Ameya DalviOct 06, 2020 14:15:19 IST
Overall Rating: 4/5
Price: Rs 49,999 to Rs 51,999
Until recently, a QLED TV was thought of as very expensive, as the technology was primarily used in Samsung’s high-end TVs. Late last year, OnePlus had a chance to change that perception with the launch of their Q1 series of TVs, but pretty much blew it. A few months back, TCL launched a bunch of their QLED TVs at a much more aggressive price point, and their sub-brand iFFALCON now looks to up the value quotient even further.
The iFFALCON H71 looks like a rebranded TCL C715 in person and on paper, both. While I didn’t get a chance to review the latter, the former presents us with a good opportunity to take a closer look at what affordable QLED TVs offer.
iFFALCON 55H71 - Design and connectivity: 8.5/10
This iFFALCON TV sports a near bezel-less design on three sides. The metallic grey bottom bezel is modest and has an elongated chin at the centre with a fabric mesh. It hosts a bunch of LEDs and receivers for the far-field mics, among other things. The TV is not bulky, but isn’t as slim as the OnePlus TV U1. It can be wall-mounted or placed on a desk using the bundled metal stands. The necessary screws and mounts are provided in the package.
One interesting thing to note is that the table-top stands can either be connected near the two edges of the TV like most TVs, or towards the centre. The big advantage of having them at the centre is that you don’t need a large table to place it on; a two foot broad desk is good enough. This is something a lot of manufacturers can take a cue from. Not everybody likes to wall mount a TV, and can save on some furniture cost too, with this option.
The company bundles a voice-enabled remote in the package along with a pair of AAA batteries to power it. The remote is compact and minimal in design, with most of the necessary buttons, except one. No mute button here too. Someone was influenced by Xiaomi, it seems. Ironically, the prior series TVs from iFFALCON like the K31 have a similar remote, but with a mute button. I wonder why they dropped it here!
In the connectivity department, you have most of the bases covered; you get three HDMI ports - one of which supports ARC, two USB 2.0 ports, optical audio out, A/V input, headphone out and a LAN port, all along the right edge of the rear module. What’s even better is that all the ports are placed close to the right edge of the TV instead of the centre, making them easier to access even if you choose to wall mount it. Another common sense approach that more manufacturers should follow. Wireless connectivity options include Bluetooth 5.0 to connect to wireless speakers or headphones and dual-band WiFi.
iFFALCON 55H71 - Features and specifications: 8.5/10
The iFFALCON 55H71 QLED TV has a 55-inch panel with an Ultra HD (4K) resolution of 3840 x 2160 pixels and a 60 Hz refresh rate. The panel can get 300 nits bright and supports all popular HDR standards like HDR10/10+, HLG and Dolby Vision. Like all certified Android TVs, it has Chromecast built-in and lets you cast content to the screen from compatible apps on your phone or tablet.
Moving on to other specifications, it is powered by a quad-core processor with ARM Cortex A55 cores and Mali-470 MP GPU. Each of the four CPU cores can throttle between 900 MHz and 1100 MHz, while the GPU can go as high as 800 MHz. You get 2 GB RAM and 16 GB of internal storage here, a chunk of which is taken up by the Android Pie 9.0 OS for TV. You are still left with about 10 GB space for your needs; noticeably higher than what you get on the OnePlus TV. Sound output is rated at 30 Watts RMS with support for Dolby Audio MS12 and Dolby Atmos.
The TV comes bundled with a compact, voice-enabled remote control that supports IR and Bluetooth both. The best way to pair it with the TV for the first time is to press the voice input key and follow the on-screen instructions. Once paired, you can bring up Google Assistant by pressing the same button and issue voice commands. Speaking of voice commands, the TV also has built-in far-field mics. So if you are far from the remote or wish to go completely hands free, you can simply say OK Google or Hey Google (loudly) and issue the command. More on that in the overall performance section.
iFFALCON 55H71 - User interface: 7/10
This iFFALCON TV runs official Android Pie 9.0 OS for TV and has a near-stock user interface at first glance. However, TCL has made some modifications to the stock UI and moved some options around a bit. For example, sound and picture adjustments have been removed from the Android TV settings and are available only when you press the settings key on the remote. The good part is, those options are available across all input sources and within all apps at the press of a button, and let you adjust sound and picture settings on the fly.
Like in most official Android TVs, you get a row of your favourite installed apps, the shortcuts for which you can add, remove or shuffle around. Other rows display last played or suggested content from various online streaming services. Apps for Netflix and Prime Video are preinstalled, as are apps for a few more services like Zee5, Eros Now, Rakuten TV etc. along with TCL’s own apps, thus adding a bit to bloat.
Speaking of apps, the Prime Video app on this TV is buggy, and there was no update available at the time of writing this review. The UI and content both tend to lag quite a bit at times, and if you exit a video, the audio continues to play for a few more seconds. No such issue was observed on other platforms such as Netflix, Disney+ Hotstar or YouTube.
The UI feels a tad sluggish too on this TV. That’s quite strange, given its capable processing hardware and sufficient RAM. It just isn’t optimised well enough, I suppose. Something the company should look to fix through an OTA update in the near future. The TV boots in the near-stock Android TV UI and there is no custom launcher on top. The company does offer you its content curation engine called TCL TV that’s similar to Xiaomi’s Patchwall, but you get it in the form of an app rather than a launcher, which is a good thing.
iFFALCON 55H71 - Picture quality: 8.5/10
The picture quality of this QLED TV is very good, with vibrant colours and excellent black levels for the segment (not OLED level). The 4K panel is fairly bright, but not the brightest I have seen and that hampers the contrast a little bit. In our testing, details in dark areas in high contrast scenes were visible for the most part, but some areas did appear a bit too dark. The colour reproduction of this TV is quite good, but they do feel a tad boosted at default settings. I don’t think many would complain.
After playing around with picture adjustments a little bit, I managed to make the picture look noticeably better. You get a handful of manual picture adjustment options like brightness, contrast, sharpness, saturation, black level, noise reduction etc. to fine-tune it to your liking. Strangely, I did not see any option to adjust the backlight. You also get five picture presets, but instead of a separate user-defined preset, you are allowed to tweak each of the presets to your liking. Avoid the Smart HDR preset though, as it is anything but smart, and induces a lot of flicker on screen. When watching Dolby Vision videos, you only get two presets - Dolby Vision Bright and Dolby Vision Dark.
Dolby Vision content looks quite crisp, and the same can be said about HDR10+ content too. Shows encoded in those formats on Netflix and Prime Video respectively look pretty lively on this TV, with vibrant colours and very good contrast. There was hardly any flickering in high contrast scenes, which was great to see. Another interesting part about this TV is when you play any HDR content, you get a quick popup of the HDR format the content is encoded in. Most TVs display the Dolby Vision logo when you play that content, but here you get logos for HDR10+ and HDR10 too, when you play the corresponding videos. Quite a handy feature that.
4K SDR content also looks sharp and vibrant on this TV, with ample detail. 1080p Full HD content upscales well too, with a good amount of detail. Most 720p videos are perfectly watchable, but a tad soft. Anything lower than 720p looks a bit too flat, which is the case with all 55-inch 4K TVs I have come across till date. The viewing angles are good, but there’s a bit of colour shift when viewing the TV from sharp angles; it doesn’t hamper the experience though.
iFFALCON 55H71 - Audio quality: 7.5/10
A pair of bottom-firing speakers rated at 30 Watts RMS deliver more than decent audio output. The sound quality is definitely better than what you get on the similarly priced OnePlus 55U1, but not as good as on the Hisense 55A71 that we reviewed recently (and priced a good 15K lower). The output is loud and clear for general purpose viewing, but lacks punch. It is perfectly fine for watching news, sports or the odd TV series, but it doesn’t have much bass to make music and movies enjoyable.
The speakers are tuned reasonably well out of the box, but there are very few sound adjustment options to tune them further. You do have a handful of audio presets to play around with. The speakers are perfectly audible even at 30 percent volume level, and I don’t remember going beyond 50 percent during the course of my testing. They also support Dolby Atmos, but keep your expectations in check; do not expect magic here when it comes to positional audio or surround sound from the TV speakers. The TV does give you a good variety of audio outputs from digital to analog to wireless, for plugging in a good soundbar that will definitely enhance the overall experience.
iFFALCON 55H71 - Overall performance: 8/10
The TV takes about 40 seconds to boot up when you switch it on from the mains, which is average for Android TVs. But after that, the TV comes back on in just a couple of seconds from standby mode, which is great to see. The default media player struggles to decode the odd codec or two when playing content from a USB drive. But since this is an Android TV, you can simply install VLC player from the Play Store to take care of this issue.
As I touched upon earlier, the iFFALCON 55H71 has far-field mics, thanks to which you can summon the Google Assistant by saying “OK Google” or “Hey Google”. The LED lights located on the fabric mesh chin glow to let you know that the TV is ready to accept your voice commands. A cool feature indeed, but the implementation is far from perfect. You need to be really loud and clear to get the desired result. That may not necessarily please other people in the house. Also, it is noticeably slower and inaccurate as compared to using the remote to issue voice commands. If you have privacy concerns about leaving the far-field mics on at all times, there is a switch at the back of the TV to turn them off.
iFFALCON 55H71 - Price and verdict
The iFFALCON 55H71 can be purchased on Flipkart between Rs 49,999 and Rs 51,999 with a one year warranty. At that price, you get a TV that’s clearly a cut above regular LED TVs that sell under the 40K mark, in terms of pure picture quality. In fact, its picture and sound are a tad better than the OnePlus TV U1 that sells for almost the same price. But the OnePlus TV design is something special and looks way more premium. Sound output on this TV is decent, but I expect better in this segment.
All said and done, a few niggles notwithstanding, the iFFALCON 55H71 is a good budget QLED TV that raises the performance bar in the 50K segment. It also provides a nice stepping stone for people looking to move up to QLED territory on a reasonable budget. But most importantly, it is a big step in knocking QLED TVs off their high horse and making them more mainstream. I expect the competition to follow suit.
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