Xiaomi Mi Box, a 4K HDR Android TV streamer, challenges Roku and Chromecast at $70

The Google-powered TV box undercuts Roku's 4K price, matches that of Chromecast Ultra, and includes extras like HDR and a voice remote.

David Katzmaier

David Katzmaier

Editorial Director -- TVs and streaming

David has reviewed TVs, streaming services, streaming devices and home entertainment gear at CNET since 2002. He is an ISF certified, NIST trained calibrator and developed CNET's TV test procedure himself. Previously David wrote reviews and features for Sound & Vision magazine and eTown.com. He is known to two people on Twitter as "The Cormac McCarthy of consumer electronics."

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3 min read

Roku rules the streaming box market -- as well as our reviews -- and just unleashed a five-pack of updated boxes. The cheapest with 4K resolution costs $80.

That price leaves an opening for Xiaomi to swoop in and compete. The Chinese manufacturer is now selling a 4K-capable streamer box called the Mi Box, powered by Google's Android TV system, in the US. It'll be available at Walmart, right alongside Roku, in October for $70.

It seems like a very good value considering that the Mi box comes with a voice-capable remote and HDR capability, two features for which Roku charges extra. Meanwhile Google new Chromecast Ultra also costs $70, but doesn't include a remote or on-screen interface.

The big downside of both Google-powered devices compared to Roku? Neither support Amazon video.

Xiaomi Mi Box brings Android to your TV (pictures)

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The Xiaomi Mi Box -- first announced at Google I/O in May, and not to be confused with a different model available in China (and via Amazon) -- can stream 4K UHD content from Netflix and YouTube. The company didn't mention any other 4K-capable apps available at launch. Roku's 4K devices have 15 total 4K apps, including Amazon video. Meanwhile the 4K Amazon Fire TV has been available since last year and Amazon hasn't announced a replacement.

The Mi and Roku's higher-end players, starting with the $100 Premiere+, also support high dynamic range (HDR) content, which promises even better image quality than 4K. The only other HDR-capable streamer is the Nvidia Shield, a $200 Android TV box. All of these streamers support the HDR10 format, not Dolby Vision. The Mi won't get HDR support until it receives the software upgrade to Android N, sometime later this year.

Beyond 4K and HDR streams, which require new, higher-end TVs, the Mi Box's Android TV system supports most major apps aside from Amazon. That includes relatively recent additions Vudu, Spotify and Sling TV, as well as TV apps that require a cable subscription such as Watch ESPN, Disney Junior, CNN Go and Comedy Central. Android TV also supports the Kodi app, a favorite for file sharing and streaming TV of questionable legality.

Unsupported apps can be streamed via the Mi box using the Google Cast, the same system offered on Chromecast. Speaking of that platform, Google is expected to announce a 4K version of the Chromecast, perhaps called Chromecast Ultra, today for $70.

The Mi Box comes with a Bluetooth remote control with voice search capabilities. Xiaomi originally said it would offer an optional controller for people who like playing Andoid games on the big screen, but now says that won't be the case. Numerous third party Bluetooth game controllers are Android TV compatible, however.

There's a quad-core processor, a USB port and HDMI 2.0a, but it lacks Ethernet (it's Wi-Fi only) and an SD card slot. Here are the full specifications:

  • Quad-core ARM Cortex-A53 CPU
  • Mali 450 GPU
  • 2GB of RAM
  • 8GB of internal storage
  • USB port
  • HDMI 2.0a
  • Dolby Digital Plus
  • DTS Surround Sound

We expect to have a full review of the Mi box soon.

Updated with information on Chromecast Ultra, Android N and game controllers.

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