Today, at the Living Room sandbox at Google I/O, Hugo Barra was around to talk about the Mi Box and give demonstrations to eager developers. The device has 8GB of flash memory, which can be expanded through a USB port on the back. With Android Marshmallow, it’s easy to expand memory through a flash drive.
You can use a remote control, which includes voice search, and it’ll be bundled with the device when you purchase it. The remote felt good in the hand and the buttons had a nice click. You can quickly power on and off the device with a dedicated power button, and there’s a volume rocker to quickly adjust the volume.
The gamepad was also announced. It’ll be a separate purchase and play games much better. It felt lightweight and pretty thin. It’s thinner than many gamepads like the Shield TV. All of the same buttons are there: dual joysticks, triggers on the back, and 4 action buttons. While they felt fine, it’s hard to gauge the longterm durability of mashing buttons. There are navigation buttons in the middle and doesn’t seem to support voice commands.
The box itself is small, just smaller than the Nexus Player, and with a pretty simple design. It’s meant to just sit behind a TV and provide content. With a small design, it’s still able to pack a lot of power. It can run 4K 60FPS videos with HDR support. You’ll be able to watch the highest quality content from sources like YouTube and Netflix. Demoed games performed pretty well and looked great. It wasn’t tested with very high-end games, and it may not compete toe-to-toe with the Shield, but it should be good for most users. It’s video playback capability alone shows that performance is important.
As this is an Android TV device, it’ll work with all Android TV apps and games. They’re adding an extra row in the Leanback launcher, called “Xiaomi Selection”, with preloaded apps Sling TV and Pandora.
When can you get this, and for how much? They aren’t stating that yet. Hugo confirmed it’ll definitely come by the end of the year, so there’s about a six month range of possibility. The price will be competitive, so it’ll probably be close to the Nexus Player’s $99 price.
If you’re not in the US, you’re still in luck. This will be coming to the US as a first priority, due to the large market there, but also other countries. Xiaomi has worked closely with Google to bring this product to fruition. Android TV will continue to be the OS of choice for Xiaomi outside of China. In China, they’ll continue to develop their Mi UI.