With the government of India easing restrictions on the COVID-19 lockdown since May 18, several brands including Xiaomi have commenced deliveries of products to various cities across India except for the Containment Zones. For Xiaomi, the easing of restrictions would aid the company to expand the sales of its recently released devices including Mi Box 4K and the Mi 10. The Mi Box 4K has specifically gained traction in the past few days as Xiaomi announced that its Mi TV 4 55 will not receive the Android update due to its “unique design” However, the company offered its Mi TV 4 55 users an Rs 1000 discount on the Mi Box in addition to the content offers that Xiaomi provides to all Mi Box users. Meanwhile, Tata Sky on May 12 slashed the prices of its Binge+ Android TV Set-Top Box (STB) to Rs 3999 while also offering a six month subscription to Binge service. Several readers of TelecomTalk have asked us how the devices fare in comparison and whether the Mi Box 4K has an edge over Android TV STBs of the Direct-to-Home (DTH) operators. Here’s how the devices fare in comparison.
The Mi Box 4K: Features and Price
The Mi Box 4K is an Android TV 9 Pie device powered by a 2 GHz quad-core processor with support for 4K HDR 10 video and Dolby Audio. The device supports Chromecast that enables users to mirror any device including smartphones, mobiles and tablets.
The Mi Box 4K is also said to be the first device with support for Android Data Saver that enables users to stream three times more video for the same amount of data as the single audio. The device also has Google Assistant built-in and that enables users to search and discover content using their voice.
In terms of the connectivity options, the device has an 3.5mm audio out along with HDMI 2.0 port and an USB 2.0 Port. The standard connectivity options including support for dual band WiFI modes and Bluetooth 4.2 are all featured on the device.
Xiaomi has introduced multiple content offers on the Mi Box 4K including 50% off on Docubay, 25% discount on Hoichoi, 30% off on Epic ON and 20% discount on Shemaroo. The Mi Box 4K is currently sold for Rs 3499 with Xiaomi promising deliveries in six to eight days to most cities across India.
The Android STB: Features and Price
The Android TV-based STBs of the DTH operators are largely identical in terms of the features that are offered to users. The devices run on Android TV 9 Pie with built-in Chromecast and Google Voice Assistant along with support for over 5000 apps on Google Play store. However, specific apps including Netflix are said to be not available on Android TV STBs of DTH operators including Tata Sky, Dish TV and D2h. Netflix app is available on the Airtel Xstream Box as Bharti Airtel established a partnership with the streaming platform.
Further, the Android STBs of the DTH operators differ on the User Interface (UI) side with Tata Sky in particular offering additional customisations on its hybrid box. While several elements including Home, (TV) Guide and Apps are largely identical on the Android STB, the layout differs between the STBs.
Tata Sky offers a dedicated Binge screen that enables users to access services including Disney+ Hotstar, Sun NXT, Hungama Play, Shemaroo Me and Eros Now. The operator also offers users a chance to watch the past seven day content from the TV channels through its Binge service.
Despite a different UI on its STB, Dish SMRT has similar elements to Tata Sky apart from a dedicated “My Recordings” screen. The operator lets users record content from traditional TV channels onto an external drive or USB and enables users to access the content through “My Recordings” screen.
The price of the Android STBs are also largely similar to new users with Tata Sky Binge+, Dish SMRT, d2h Stream and Airtel Xstream all listed at Rs 3999 to new users. However, the Airtel Thanks users can upgrade to the Airtel Xstream box for Rs 2249 including installation charges. Similarly, the existing users of Dish TV and d2h can upgrade to Dish SMRT and d2h Stream for a price of Rs 2499. As of press time on Friday, Tata Sky has not listed any special price for its existing users interested in upgrading to Tata Sky Binge+ STB.
The Mi Box 4K vs Android TV STB: Additional Device or Additional Price
While the streaming devices like Mi Box 4K are ideal for users who are interested in Over-the-Top (OTT) content, the hybrid DTH STBs enables users to watch OTT content and Live TV channels.
It has to be noted that the Android STBs from DTH operators require users to do minimum recharge of the DTH service even if the user is interested in watching the OTT content. The devices from the DTH operators largely belong to the company with the operators having the rights to modify the terms and conditions for access to certain services. While Android STBs of the DTH operators have USB ports, users are largely restricted in accessing the content from external drives.
However, the Android STBs of the DTH operators enable users to watch live channels as well as OTT content on a single device which eliminates the need for users to have multiple devices. Additionally, certain DTH operators also enable users to record content from live channels through the Android STB while Tata Sky enables users to watch past seven day content through its Binge service. The Binge service also enables users to save money in the long term as a single subscription to Binge provides access to multiple streaming services.
The Mi Box 4K is ideal for those users whose primary needs are content from OTT services. The device also enables users to watch content from external drives while users are not required to perform any recharge to watch content. While several TV channels have introduced OTT apps that enable users to watch live TV, the cost could be on the higher side as users are required to subscribe to several individual apps. Additionally, the popular apps including Netflix are also available on the Mi Box with users having no restrictions to download apps.