has a disadvantage here in the fact that the Fire Stick also supports Dolby Vision technology, a technology similar to HDR but often considered more advanced and better.
What you need to note though is that very few can actually tell the difference between HDR10 and Dolby Vision. In practical terms, both technologies bump up the picture quality significantly and we can think of few who would complain. More importantly, the screens on dumb TVs usually support neither 4K nor HDR, so even though your streaming device may support it, it’s likely the TV will not suffice.
Still, the Mi Box 4K could also be used by those who depend on monitors instead of televisions, so Dolby Vision support would have been a good feature to have.
The fact that the Mi Box is a Google driven device also means you get voice support through the Google Assistant. Xiaomi includes a remote in the box, which has a dedicated button for voice. The remote is the same one the company sells with its TVs, and it’s easy enough to use. It connects to the Mi Box via Bluetooth, meaning you won’t have to worry about pointing the remote to the box when you want to control it. The box also works with Google Home smart speakers.
In the end, the Mi Box 4K is a great device for those who want to turn a dumb TV smart. Xiaomi already owns 27 percent of the smart TV market share with its Mi TVs, according to Q1 data from Counterpoint Research, so the Mi Box might help the company foray into the other end of the market.
That said, India’s TV market is also largely driven by smart TVs now, meaning the Mi Box may not sell simply because people are buying smart TVs anyway. Xiaomi may have to push it towards tier III and IV markets to make the best of this.