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Xiaomi Mi TV Stick review: complete Android TV experience at a pocket-friendly price

On: September 12, 2020

In May this year, Xiaomi launched the Mi TV Box 4K. Priced affordably, the Android TV-based streaming box supports both 4K and HDR content, and offers access to most major OTT apps, including Netflix, Prime Video and Disney+ Hotstar, among others.

Also read: Xiaomi Mi Box 4K review: the best media streaming device if you’re on a budget

While the Mi TV Box 4K was designed to take on the Fire TV Stick 4K, Xiaomi has now launched a cheaper version in the form of the Mi TV Stick. As the name suggests, it features a dongle-style form factor, and goes up against the standard Fire TV Stick. Supporting up to 1080p streaming, the Mi TV Stick offers a complete Android TV experience on a budget. I’ve been using it for the last two weeks to find out how it fares in day to day usage.

Design and remote

The Mi TV Stick looks like a standard media dongle, plugging directly into your TV’s HDMI port. The black plastic body features a dual-tone finish – half-matte and half-glossy. There’s a micro-USB port on the side, and Mi branding on top. Owing to its form factor, the Mi TV Stick can end up blocking adjacent ports when plugged into your TV’s HDMI port. This problem can be easily fixed by using an HDMI extender, but you’ll have to buy one separately. Notably, Amazon’s Fire TV Stick does bundle one in the box.

As for the remote, it’s standard Xiaomi fare and identical to the one that ships with the Mi TV Box 4K. It is powered by two AAA batteries, but these aren’t included in the box. The remote features dedicated hotkeys for Netflix and Prime Video, a Google Assistant key and a 5-way D-pad. A power button, volume up and down keys, home, back and all apps button are also present.

The remote is powered by Bluetooth, but lacks Infrared. This means you can’t use it to control the power or volume on your TV (the volume buttons only control volume of the Mi TV Stick). The Fire TV Stick on the other hand ships with an Infrared + Bluetooth remote, which eliminates the need to use your TV’s remote altogether.

Setting up

The Mi TV Stick is easier to set up than the Mi TV Box. All you need to do is press the button at the centre of the D-pad, and you’ll see the setup screen. From here, you can choose to either complete setup on the TV, or on your Android phone via the Google app. I chose the latter, and it took just a couple of minutes.

You’ll then be prompted to install recommended apps based on your past usage. At the end of this list there are also suggestions from Xiaomi, which include Spotify and Red Bull TV. You can select the apps you want to install, or skip this entirely.

Interface and usage experience

The Mi TV Stick runs Android TV 9.0, and there were a couple of software updates during my review period. The first one was to improve software efficiency, memory management, Bluetooth, Netflix and other video experiences. The second one was a more generic performance update, with fixes for Bluetooth and video playback.

The interface is standard Android TV fare, with your installed apps on the top row, and successive rows showing you content from apps like Netflix, Prime Video, etc. You also have the option to customise the content you want displayed on the homescreen.

Google Assistant can be summoned by pressing the button on the remote or clicking the icon on the top left of the homescreen. If you’re searching for specific content, you’ll see results from YouTube, Netflix and Google Play Movies. Unfortunately, Prime Video and Hotstar are not included in the results. You can also ask Assistant more generic queries, such as weather updates, cricket scores and calendar updates, and even use it to control other connected smart home devices. As expected, you also get built-in Chromecast, which you can use to cast your phone or laptop screen to your TV.

Like the Mi TV Box, you get Android TV’s Data Saver feature built into the Mi TV Stick. This adjusts the video quality to save data, and lets you set alerts when you’ve consumed 100MB, 500MB or 1GB of data, which is useful if you’re streaming via a mobile hotspot.

The Mi TV Stick also supports HDMI CEC. If enabled, you can use your TV’s remote to control the Mi TV Stick interface. Additionally, since the stick is Bluetooth enabled, you can connect devices like headphones, useful for when you want to watch TV without disturbing other people at home.

As for the usage experience, I found the Mi TV Stick to be pretty smooth, despite shipping with just 1GB of RAM. There are a few lags when scrolling on the homescreen, but apart from that it’s impressive for a budget streaming device. You get 8GB of inbuilt storage, which should be enough to download plenty of apps. If you want to download games however, you might run out of space.

The competition

At Rs 2,799, only real competition for the Mi TV Stick is the Fire TV Stick. The Fire TV Stick costs Rs 3,999, and comes with the Infrared + Bluetooth Alexa remote I talked about earlier. In my opinion, the Fire TV Stick has a more user friendly interface and a content-rich homescreen, which is something you don’t get on Android TV. When it comes to supported OTT apps though, both devices are  pretty much on par. That said, there is a significant price difference between the two, and if you’re on a budget constraint, the Mi TV Stick is the obvious choice here.

Bottomline

The Mi TV Stick offers everything you need to make your dumb TV smart without spending a bomb. You get access to all the OTT apps, built-in Google Assistant and Chromecast, and a clutter-free interface. There are a few limitations as I’ve explained in the previous section, but these aren’t deal breakers. In short, if you have an HD or 1080p TV at home and want to convert it into a smart TV, you can’t go wrong with the Mi TV Stick.

Pricebaba’s rating: 8 / 10

What works:

  • Support for major OTT apps
  • Complete Android TV experience
  • Affordable

What doesn’t:

  • Remote isn’t IR enabled
  • No 4K support
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Ketaki Bhojnagarwala

Ketaki has over 10 years experience writing on tech, having worked at the Hindu Business Line and 91mobiles earlier. When she's not editing copies or reviewing the latest gadgets, she spends her time binge-watching Netflix and reading fantasy fiction.