It was the year 1999, and while most people were picking up the Y2K Protection CD from the checkout display at CompUSA I was dreaming. My dreams were the same every day and were centered around my realization that if I could connect my PC to my TV, I could watch from the comfort of my couch.
The time was right for building this kind of connectivity. New file sharing services were being launched by developers at a rapid pace and I was enjoying the bandwidth provided by my newly installed Roadrunner connection. I had just jumped from 56k dialup to Time Warners 2Mb down/128k up cable speeds (terribly slow by today's standards) and I was quickly starting to build a good size library of audio and video files. Now, how to connect to, and present them in a user friendly format on my TV was the challenge.
There was a long list of software, hardware, networks, tuner cards, graphis cards, STB's, wiring, etc. etc. If the software was written to organize and playback media files, I've installed it. If the device was built to bridge the connection from PC to TV, I've connected it. From Gateway Connected DVD players to Snapstream Beyond TV and Beyond Media, from the PrismQ media player to others that I can hardly remember trying out, I've been through many in my quest to live my dream.
Fast forward 15 years and there's now a device that I was able to connect, set up, and watch a movie on in 30 minutes. The Mi Box is the most recent addition to my living room and after 3 days of aggressive use and customization, this device is a real contender to replace my full blown Windows based HTPC.
The Mi Box is running Android TV and stands out as a capable, lean back device that runs Kodi seamlessly and presents Netflix and YouTube in real, remote friendly formats. If you've tried any of the Android boxes that are out there (a lot of them, everywhere) and been frustrated by trying to use Netflix and YouTube with a remote then this Android TV box is the solution. Because the 'generic' Android boxes are running what amounts to a tablet version of Android, the apps are designed for a touchscreen and do not work well when trying to use a remote. You may be getting by with an air mouse or a mini lean back keyboard touchpad, but you don't need to suffer any more. The versions of these apps that are designed for Android TV are designed to be used with a remote and are the the final solution to what forced me to return the last device I tried (Q Box) to Amazon. Having a TRUE Android TV box makes the difference and I'm now close to saying "Yes" to the Mi Box and adding them throughout my house.
The long road I've travelled as I've watched the maturation of the connected set top box has brought me to where I am today. I can recommend the Mi Box whole heartedly and know that it will fit into many homes just as well as it has fit into mine. If you're a casual user that is simply looking for Netflix and YouTube you will be up and running in minutes. If you're a more advanced user and are planning to install Kodi from the Play Store you'll be up and running in minutes. If you're a super user and want to customize your experience, you'll be able to do that too because Android TV can be manipulated and customized just as easily as we've come to know and love on our other Android devices.
For $69 you get a well designed, wifi enabled, HDMI connectable, remote controlled device that can be setup as simply or as complex as you need.
I've had no problems other than needing to reboot the device once when the remote stopped responding. The device was still responding to keyboard commands from the bluetooth keyboard that I added (BT dongle was installed in the devices USB port), and after a reboot the remote was working again. There's a power adapter that provides the power for the Mi, and network connectivity comes from the built in WiFi (there is NO wired ethernet port). The Mi is designed and packaged well and includes an HDMI cable for connecting to the TV and even a pair of AAA batteries are included for the slim, simplistic remote. The devices search function can be accessed by a single click of the search button on the remote control and will bring up a voice search on the screen. Say "netflix" and voila - the Netflix app is launched. Say "Longmire" and the results will show my local media files that are indexed in Kodi along side the episodes that can be viewed in Netflix. If the mic is having a hard time hearing your search phrase you have the option of typing your search request. This voice search was an unexpected feature that I was surprised to see included. This does show the maturity of this device and my hope is that Google continues to develop Android TV and makes it attractive to developers to design their apps to run on this platform.