Mi Box 3 review
All this while, I’ve been using my trusted Dell Zino small form factor PC as a HTPC in my living room. It’s small enough to fit into the TV bench and it doesn’t use as much power as a regular full-sized desktop PC. Over time though, my Dell started to feel pretty slow especially during startup. Not to mention the intermittent blue screen that come out from the PC. I thought it’s time to get a proper Android box to replace my Dell PC.
My initial plan was to get one of those cheap Raspberry Pi PC but after much thought, I’ve decided against it. Sure they’re are cheap but at 200 ringgit I can actually get a decent Android box for that price. Besides, Raspberry Pies requires you to buy other accessories like enclosures, memory card and multiple connector cables to make it work and those don’t come free or cheap. Instead if I get an Android box it comes with everything out of the box - cables, remote & power adapter for half the price of a complete set of Rasp Pi. That’s how end up buying a Mi Box 3, 5th generation from Xiaomi.
The Mi Box I got from a gadget shop in PJ cost only RM135. As always I did a thorough research on the Mi Box, read reviews on blogs and YouTube and weigh them against other models. The low price point is the main appeal. Unboxing the box, the Mi Box comes with one HDMI cable, one power adapter and one remote, that’s it. Connecting it to my TV was a breeze with the provided HDMI cable. The shopkeeper already did some pre-installation with the Mi Box and he already changed much of the menu from full Mandarin to 80% English.
So how does the software and interface fare? Very poorly. This is where the nightmare began. Although I said the menu was mostly in English, they default main content is not and still in Chines. Watching movies and browsing games to download for example are still in Mandarin and all of them doesn’t work at all. I suspect they only work in mainland China and without some serious modification all their default apps are pretty useless outside their original market (i.e China). Even worse, even though I got the seller to install Shafa Launcher and subsequently Shafa Market I never got to installing or sideloading even one Android app onto the Android box. I tried to follow multiple instructions and guides from the Internet but all of them mostly didn’t work. In the end I’m stuck with only Popcorn Time or to watch local multimedia content connected through the USB port. Even Popcorn Time doesn’t work half the time. If only I managed to get Google’s Play Store installed, that would make the Mi Box slightly more useful.
I should have known better than to buy a product targeted for the Chinese market with little or no modification at all. I found out I can get a fully modified Mi Box 3 with full English menu and dozens of streaming apps installed for a hundred ringgit more but I’m not willing to spend so much money on an entertainment gadget just yet. In the end I sold off the Mi Box 3 after only a week of using it thus recouping much of my money. If you’re looking for an entry level Android Box, I definitely won’t recommend the Mi Box 3, especially the unmodified Chinese version. The content is mostly Chinese and you only get 4GB of space half of them already used by the OS. Add a couple more apps and your Android box will run out space in no time. I
f you really have to get the Mi Box, wait for the International or American version one which is rumoured to be released soon. That one will have international apps and content and the menu and everything will be in English. It will also support 4K video and features 8GB of storage. Other than that get another Android Box brand or model which better specs. They will be slightly more expensive but it will be worth the price. The Mi Box 3 that I got is especially bad I wouldn’t want anyone to experience the horror as I did.