Xiaomi Mi Box S Plex

I purchased the Xiaomi Mi Box S to replace an aging Firestick in my upstairs bedroom. I have an Nvidia Shield TV in my living room, which I love, but couldn't justify the price of another as a bedroom streaming box. So I began my search. I decided on the Xiaomi Mi Box because of the dedicated google support and decent internals. The box itself is finicky and doesn't receive many updates. Sometimes I'll have to reboot for wifi to work. Optical out wouldn't support surround at launch, no idea if that was fixed (I upgraded my receiver so I haven't tried it again). Other than that, I use it almost every night with Plex, Netflix, or Hulu and haven't had a problem.

Plex has risen in popularity since its inception. The ultra-popular media server software runs on several different operating systems (OSes) and accordingly maintains compatibility with a host of hardware options. Something of a do-it-yourself (DIY) Netflix, Plex allows you to access your digitized movies, TV shows, and music from anywhere. However, to access this content, you’ll need a Plex client device. Find out what’s the best media streamer for Plex in 2019!

What is Plex?

Plex is a robust media server software option. Simply install Plex Media Server on a computer such as a server, network attached storage (NAS) device, load up your movies, TV shows, music, and photos. Then, install Plex apps on client devices like mobile phones, tablets, and streaming set-top boxes to access that content from anywhere. Essentially, Plex is akin to a do-it-yourself (DIY) Netflix or Spotify. But you’re providing the content. I use Plex to access my vast library of DVD and Blu-ray rips, as well as my FLAC-encoded vinyl collection.

What is a Plex Client?

A Plex client is a media streamer for Plex. While a Plex server hosts all of your content, a client can access your Plex library from anywhere. Although the server is the most important factor when streaming from Plex, you’ll likely want a streaming device with native video format support to limit transcodes, Ethernet, and the ability to run apps such as Netflix, Amazon Prime, and Hulu.

Nvidia Shield TV – Best Overall Media Streamer for Plex 2019


The Nvidia Shield TV is hands-down the best Plex client device on the market. Moreover, it’s the top streaming set-top box money can buy. An Nvidia Shield Plex client touts superb codec support and as such, transcodes are few and far between. It’s capable of pumping out 4K HDR content, runs true Android TV, and runs pretty much any Android app including Netflix, Funimation, Hulu, and Amazon Prime.

Aside from Plex streaming the Nvidia Shield TV can double as a Plex server. The Pro version boasts a built-in 500GB harddrive, plus it’s easy to add additional storage via its plentiful USB ports. Hailing from Nvidia, the Shield TV is engineered for gaming as well as home theatre use. It runs native Android games phenomenally, plus there are loads of Shield TV emulators just a few clicks away. You’ll even find Nvidia GameStream for streaming PC games to the Nvidia Shield TV. What’s more, the SmartThings Link transforms the Shield TV into a smart home hub. An Android TV streaming device, smart home hub, game console, and Plex server rolled into one, the Nvidia Shield TV is easily the best Plex media streamer on the market, and top streaming set-top box you can buy.

Pros:

  • Great codec support
  • 4K HDR capable
  • Doubles as a Plex server
  • Runs Android games and emulators
  • Capable of game streaming
  • Serves as a smart home hub with optional SmartThings Link
  • Google Assistant onboard
  • Audio passthrough

Cons:

  • Expensive
  • Lacks some apps

Roku Ultra – Best Plex Client Device for Most Users


While tons of streaming devices populate the home theatre space, Roku is arguably the most popular. There’s a reason. Its ease of use, massive app library, and stellar feature set places Roku at the forefront. Several television manufacturers including TCL even partnered with Roku for a lineup of smart TVs. The Roku Ultra delivers hardware HEVC decoding, 4K HDR video streaming, and a voice remote with a headphone jack for private listening. Since the Roku Ultra features an Ethernet port, I’d suggest opting for the Ultra over a Roku unit sans a wired internet connection. Unfortunately, there’s no passthrough for DTS-HD, TrueHD, DTS-X, and other lossless audio codecs which could prove a problem for audiophile film buffs. Still, it’s a nifty pick for an affordable, competent Plex media streaming device.

Pros:

  • Good codec support
  • 4K HDR capable
  • Voice remote
  • Private listening with remote
  • Ethernet port
  • Tons of apps

Cons:

  • Lacks some audio passthrough for 7.1 surround sound

Amazon Fire TV – Plex Streaming with a Great Ecosystem


Unsurprisingly, Amazon scored a major hit with its Amazon Fire products such as tablets, smart TVs, and streaming devices. Its Fire TV streaming gadgets run Plex extremely well. The Fire TV Cube packs in Alexa smart home voice control and 4K support. While Alexa voice control on the Fire TV Cube is neat, it doesn’t always function as it should. Moreover, 4K video playback falters, and audio codec handling is lackluster. Where Amazon Fire TV devices truly shine is, like the Roku lineup, ease of use and a thriving ecosystem. A Fire TV Plex client should satisfy the average user that’s unconcerned with true 7.1 surround sound or 4K video streaming.

Pros:

  • Amazon ecosystem
  • Tons of apps
  • User-friendly
  • 4K video output on some models

Cons:

  • No DTS audio passthrough
  • Abysmal 4K Plex streaming support

Because Apple offers a lush user interface (UI) that’s the definition of user-friendly. Its ecosystem functions flawlessly with other Apple products and apps. For Plex, the Apple TV 4K touts extremely sound audio passthrough and 4K video playback. There’s little to no encoding required server-side, and the Apple TV 4K should be able to handle most any file you throw at it. While the Nvidia Shield TV reigns supreme, the Apple TV 4K is best for Apple users. If you’re an Android user, skip the Apple TV.

Pros:

  • User-friendly
  • Apple ecosystem
  • Great 4K playback
  • Solid audio passthrough

Cons:

  • Pricey
  • No DTS audio passthrough

Xiaomi Mi Box S


For an affordable true Android TV device, check out the Xiaomi Mi Box S. Although a bevy of Android TV boxes litter the streaming space, only a handful run Android TV. Instead, most simply come loaded with a tablet-optimized version of Android. Like the Shield TV, the Xiaomi Mi Box S features a television-optimized iteration of Android. Yet, though the Xiaomi Mi Box S is technically 4K capable, 4K streaming is pretty laggy. Still, it’s competitively-priced, comes with a fantastic remote complete with volume control, and boasts Google Assistant built-in.

Pros:

  • True Android TV
  • Google Assistant baked-in
  • Excellent remote
  • 4K HDR capable
  • Affordable

Cons:

  • Laggy 4K streaming

PlayStation 4 Pro – Best Plex Client for Gamers


Initially, before upgrading to an Nvidia Shield TV, I used my PlayStation as a Plex client. Despite a few issues, the PlayStation 4 Pro is one of the best Plex streaming media players. Its gaming capabilities, with exclusives such as “Spider-Man,” and “God of War,” set it apart. Furthermore, the ability to play 4K UHD Blu-rays makes the PS4 Pro a comprehensive gaming and multimedia system. There’s no H.265 playback, so the PlayStation 4 Pro isn’t suitable for hardcore Plex users who demand audio passthrough and direct play. But support for streaming apps, video games, and physical media makes the PS4 Pro an awesome Plex client option.

Pros:

  • Plays games
  • Physical media support
  • 4K HDR output

Cons:

  • Direct play issues
  • Audio passthrough problems

Xbox One


Similarly, the Xbox One runs Plex. With its 4K support, the Xbox One is an all-in-one gaming and home theatre device. You’ll be able to play “Halo” and “Gears of War,” pop in a Blu-Ray or DVD, plus fire up Plex. Unfortunately, Plex on the Xbox One lacks a few power-user features. Notably, there’s no audio passthrough and unlike the Nvidia Shield TV, you won’t find frame-rate switching. If you’re already an Xbox One gamer and looking for a Plex client, the Xbox One is your best pick.

HTPC Plex Client


A home theatre PC (HTPC) arguably offers the most utility of any Plex client device. Aside from Plex streaming, you can use an HTPC for gaming, web browsing, media centre apps like Kodi, Netflix, and Hulu, or even run a Plex server off of your HTPC. If you’re using an HTPC for Plex streaming, you can either download the official Plex Media Player for Windows or macOS, install Kodi and use the official Plex for Kodi app, or use the Plex Kodi Connect Kodi app. I’d recommend either Plex Media Player for macOS or Windows, though Linux users will need to run Kodi with the official Kodi app. Since hardware varies, your experience will differ based on hardware. But for streaming playback, almost any hardware should work, and you don’t even need a beefy GPU. In fact, a GeForce GT 1030 should be able to handle 4K HEVC HDR at 60 frames per second just fine.

Pros:

  • Utilitarian
  • Plex available as Plex Media Player or via Kodi

Cons:

  • Price varies
  • Not necessarily plug-and-play

Raspberry Pi Plex Streaming

For an incredibly inexpensive Plex client, check out the Raspberry Pi. One of my favorite Raspberry Pi projects is a DIY HTPC running a Kodi-based operating system like LibreELEC, OpenELEC, or OSMC. You can even run Kodi on the Raspberry Pi’s Debian-based OS Raspbian, as well as retro gaming distros such as RetroPie, Recalbox, and Batocera. The easiest method for watching Plex on the Raspberry Pi is installing Kodi or a Kodi OS, then loading the Plex for Kodi add-on. I’d recommend the Raspberry Pi 3 B+ or Raspberry Pi 4. 4K playback isn’t going to work on the Pi 3 B+, and though the Pi 4 handles 4K output, its functionality with Plex is hit or miss. Notably, the Raspberry Pi makes for an awesome Plex server as well, though it’s a bit anemic for anything but in-home streaming, and can’t really handle transcoding.

Pros:

  • Cheap
  • Runs Kodi and retro gaming OSes

Cons:

  • Completely DIY set up

Best Media Streamer for Plex 2019 – Best Plex Client Devices Final Thoughts

The Nvidia Shield TV is easily the best media streamer for Plex on the market. With its gaming, game streaming, and smart home features coupled with top-tier 4K video handling and superb audio codec support, the Nvidia Shield TV is an awesome choice. The Apple TV 4K doesn’t fall too much behind, and Roku set-top boxes are solid choices for the average user. DIYers may prefer an HTPC or Raspberry Pi. Overall, there’s a ton of choice, and mostly what dictates which Plex client device fits your needs comes down to file support.

Your turn: Which Plex streaming devices are you using?

Xiaomi Mi Box S 4k Hdr Plex

The Mi Box S is a big leap into the Android TV market, but not because of its own merits but rather the lack of competition.

You’d be forgiven to think that Xiaomi isn’t a big brand. In large parts of the world, the Chinese company is only taking its first steps. Especially in most of western Europe Xiaomi is only known to a rather a small group of tech enthusiasts. The company was called the Apple of China before it went international and has had some considerable success with Android phones.

The Mi Box S

The box itself is rather unpresuming. It’s small, about 2 credit cards large and functions as a set-top box. That ‘little’ box is capable of driving 4K video at 60HZ to your TV or monitor in HDR if you want. And have you noticed yet that its an Android TV box?

In the box you’ll find:

  • a surprisingly decent remote control
  • a user manual
  • some batteries
  • a power adapter
  • a HDMI Cable

Xiaomi Mi Box Review

Driving the Mi Box S is a rather old quadcore processor (Cortex-A53) with 2GB DDR3 memory and a rather small amount of storage (8GB). The processor is capable but isn’t exactly what you’d call top-of-the-line. The choice might also not surprise anyone who has been following Xiaomi’s set-top boxes from the past. This is the same hardware as the previous version of the box. That gets us to the RAM and the storage, which is again the same as the original Mi Box.

The big difference is the software and especially the fact that Google certified this box and that carries weight. Especially because it gives a lot of hope for future updates. So far the update to Android TV 8.1 has seen the light of day and that did give the Mi Box a new lease on life.

The Conundrum: streaming or gaming

Xiaomi Mi Box Specs

So this box has a rather ancient processor, a limited amount of RAM and not much storage at all. For a streaming box that is just fine. Netflix doesn’t take up that much space and it doesn’t need too much RAM either.

If you are trying to game on this box, you might be in for a rather harsh time. The Mi Box S is capable of running (some) games decently but that is about it. For about $/€60-70 you can’t expect the world and you sure aren’t getting it. If gaming is your intended purpose for this box, buy the Nvidia Shield instead or buy an Xbox or PS4.

If you are into streaming content then the Mi Box S will do nicely, with one big caveat at the moment: the lack of support for Amazon Prime Video. This problem will be solved soon as Google and Amazon have decided to be friends again. Most other services are supported.

Xiaomi Mi Box Manual

As for connections on the box, you’ll find that it’s a hit and miss. It does support 4K HDR video over its HDMI 2.0A-port and it does have a 3.5mm plug for audio which doubles as an S/PDIF connector. However, it lacks an ethernet port. Thankfully the USB-A port that it does come with can solve that problem in a hurry. But you will be giving up on you expandable storage unless you buy a combined Ethernet/USB hub (like this one).

Xiaomi

Conclusion

Xiaomi Mi Box S Plexus

The Mi Box S is a streaming box and it’s not making any excuses at ~70 Dollar/Euro. It can run games but just don’t. If you want something akin to an Android console, then there are better options like the Shield TV.

Xiaomi Mi Box S Plexiglass Sheets

The choice for 8GB of storage is a bit curious. Doubling the storage wouldn’t have cost a lot. 8GB is just a bit too much on the lean side. You can expand it with a USB-stick but for all intents and purposes we are stuck with the 8GB. If you stream your media with Plex, Netflix, Videoland, Pathe, Google Play Movies or the like, then you are going to be fine. The Mi Box S will have you covered and replace that horrible excuse for software that is supposed to make your tv ‘smart’.

If you are an Amazon Prime customer you are out of luck. That is until Amazon releases the update to their app I mentioned. You won’t be able to scroll through the content through an app, but you will be able to use the Chromecast functionality that is built into the Mi Box S.

If you want anything more than a streaming box, then don’t buy the Xiaomi but go wild and spend a little more on an Nvidia Shield.

None of the content in this review is sponsored. I bought the product myself. There are no affiliate links in this article, save for the humble banner which helps me cover the cost of my server.