Xiaomi Mi Box 3s Android review: a compromise? | Reviews | Gadgets, gifts and accessories


The market for set-top boxes based on Android TV can hardly be called saturated. And although a large number of people are satisfied with models such as the outdated Nexus Player or the brand new top Nvidia Shield, the choice among Android set-top boxes can hardly be called good: there is much less variety on it than, for example, in the smartphone environment. Companies simply don’t see the point in producing something that will be sold in small quantities, especially when you consider the Google Chromecast, which has devoured a significant market share.

Xiaomi Mi Box 3s is a small black box with rounded edges that runs Android TV and supports 4K resolution with HDR mode. It includes a minimalistic touch remote control. All this wealth is very inexpensive – in our retail it can be found for about 4,000 thousand rubles. It is worth noting that Xiaomi has released its set-top boxes before, but this model is one of the first to run on a full-fledged Android TV.

Google needs the support of manufacturers to promote its Android TV OS, and the Mi Box 3s is one of those devices. But will this device live up to expectations and can it completely replace the Chromecast? Let’s try to find out.

Mi Box 3s comes in a small minimalist box, inside which the set-top box itself, an HDMI cable, a charger, a remote control and instructions in Chinese were found. The material of the console is a nice matte slightly textured plastic. The thickness of the device is only 10 mm, which is not much more than the thickness of most smartphones. It is easy to hide behind the TV if necessary.

Below is a rubberized ring that serves as a stand. This material is great for slippery surfaces. All ports are hidden at the back. The only thing that stands out against the black background of the console is a small Mi logo. In addition, during the operation of the set-top box, a small LED is on, which does not interfere at all.

The Bluetooth remote is also made in a minimalistic style. It weighs nothing at all – and this is taking into account two AAA batteries, which, by the way, come with the remote control. The main control buttons are the up-down-right-left buttons, which are located on a large circle. There is an OK button in the center. The circle itself is touch-sensitive – when making circular movements on it with a finger, for example, the text input cursor jumps either to the beginning or to the end of the text field; otherwise, there is almost nowhere to use it. It would be logical to hang a video rewind function on it, but this does not work. In addition, there are power buttons, return back, exit to the home screen, call the context menu and volume control.

As already mentioned, Mi Box 3s comes with an HDMI cable, which, in principle, is not bad, since a number of other budget set-top boxes do not have it. Its length is approximately 1 meter. The length of the charging cord is also small – all the same meter. This can cause some problems with the position of the set-top box, given that the power connector is round, not a standard USB Type-C or microUSB, and the charging cord is inseparable from the charger.

Installing the set-top box is very easy: just plug in the power and connect the Mi Box 3s to the TV via an HDMI cable. Then you can simply switch the TV to the desired input and follow the on-screen instructions using a very convenient remote control.

Mi Box 3s runs on Android TV version 6.0.1. After a little initial Wi-Fi connection setup, a rather concise start menu appears, which for some reason was originally in Indonesian, since it was easy to guess from the icons in the menu how to change the language to English. There is no Russian language.

In the start menu, there are search icons by voice or text at the top. When you click on voice search, an error is generated, which is understandable – there is no microphone in the console. Text search finds videos on Youtube, everything is correct here.

One gets the impression that in front of us is a set-top box reflashed by craftsmen, the device menu looks so raw. By default, the following applications are installed: Youtube, Google Play, an application for launching media files from a USB flash drive or over the Media Explorer network, and the Sideload Launcher application, which provides access to all device settings. Two types of settings are available: firmware settings and standard Android settings. Some settings are not available: for example, we were unable to access some app installations.

You can install various applications using Google Play. Video apps work fine (we tested Youtube and Vimeo), even at 4K resolution (and the console only gets a little warm), but there were issues with some games. For example, Minion’s Rush crashed and would not run again; Asphalt 8 prompted us to enter our age, which we couldn’t enter from the remote; but Hill Climb Racing started up and worked great. Perhaps a joystick is needed for this. By the way, it is worth noting that there is not much built-in free memory – only about 5 GB, so many games cannot be installed.

The function of playing files from a flash drive is available: video, music and photos. It is also possible to connect to a shared folder on the network, it is enough to know the ip-address of the device. To do this, just go to Media Manager and click the “Add device” button.

In general, that’s all. You can still delve into the settings: connect a Bluetooth joystick, change the Wi-Fi network, change the time settings and other settings. It is worth noting that not all settings items are translated and sometimes inscriptions in Chinese come out, as well as the fact that the device is for some reason displayed as Android Shield.

Summing up, we can say with a high degree of certainty that Mi Box 3s is not a device for everyone. Its most obvious competitor in this price range, the Chromecast Ultra, is a better choice in our opinion because it’s easier to set up and control, although it does require a smartphone. Of course, it has fewer features, but otherwise it looks like a much more solid and complete product. For half the money, you can get a regular Chromecast, but you need to keep in mind that it does not support 4K resolution.

In general, if it were not for the flaws in the firmware, then Mi Box 3s could be safely recommended for purchase. Now it can be advised only to those people who do not need games, but desperately need Mi Box 3s chips: a separate remote control, the ability to connect their drives or shared folders over the network. In this regard, it certainly looks much better than its competitor from Google.


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