Xiaomi TV Stick 4K review
The Xiaomi TV Stick 4K is the company’s latest entry-level 4K media streaming device. It’s the usual kind of compact, dongle-like design that has become very popular with consumers as the use of media streaming skyrockets. This new model supports most of the popular new audio/video formats along with the new Google TV interface. Priced at INR 4,999, the Xiaomi TV Stick 4K goes head-to-head with the Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K, which retails for the same price.
Design and remote control
The Xiaomi TV Stick 4K comes in simple paper packaging. Inside you will find the streaming stick, a Bluetooth remote control, a 5W power adapter and a charging cable with a microUSB connector. Although the packaging doesn’t mention it, an HDMI extension cable is included if you have a hard-to-reach or busy connection area at 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 taking no time at all to get covered in scratches. On one side is the microUSB connector for the power cable and also an LED indicator for power. The connector causes the cable to stick out at a right angle, which is very likely to conflict with any other HDMI cable next to it. Fortunately, the extension cord makes this a non-issue.
The Bluetooth remote has a very plain design, with a large, easily accessible D-pad and hotkeys for it
sponsors content partners. The remote also has an IR blaster for use with televisions, so you can use one remote for all your media needs.
The remote control is light and comfortable to hold. The design also makes it easy to see the right direction without looking. The plastic and rubber feel a bit sticky, but acceptable for the price. However, it feels inferior to the Fire TV remotes, both in terms of button layout and overall build quality.
Software and features
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 with a quad-core Cortex-A35 CPU and Mali-G31 MP2 GPU. There is also 2GB of RAM and 8GB of storage, of which approximately 5.2GB is available to the user.
The new Google TV UI is not fundamentally different from the older Android TV interface. The home screen lets you pin apps and also select ‘channels’ from your installed apps to display content on the home screen. The Discover tab shows 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. Both of these like to show you content from different services and present them to you as if you can access it anytime until you click on one and are asked to first install the app it’s from and then sign up you 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 works as a way to search across multiple services at the same time if you’re looking for a specific movie or TV series and want to see if it’s available anywhere.
Xiaomi TV Stick 4K comes with several apps pre-installed, most of which cannot be removed. These are pretty much just media streaming apps along with PatchWall, Miracast and a WallPaper app.
Also included is Xiaomi TV+ which is a live TV application. It’s completely free and requires no login, so you’ll always have something to watch, even if you don’t subscribe to any service. The content available is fine in an “I’ve got nothing to do in this hotel room, so let me just go through all the channels” kind of way, but the app is often just too slow to start playing and often sends a “Can’t” play this element’s error on you.
Chromecast is still a great feature on Android TV devices. Being able to cast from almost any video or audio app alongside your phone, tablet or desktop browser’s screen is incredible, something the Fire TV devices simply don’t offer, at least not with the same ease or ubiquity.
The settings menu of the Xiaomi TV Stick 4K presents only a handful of options. You can enable the ‘Match content dynamic range’ option, which is turned off by default. This setting ensures that the device only outputs in HDR while playing HDR content as opposed to outputting in HDR at all times. This is definitely something you should enable; the only reason companies like to leave it on is to avoid a second of screen blackout when you start or stop an HDR video as the TV switches back and forth between HDR and SDR. This really isn’t a big deal and certainly not a reason to leave HDR on at all times.
The only other settings related to output are the resolution and refresh rate settings, which can just be left to auto so that the device always outputs with the screen’s maximum supported combination. Unfortunately, there’s no way to match the output refresh rate to the content you’ll find on the Fire TV and Apple TV devices. Xiaomi TV Stick 4K always outputs the resolution and refresh rate you set it to. You can just manually set the device to 24Hz if you’re bothered by telecine judder in 24p content, but it will lose massively to UI fluidity elsewhere.
Overall, the software experience on the Xiaomi TV Stick 4K is nice, but still doesn’t feel as polished and user-friendly as the Fire TV UI. Android TV often feels like a phone UI slapped onto a TV with a certain amount of clumsiness that it can’t shake no matter how much it rebrands itself. None of this is Xiaomi’s fault per se, but it is what it is.
Xiaomi TV Stick 4K has good audio and video performance. And by good I mean reference quality. This means that everything basically looks and sounds as it should, which is what you expect from any video and audio source. The quality ultimately depends on the content, as the chipset does not color it in any way before passing it through.
On the video side, the Xiaomi TV Stick supports 4K HDR10 and Dolby Vision. This covers most of the HDR content on the internet, as much of it is in Dolby Vision these days and almost all of it 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 stream it without also offering a Dolby Vision alternative.
However, a lot of HDR content on YouTube is in HLG, as that is often the default format for most cameras that support recording in HDR. Because it’s fundamentally different from other HDR standards, YouTube doesn’t offer an HDR10 fallback in case HLG isn’t supported, so the content just plays in tone-mapped SDR instead. This leaves a large portion of HDR content on the biggest streaming site unavailable on the Xiaomi TV Stick 4K.
UI performance was fine on the tested firmware. Navigation through the home screen and app list was smooth and responsive. Navigation through most apps also felt fine. Some parts of the UI cause slowdown when loading data, such as the Discover tab. The Play Store also feels sluggish, but then again, when has the scrolling experience in the Play Store ever been good on any device? Beyond that, UI performance was solid even while playing 4K 60fps HDR videos.
What isn’t solid is the gaming experience. While a media player is hardly the best choice for gaming, you can install a few games from the Play Store. The Xiaomi TV Stick 4K simply doesn’t have the GPU horsepower to play games, even basic ones like Crossy Road. As such, it is best to avoid them altogether.
You will have a much better time just streaming a game. Installing and configuring Steam Link on the device was relatively easy, and within minutes I was able to play Elden Ring on the Xiaomi TV Stick 4K as it was streamed in from my desktop PC. It was actually pretty fun to move the character around with the remote’s D-pad, which adds a new level of difficulty in case Miyazaki’s latest box of horrors is too easy for you. The latency is noticeable to an experienced gamer, but shouldn’t be game-breaking for casual players on simple games.
Connection performance on the device was good. Wi-Fi was reliable, if a little slow to connect after waking the device from sleep. 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 lets manufacturers get away with requiring HDMI 2.1 support on an HDMI 2.0 device simply by to support one or more HDMI 2.1 functions, so here we are.
The Xiaomi TV Stick 4K is quite a capable media player for the money, offering good sound and video quality and UI performance. Unfortunately, the lack of HDR10+ and HLG could be a deal breaker for videophiles looking for a more comprehensive 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’s priced identically, it’s the better media player overall.
Still, if you’re more rooted in the Google ecosystem and don’t mind the imperfect HDR support, then the Xiaomi TV Stick 4K is also a good option.