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How to Change Language to English and Install Apps Remotely on Xiaomi Mi Box 3 Enhanced

April 12th, 2016 48 comments

Just like other Xiaomi TV boxes the latest Xiaomi Mi Box 3 Enhanced (aka MiBox 3 Pro) comes with a Chinese only user interface, but a similar method as used for Xiaomi Mi Box Mini to change English and remotely install apps. I’ve gone through this and taken pictures and screenshots to show how to change the language.

I had connected the HDMI cable, a USB hard drive, as well as a USB keyboard and RF dongle for my airmouse and gamepad to the device, and after powering up the device, you are know some text in Chinese, you can press OK, and you’ll soon be presented with a list of WiFi access points.

List_of_Wifi_ESSID_Xiaomi_Box

Select one, and you’ll be asked to input the password for the network. However, in my case I had no connect button, and pressing OK on the remote did not work at all. It turns out connecting a hardware keyboard (or air mouse) will disable the software keyboard and the connection button.Xiaomi_Mi_Box_3_WiFi_Connection_No_Button

But at the time, I simply skipped, and that’s only later, that I discovered that disconnecting hardware input devices would allow to input the password with Xiaomi remote control and a soft keyboard, and connect to the WiFi access point by pressing the large key on the right as shown in the picture below.Xiaomi_Mi_Box_3_WiFi_Connection_Keyboard Anyway, once the boot is complete you’ll get the usual GITV user interface found in all Xiaomi TV boxes with all text in Chinese.

Xiaomi_Mi_Box_3_App_List

I upgrade the firmware via OTA (now MIUI TV 1.4.6) before completing the other steps, but the procedure should be the same if you have the previous version of the firmware. Some of screenshots and photos may just look a little different.

The trick to change the language is to access the Android Settings – not available from GITV interface – by downloading Shafa Market apk, and copying it to a USB flash drive. Now insert the flash drive in the box, and after a few short seconds, a pop-up window should appear. Select the left button, to enter the file manager.

Xiaomi_Mi_Box_3_Pro_USB_Detection

You can see that network shares are also detected, but since I could not find how to start the file manager, I used the USB flash drive as a workaround.

Xiaomi_Mi_Box_3_File_Manager

Navigate to the USB drive and select 0.shafaguanjia_138.apk.

Shafa_Market_Apk

There will be a warning because third party apps installation is disabled by default due to security reasons. Again select the left button.Shafa_Market_Installation_WarningYou’ll be brought to the Android settings, and need to change the settings as shown with the highlighted line.

Click to Enlarge

Click to Enlarge

Now go back, and complete the installation. Select “Open” (right button) to launch Shafa Market.

Shafa_Market_Installation_CompleteSelect 我的应用 (My Apps) on the top menu, and click on the Settings (设置) button.

Click to Enlarge

Click to Enlarge

You’ll now be in the familiar Android Lollipop settings, albeit in Chinese. Select the language and input menu with a Globe icon.

Xiaomi_Mi_Box_3_Android_Settings_Chinese

Then click on the first item to change the language.Xiaomi_Mi_Box_3_Android_Settings

There are just four languages, three variants of the Chinese language, and English.Xiaomi_Mi_Box_3_Enhanced-Pro_Chinese_EnglishYou may also want to change the “current keyboard” to “English (US) – Android Keyboard (AOSP)” to avoid issues when inputting text later on.

Now if you go back to the launcher, you’ll find most items in English, except the ones that are retrieved from the  network.Xiaomi_Mi_Box_3_Enhanced_English_User_Interface

A reboot might also help making sure, all apps are aware of the change of language. If you want to install apps using apks easily, you may want to go to Shafa Market->Tools->Remote Install.

Shafa_Market_Remote_Install

This will give you an URL to conveniently install Android apps from your web browser’s computer. Simply click on the green button, select an apk, it will be uploaded the box, where you’ll then be prompted to complete the installation.

Click to Enlarge

Click to Enlarge

I’m usually downloading apk directly from Google Play store using APK downloader add-on for Firefox, but as you can see from the screenshot above I’ve also install Amazon App (Amazon Underground) to more conveniently install apps. You could also copy a bunch of apk files to an USB flash drive, and install them the same way as I did for Shafa Market.

Xiaomi Mi Box Mini Review

April 4th, 2015 46 comments

After showing pictures of Xiami Mi Box Mini, it’s now time for a “review”, but a bit different from my other reviews, as Xiaomi tiny media player is much different. First the firmware is in Chinese only, and there’s only one external port HDMI output. So first I’ll show the user interface is Chinese, then explain how you can install your own Android apps, and finally run some benchmark to evaluates Mediatek MT8568, Wi-Fi and storage performance.

Xiaomi Mi Box Mini Setup and Chinese User Interface

The device is super small, but in my case it was almost too big, as it takes enough space to potentially cause problems with the adjacent plug.

Mibox_mini_power_extension

This little issue will of course depend on your power extension.  You then need to connect the 1.5 meter HDMI cable, which should be long enough for most setups, and you’ll see some guide asking you to remove the plastic sheet under the battery on the Bluetooth remote, and showing how to use the remote (I guess).

Xiaomi_Mi_Box_Mini_SetupAfter that you need to configure Wi-Fi, which should be relatively straightforward even you can’t read a word a Chinese, and then you get to the user interface.Xiaomi_Mi_Box_Mini_User_InterfaceWe are told the box runs Android, but all visual traces of that are gone including the setup.

I’ve recorded a video of the user interface with Zidoo X9 recorder to show what you’d get.

So if you can’t read Chinese, you’ll be up for a struggle, and the only think you may be able to use is Miracast function, although I had mixed luck making it work with my mobile phone (M6752). Alternatively, there’s a QR code in the user manual linking to an app that will allow you to display your mobile’s photos and videos on the big screen.

If you are an oversea Chinese you may have though it could have been a nice option to watch Chinese shows and movie online, but unfortunately most of the content is only copyrighted for China viewing, or you’d need to setup a VPN.

Xiaomi_Movie_Copyright_China_OnlyI’ve been told the two lines in the picture above translated into “Your current region does not support the playback of this channel” and “Downloading source information” so no Fast and Furious 7 for me…

There’s an option to enable adb.

Xiaomi_Mi_Box_Mini_adb

But I had no luck connecting to the box with adb over Wi-Fi, and whatever setting I choose adb port is not open.

Finally, as I tried the box, I got a pop-up for a new firmware that I happily installed. Unfortunately, I turned out to be a bad idea since this also removed the menu required to side-load apks to the board. So I had to downgrade the firmware, something that’s very easy to do since there’s an option for that.

Xiaomi_Mi_Box_Mini_Firmware_DowngradeSimply go to the firmware upgrade menu, and click on the right button, a window will pop-up asking if you really want to downgrade from MIUI TV 1.3.72 to MIUI TV 1.3.76. Accept by selecting the left button.

Changing Xiaomi Mi Box Mini Language and Side-loading Apps

A shop posted video instructions to help users change the language and load apps, including Google Play. To do so, click on the third icon from the left in the launcher, and select the fifth option on the top menu.

Xiaomi_Mi_Box_Mini_Remote_Connection

If the third Blue option is missing, then your firmware may have removed the option to side-load apps, and should you try to downgrade the firmware as mentioned above. If you can’t do that, I don’t know other solutions to change to English and install apps.

Xiaomi_Mi_Box_Mini_Side-load_appsUpon entering the third options, you’ll ne shown an address, in my case http://192.168.0.109:6095/443 that you need to type in your mobile or computer’s browser, and will allow you copy files to the device over Wi-Fi.

Xiaomi Mi Box Mini File Uploader (Click to Enlarge)

Xiaomi Mi Box Mini File Uploader (Click to Enlarge)

A bunch of apk have been provided, including Google services, Google Play, and YouTube, but unfortunately, so the only one you really need to download is Shafaguanjia.apk, as it will allow you to access Android settings, and change the language and input method, as well as upload more apk, which may fail with the Xiaomi uploader. Once the file is transfered to Mi Box Mini, you’ll get the usual installation prompt asking to review permissions before installation, and installation is complete, you should see “Shafa Market” app (in Chinese) shown in the right of the main screen.

Start the app, select the Setup icon to enter the “standard” Android settings, scroll down until your the the options for Language (“A” icon), select the first options, and you should be able to select English, simplified Chinese, or traditional Chinese as shown in the picture below.

Xiaomi_Mi_Box_Mini_English

Now get a bunch of apk you want to install, for example with APK Downloader, and since the default web uploader does not seem to work for all apk, instead go to the last option to the right of the top menu in Shafa market, and click on the bottom right icon (Computer + Smartphone) in order to get another address to upload, for example http://192.168.0.109:8899.

Shafa_Market_Apk_installation

Upload Option in Shafa Market

The webpage is similar to the Xiaomi one, with a single green button to browse your local storage and install apps.

Shafa_Market_Apk_DownloaderI’ve installed a bunch of application include ES File Explorer, Antutu, Vellamo, CPU-Z, Google Play, Chrome (there’s no web browser by default), Amazon appstore, Kodi 14.2, and so on. For some unknown reasons, Firefox Android browser was transfer to Xiaomi box but the installation window did not show up. Once you have installed Shafa Market, you can safely upgrade your Xiaomi Mi Box Mini firmware.

Xiami_Mi_Box_Mini_App_InstallationThe Bluetooth is a standard remote, e.g. not a magic remote with pointer, so many android apps won’t work. You should be able to work around this by using a Bluetooth mouse and keyboard, but I don’t happen to have any, and since the device is not rooted it might not be possible to install a server (e.g. DroidMote) to be used with a smartphone remote app. So I had to give up on using Amazon Appstore, 3Dmark benchmark, and iperf, and I did not even bother side-loading any games for that reason. Chrome browser is working, but you may have to select “Request desktop site” with the menu key in order to be able to click on links…

If you want to see I’ve shot another video with the user interface in English and a few extra apps.

Since I forgot to include Kodi in the video above, and I’m sure some people would ask, I’ve also tried to play a few samples including Sintel Blu-ray in Kodi 14.2 from a SAMBA share. It sort of work for some videos, but in many cases the system struggle to have a decent framerate, or there are massive artifacts.

Xiami Mi Box Mini Benchmarks

Mediatek MT8685 is a completely new processor to me, so I had to run CPU-Z first.

Xiaomi_Mi_Box_Mini_CPU-ZThe processor indeed features  four Cortex A7 cores @ 598MHz to 1.51 GHz with a Mali-450 MP GPU.

Xiaomi_Mi_Box_Mini_Forrestgump_CPU-ZThe board is called forrestgump, the screen resolution is 1920×1080, and there’s just 968 MB RAM, and 2.13 GB storage available from the internal flash.

The box gets 21,091 points in Antutu 5.6.1, but the score is probably higher than it should because it was only performed on part of the screen (830×1080 instead of 1920×1080), hence affecting 2D and 3D graphics scores positively.

Antutu 5.6.2 on Mi Box Mini (Click to Enlarge)

Antutu 5.6.2 on Mi Box Mini (Click to Enlarge)

I’ve also run Vellamo 3.1 which in most cases places Xiaomi Mi Box Mini close LG Nexus 4 smartphone powered by Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 Pro quad core processor (APQ8064).

Xiaomi_Mi_Box_Mini_Vellamo_3.1You can get the comparison charts for Multicore, Metal, and Browser.

I’ve also tried to run 3DMark, but I could not download Ice Storm package due to input issues.

I can’t report about Wi-Fi performance either since ES File Explorer failed to copy a file from SAMBA to flash, and I could not use iperf, again due to input issues as the software keyboard would not show up when needed…

I still managed to run A1SD bench to evaluate internal storage performance, but there’s no little storage, that the utility detected Cache reads. The reported read speed is 57.11 MB/s, and write speed is 12.41 MB/s.

Mibox_mini_storage_performance

Read & Write Speed in MB/s

Conclusion

If you live in China, Xiao Mi Box Mini may be a nice little device giving you access to lots of content. If you can read Chinese, and live overseas, be prepared to setup a VPN to China, and you may access the many online videos and movies, but if you don’t read a word of Chinese, switching to English will require some efforts, and many apps won’t work as expected, unless possibly if you get a Bluetooth air mouse or Bluetooth keyboard and mouse. Provided the latter work, you could get a decent little box for web browsing, some casual gaming, watching videos and so on. Just don’t expect Google Play, YouTube. etc… to work.

In case you’d still like to give it a try, GearBest, who kindly provided a sample for review, sells it  for $42.98 with coupon MIBOX, but you can also purchase on other websites such as GeekBuying, Aliexpress, or eBay for around $50.