So you are looking to get into Android TV but are a little unsure about whether it is worth bothering with? Well, that is understandable. It is still a platform in its infancy (although some might disagree), it is also a platform that does not have wide enough app and service support, and it is a platform that rarely gets any significant advertising behind it. So taking the plunge and giving Android TV a shot could be considered a bit of a gamble.
Luckily, there is a box you can pick up for $69. It is the Xiaomi Mi Box and in spite of its affordable price tag, it is literally one of the newest devices to be released as it did only become available in the closing stages of 2016. Although, saying it is one of the newest boxes is a bit of an overstatement, as in reality, it is one of only two boxes that you can currently buy. However, the other box, the NVIDIA SHIELD, represents the higher tier of Android TV and with that higher tier comes a price that is almost three times what you will pay for Mi Box. So undoubtedly, the Mi Box is your (only) gateway option to the Android TV platform.
On the face of it, the Mi Box is well worth that $69. After all, Android TV is in general. So the fact that it comes with support for extra added value aspects (like 4K), make it even better value. But one thing you are not getting for that price is fast updates. The Mi Box launched with Android 6.0 (Marshmallow) in tow and at the time, that was understandable. Android 7.0 (Nougat) had only just started hitting the market and so while some did speculate that the Mi Box would launch with Android Nougat out of the box, it didn't. But that was OK. What is certainly less OK though is that six months later and Android Nougat has still not officially rolled out yet to the device. It was reported in the last week or so that a beta version of Nougat seems to be floating about and apparently, you can find it online and manually update your box if you wish. But that is a far cry away from the Mi Box receiving its official Android Nougat update.
For comparison, there is also a beta version (OK, it's more of an alpha version) of Android O floating about and this can be already downloaded and installed on the Nexus Player. So the fact that a Mi Box beta Nougat update is doing the rounds is not exactly something to brag about. It is starting to seem that by the time the Mi Box is actually (and officially) updated to Nougat, most of the talk will already have turned to when will my device get Android O.
What makes this all the worse, is that the Mi Box is not only the only gateway Android TV product currently available, but it also a product that seemed to be very actively associated with Google. The product was first unveiled back at Google's own Google I/O event in 2016 and even launched suspiciously around the time that Google unleashed a number of its own hardware solutions. So this is a product that many would be forgiven for linking to Google. Although, when it comes to updates, it seems to be a million miles away from a Google product. What's more, is that this is Xiaomi's first Android TV device and generally speaking, one of the first real mainstream devices from Xiaomi in the US. So it doesn't exactly bode well for any follow up Mi Boxes (or Xiaomi in general) that it seems to be this hard for the company to roll out an update.
Of course, Xiaomi has been known for heavily skinning its version of Android and so maybe it has taken a long time for the Mi Box's Nougat update to be readied due to how skinned it is. This could be true if the Mi Box came with a heavily skinned version of Android TV, but it doesn't. It is actually, and arguably, one of the most stock-like versions of Android TV. And so should have been a fairly easy porting over to the Mi Box. Which further adds to the lack of understanding as to why it is taking Xiaomi so long to prepare and release this update. Whatever the reason for the slow approach of major Android OS updating to this new and cheap Android TV box – the reality remains the same – while $69 will certainly get you an Android TV box, it will not get you fast updates.