Minix Neo X5 Mini Android box review

After selling off my first and awful Mi Box Android TV, I bought another Android TV box as replacement. This time it’s a much more powerful (and expensive) Minix Neo X5 Mini. The X5 Mini is powered by a dual-core Cortex Rockchip A9 processor with 1GB of RAM and 8GB of space. The operating system is an outdated Android 4.1.1 'Ice Cream Sandwich'. Usually my built-in tech-savvy alarm would be triggered by the specs but I was duped by the low price point (RM300) and nice user interface that I saw during the demo and review.

The X5 Mini is a significant upgrade over my last Mi Box. For once it comes with a friendly user-interface and welcome screen and they are fully in English. The second and most important thing is the pre-installed with Google Play Store (unlike the Mi Box). So I could theoretically install just about any apps from the Play Store. Setup and installation was simple and straightforward enough. Just plug in the power, HDMI cable and connect to the Internet and I’m all set. On one side you have two full-sized USB 2.0 ports and one SD card port. On the other side you have one full-sized HDMI port, optical audio and Ethernet port. The X5 Mini is about the same size as an Apple TV so it’s quite small easy to hide under or behind your television or living room furniture.

Although the X5 Mini comes with a remote, it’s function is pretty basic. You get to move between icons, turn on the unit from standby and control the volume. There’s no typing using the remote and most of the running apps as far as I remember testing doesn’t respond to the remote. To make matter worse, there’s no remote control app that you could install on your smartphone for the purpose either.

As much as I want to update to the latest Android version, say KitKat or later, I could only go as far as 4.2.2 which is pretty old by today’s standard. Unsurprisingly, I couldn’t install some of the newer apps that requires newer Android OS versions. Some apps like iFlix and Astro On The Go wouldn’t install at all on the Android Box. When asked, their official Twitter account said Android TVs are not officially supported at the moment which sucks big time because I’d like to stream a lot of shows from those to channels. I have no idea why they don't officially support Android boxes since they use practically the same OS.

But it’s not all doom and gloom with the X5 Mini. This Android Box could still play videos and movies effortlessly from an external hard drive. I could never get it to stream from a network folder though as much as I tried. Streaming from Popcorn Time works although it usually takes a while for the movie to load. Other than that, I can’t think of any more nice things to say about the X5 Mini. You would think that an Android box would be somehow compatible or play nice with Chromecast but you’d be disappointed. It does not connect or works at all and I’ve tried nearly a dozen 3rd party apps.

In a nutshell, the Minix Neo X5 Mini Android TV box is a slight improvement over the Mi Box Android box. Outdated would best describe it. It’s hardware and OS is outdated and the network connection could feel sluggish at times. Therefore it is no surprise that I parted ways with this Android box less than 3 weeks after purchase. The minimum requirement for a decent set-top box is to stream or mirror stuff from my smartphone and to support many popular streaming apps like Astro on the go or iFlix. The X5 Mini didn’t meet any of that hence why I need to let it go and ultimately bought an Apple TV. My advice if you’re looking for an Android box, look for one with at least 2GB of RAM and a newer Android OS installed. Most of these Android boxes are not upgradeable and you’re likely to be stuck with the pre-installed OS.

If you only need to stream or mirror content from your smartphone or computer, an Apple TV or Google’s Chromecast would be a better solution than a full-fledged Android box. A lot of people bought an Android box to have it installed with a pirate satellite streaming service and usually you need to get somebody (usually the service provider) to configure and setup the Android box unit for you. They don’t come pre-installed in any Android box in the market out there and it’s complicated enough process even for a tech-savvy person like me to figure out. My advice, get a specific Android box model or better still, buy one from them altogether (and don’t ask me where to get one).

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