The set-top streaming box market is a crowded one, with Apple, Amazon and Roku elbowing each other for space. Chinese electronics firm Xiaomi is leaping into the mix with a product of its own, with the hopes of undercutting its rivals on price.
The Mi Box, Xiaomi's first U.S. product, went on sale today (Oct. 3) for $69. That's a remarkably low price for a box that's promising 4K video playback, support for HDR and voice-powered searches through its remote control.
To put the Mi Box's $69 price tag in context, Roku's newly announced Premiere set-top box costs $80 and delivers 4K content; for HDR support, you'd have to upgrade to Roku's $100 Premiere+ model. Amazon's Fire TV set-top box costs $110 and supports 4K. The latest Apple TV starts at $150 and lacks 4K support.
Xiaomi first announced plans to bring its set-top box to the U.S. earlier this year. The Mi Box shows 4k video at 60 frames per second, and it supports the latest HDR10 standard. The box is powered by a Cortex A-53 processor with a Mali 450 GPU. It has 8GB of storage, and you can add more capacity via USB.
Because it's powered by Android TV, you'll be able to use streaming apps from the likes of Netflix, HBO, Showtime and Vudu. The Mi Box also supports Google Play games. Built-in Google Cast support means that you'll be able to use the Mi Box to share content stored on your mobile device to a TV connected to Xiaomi's Mi Box.
You'll control the Mi Box with a handheld remote. Like Apple TV's remote, you can use voice commands to search for content, change channels, jump to shows and launch apps. Xiaomi says the Bluetooth remote also dobules as a controller for games.
You can buy the Mi Box at Xiaomi's website. The set-top box will also be available at Wal-Mart this month. Getting its first U.S. product into the country's largerst brick-and-mortar retailer should be a considerable help in introducing Xiaomi to U.S. audiences.
Xiaomi's ambitions go far beyond the set-top box market. The company is China's largest phone seller, and it's made a name for itself selling high-end phones at extremely competitive prices. Xiaomi has said it hopes to eventually sell phones in the U.S., with vice president Hugo Barra telling Bloomberg in August that a U.S. launch would happen "in the near future."