Xiaomi TV Stick 4K review
The Xiaomi TV Stick 4K is the company’s latest entry-level 4K media streaming device. This is the usual type of compact dongle-like design that has become very popular with consumers as the use of media streaming skyrockets. This new model supports most popular new audio/video formats as well as the new Google TV interface. Priced at INR 4,999, the Xiaomi TV Stick 4K goes hand in hand with the Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K, which sells for the same price.
Design and remote control
The Xiaomi TV Stick 4K comes in a simple paper packaging. Inside you’ll find the streaming stick, a Bluetooth remote, a 5W power adapter, and a charging cable with a microUSB connector. Also, although the packaging doesn’t mention it, an extension cable for HDMI is included in case you have a hard-to-reach or busy connection area on the back of your TV.
The streaming stick is a simple affair. It has a two-tone design with a matte and glossy finish, the latter of which doesn’t take long to become covered in scratches. On one side is the microUSB connector for the power cable and also an LED indicator for power. The connector protrudes the cable at a right angle, which is very likely to conflict with any other HDMI cables next to it. Fortunately, the extension cable makes this a problem.
The Bluetooth remote has a very common design, with a large, easy-to-reach directional pad and shortcut buttons for
sponsor content partners. The remote also features an infrared blaster for use with TVs, allowing you to use one remote for all your media needs.
The remote control is light and comfortable to hold. The design also makes it easy to determine the correct orientation without looking. The plastic and rubber are a bit sticky but acceptable for the price. However, it feels inferior to Fire TV remotes, both in terms of button layout and overall build quality.
Software and Features
The Xiaomi TV Stick 4K runs on Android TV 11 with the Google TV interface. The device is powered by what appears to be the Amlogic
S805X2 S905Y4 with quad-core Cortex-A35 CPU and Mali-G31 MP2 GPU. There is also 2GB of RAM and 8GB of storage, of which around 5.2GB is available to the user.
The new Google TV user interface is not fundamentally different from the old Android TV interface. The home screen allows you to pin apps and also choose “channels” from your installed apps to display content on the home screen. The Discover tab displays suggested content from your installed apps as well as other apps and uses your Google account to sync and customize them. Apps shows all your installed programs and is organized into regular apps and games.
Xiaomi also has its own PatchWall UI, which essentially does the same thing as the Discover app. These two like to show you content from different services and present them to you as if you can access them anytime until you click on one and are first asked to install the app it has. originates, then sign up for a subscription that immediately makes you click back and never bother again.
In my experience, these hubs aren’t really of much use. At best, it serves as a way to search multiple services at the same time in case you are looking for a particular movie or TV show and want to see if it is available anywhere.
The Xiaomi TV Stick 4K comes with several apps pre-installed, most of which cannot be removed. These are largely just media streaming apps with PatchWall, Miracast, and a WallPaper app.
Also included is Xiaomi TV+, which is a live TV app. It’s completely free and requires no login, so you’ll always have something to watch even if you’re not subscribed to any service. The available content is fine in a “I don’t belong in this hotel room, so let me go through all the channels”, but the app is often too slow to start playing and often throws a ” I cannot play the error of this article to you.
Chromecast remains a fantastic feature of Android TV devices. Being able to stream from almost any video or audio app with your phone screen, tablet or desktop browser is amazing, something Fire TV devices just don’t offer, at least not at the same level. ease or ubiquity.
The Xiaomi TV Stick 4K’s settings menu only has a handful of options. You can enable the “Match content dynamic range” option, which is disabled by default. This setting ensures that the device will only output in HDR when playing HDR content, as opposed to outputting in HDR all the time. This is definitely something you should enable; the only reason companies like to leave it off is to avoid the one-second black screen when starting or stopping an HDR video when the TV switches between HDR and SDR. It’s really not a big deal and it’s certainly no reason to leave HDR on all the time.
The only other output-related settings are the resolution and refresh rate options, which can simply be left on automatic so that the device always outputs at the maximum combination supported by the display. Unfortunately, there’s no way to match the output refresh rate to that of the content, which you find on Fire TV and Apple TV devices. The Xiaomi TV Stick 4K will always output at the resolution and refresh rate you set. You can just manually set the device to 24Hz if you’re bothered by telecine jitter in 24p content, but doing so will result in a massive loss of UI smoothness elsewhere.
Overall, the software experience on the Xiaomi TV Stick 4K is good but still doesn’t feel as polished and user-friendly as the Fire TV UI. Android TV often feels like a phone UI is installed on a TV with some level of clunkyness that it can’t get rid of, no matter how badly it rebrands itself. None of these flaws are in themselves a Xiaomi flaw, but they are.
The Xiaomi TV Stick 4K has good audio and video performance. And by good, I mean it’s reference quality. This means that everything looks and sounds essentially as it should, which you expect from any video and audio source. The quality ultimately depends on the content because the chipset does not color it in any way before going through it.
On the video side, the Xiaomi TV Stick 4K supports HDR10 and Dolby Vision. That covers most HDR content on the internet, as much of it is in Dolby Vision these days and nearly everything is at least HDR10. However, the device does not support HDR10+ or HLG. The jury is still out on the relevance of HDR10+ as Amazon is still the only major company to release it without also offering a Dolby Vision alternative.
However, much of the HDR content on YouTube is in HLG as this is often the default format for most cameras that support HDR recording. Also, as it’s fundamentally different from other HDR standards, YouTube doesn’t offer an HDR10 fallback in case HLG isn’t supported, so content just plays in tone SDR instead. That leaves a lot of HDR content on the biggest streaming site unavailable on the Xiaomi TV Stick 4K.
UI performance was good on the tested firmware. Navigating the home screen and app list was smooth and responsive. Navigating through most apps also went well. Some parts of the UI cause a slowdown when loading data, such as the Discover tab. The Play Store also seems slow, but then again, when has the Play Store scrolling experience ever been good on any device? Other than that, UI performance was solid even when playing 4K 60fps HDR video.
What is not solid is the gaming experience. Although a media player is not the best choice for games, you can install a few games from the Play Store. The Xiaomi TV Stick 4K just doesn’t have the GPU horsepower to play even basic games like Crossy Road. As such, they are best avoided altogether.
You’ll have a much better time just streaming a game. It was relatively easy to install and set up Steam Link on the device and within minutes I was able to play Elden Ring on the Xiaomi TV Stick 4K as it was streamed from my office computer. It was actually quite fun to move the character around with the D-pad on the remote, which adds a new layer of difficulty if Miyazaki’s latest box of horrors was too easy for you. The latency is noticeable for a seasoned gamer but shouldn’t be groundbreaking for casual gamers on simple games.
The connectivity performance of the device was good. The Wi-Fi was reliable, if a little slow to connect once the device came out of sleep mode. Bluetooth also worked well, and latency was low enough to use wireless headphones without noticeable lag. The only minor issue here is Xiaomi’s claim of HDMI 2.1 support, which it almost certainly doesn’t have in terms of bandwidth, but the HDMI forum allows manufacturers to claim HDMI 2.1 support to an HDMI 2.0 device simply by supporting one or more HDMIs. Features 2.1 then here we are.
The Xiaomi TV Stick 4K is quite a capable media player for its money, offering good audio-video quality and UI performance. Unfortunately, the lack of HDR10+ and HLG could be a deal breaker for videophiles looking for a fuller HDR experience.
Unfortunately for Xiaomi, the Fire TV Stick 4K has no such limitations. It also has a better user interface and remote control and given that it is priced the same, it is the best media player overall.
Still, if you’re more grounded in the Google ecosystem and don’t mind imperfect HDR support, the Xiaomi TV Stick 4K is also a good option.
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