Xiaomi Mi Box 4K – nice, but almost useless for Aussies

I got a mate of mine to pick up a Xiaomi Mi Box from the USA to bring back with him to Australia, because I was curious to see what it’d be like as a cheap and simple set top box for my family.

This isn’t a full on review of the Xiaomi Mi Box. There’s loads of those already. Here’s some good ones from YouTube:

What I wanted to talk about is my experience with one and the Mi Box’s suitability for Australians. 

There’s plenty of little ARM based set top boxes running Android out there. Here’s a more than adequate one for $40 off AliExpress, using the relatively competent Amlogic S905X SoC. So why pay ~$100 for a Xiaomi one?

Together with the Nvidia Shield and Razer Forge (which are games consoles to be honest) the Mi Box is the only set top box that runs Android TV. Because it runs Android TV, it means you get legit Google Play Store access and proper updates.

99% of the Android set top boxes all run a tablet or smartphone version of Android with a skin or launcher designed to be used on a big screen, not Android TV. Android TV is Google’s proper version of Android for TV, designed for use on a big screen. It gets regular updates and everything. The boxes running regular Android, don’t get updates. They also don’t run legit Google Play store apps. This means Netflix doesn’t work at anything higher than 480p, something Netflix does in order to prevent piracy of the media within Netflix and of Netflix itself.

Unfortunately, Android TV isn’t that good. Don’t get me wrong, it works fine and looks great. It’s basically the same as the Apple TV – but just with a worse selection of apps. 

Kodi, Plex, VLC, Netflix all works fine and are perfect. If you’re into using a VPN to access US content like Hulu and HBO Go, you’re covered, there’s shitloads of American apps to enjoy. But if you want Australian content, well, look at the Google Play Store:

Yep, sweet fuck all. 

I wanted to give one each to my family and my in-law’s, so they have a cheap, regularly updated, easy to use device to watch all the legal streaming services on. Without at least iView and SBS On Demand working on the Mi Box, it’s practically useless for them.

The only real option is an Apple TV, but it costs over twice as much as the Mi Box and for all intents and purposes, is the exact same. The only difference is that all the Australian content producers haven’t bothered to update their apps to work on Android TV, but have for the Apple TV. Disappointing.

The Mi Box is still great if you’re a filthy pirate who likes to run weird Kodi plugins and use Plex, but that’s about it for Australians.

Anthony Agius

The Sizzle is curated by Anthony "@decryption" Agius, who has been hanging around the tech scene in Australia like a bad smell for over a decade.

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