- Xiaomi has baked in a Data Saver feature to stream more with less data.
- Mi Box 4K has an easy setup process.
- You can get the Mi Box 4K at a price of Rs 3,499.
Smart TVs are all the hype these days and it is safe to say that there's a smart TV for everyone at various price brackets. That said, smart TVs need good internet connectivity to offer their best and it is safe to say that the required infrastructure is mostly limited to the metro cities and a few tier 2 cities across the country. High-speed broadband is still a rarity in most of semi-urban and rural India, and mobile data speeds on 4G are still nowhere as good as what you get on big cities.
Hence, when Xiaomi India sent me the Mi Box 4K for review, I was interested to see how it fares in a typical Indian home set in the semi-urban setting. For those who have missed, the Mi Box 4K is an affordable way to upgrade your existing TV to a smart Android TV, priced at Rs 3,499. The Mi Box 4K offers 90 per cent of thrills of Xiaomi's Mi TVs at a fraction of the latter's cost.
Ever since the COVID-19 lockdown started, I have been limited to my hometown, which is a small mining town just on the border that divides Jharkhand and Odisha. Forget broadband, this place relies on Jio and Airtel's networks, both of which at best offer speeds of 1Mbps while average Internet speeds range between 500Kbps to 800Kbps. These are easily less-than-ideal speeds for smartphones, let alone a streaming box.
So, does the Mi Box 4K work in such conditions? Is it worthy of buying or should you only buy it if you live in big cities?
Mi Box 4K: Setup process based on mobile hotspots
The setup process for the Mi Box 4K is quite easy and anybody can get it running.
-The Mi Box 4K comes bundled with an HDMI cable, a remote controller and a power adapter. The first step is to connect the box using these to your TV.
-As soon as you power it up, it will ask you to press the "Apps" and "Home" button on the controller to pair it with the box.
-The box then asks you to connect it to the same network your Android smartphone is latched on to. This way, the setup is quite easy and the box connects to the network easily without needing you to type in the password. If the above setup doesn't work, you will need to type in your password manually.
-The box then prompts you to pair it with your Google account. If you opt-in, you will be shown a code. Open androidtv.com/setup and put in your box code. Once this is done, your Google account is logged in and your box will install all the required apps. You can also opt not to log in with your Google account but in order to access the apps from Google Play, you will eventually need to log in.
Is the setup process easy in slow networks?
Not exactly. I connected the box to Jio's network via mobile hotspot and due to the slow network, the box kept showing network error messages. Eventually, latching the box to Airtel's slightly better network helped me complete the setup process. That said, the slow network means the homescreen of Android TV did not load the thumbnails.
The Mi Box 4K threw up a notification for a new system update, weighing almost 620MB, promising some bug fixes reported from the previous versions. Once I managed to download the update and install it, things improved by a noticeable margin.
First update on Mi Box 4K is crucial for slow network areas
After the first update, the Mi Box 4K got the Data Saver feature. At the launch event, Xiaomi said that this Data Saver feature will enable users to stream more without eating up data easily. Xiaomi did not explain how it works but I assume it forces a few apps to stream in lower video resolution.
With the Data Saver enabled, I was able to stream videos on YouTube without any buffering. This was on the same network speeds of 500-800Kbps. The video resolution was preset to a maximum of 480p by default. This didn't pose much of an issue as the TV at my home can only support resolution up to 720p.
The Data Saver app also allowed for casting media to the TV without the need for connecting to a Wi-Fi network. I am yet to test this feature thoroughly, hence watch out for the full review of the Mi Box 4K.
It is still unknown as to whether the Data Saver technology works on third-party apps like Prime Video and Netflix. Prime Video was taking longer than usual time to load and it was streaming at the highest possible video resolution. Hence, my data pack ended abruptly while watching shows on Prime Video. I need to get in touch with Xiaomi to clarify whether the Data Saver works with third-party apps in the same way as Google's streaming apps.
Mi Box 4K first impressions:
So far, the Mi Box 4K has been impressive, given the sub-par network conditions existing at my place. Xiaomi's Data Saver has managed to keep it running and that too quite nicely. Of course, I have only used it for a total of three days and it will take more time for me jot down my final thoughts on the Mi Box 4K.
That said, the Mi Box 4K is surely a nice way to upgrade your existing TV to a smart TV without spending a fortune. If you are considering it as an addition to your home theatre system, go ahead.