Ameya DalviAug 21, 2020 16:07:34 IST
Overall Rating: 3.8/5
Price: Rs 49,999
OnePlus’ foray into the smart TV segment last year with the Q1 series wasn’t exactly a success story. To be brutally honest, it seemed high on ambition and low on common sense. But that was last year; this year the company brings us a more logical product at a much more sensible price that should have a larger number of potential buyers interested. The OnePlus TV 55U1 is probably what the company should have debuted with last year, rather than going down the QLED path. So let’s take a closer look at this smart TV and see where it fits into an already crowded segment.
OnePlus TV 55U1 - Design and connectivity: 9/10
The first thing you will notice is its super slim upper body and a near bezel-less design on three sides. Two-thirds of its body is a shade under 7 mm in thickness, and seriously high on the wow factor. The rest of the TV isn’t too thick either, and nicely curved at the back with a Carbon fibre pattern. The TV is deceptively heavy for such a slim exterior, courtesy of a metal body that holds everything in place.
The bundled table-top metal stands are a lot more reassuring than the ones on the Q1. A wall-mount kit isn’t bundled, but the company technician is expected to get one along if you choose to hang it on a wall. The bundled remote is minimal in design with just the necessary buttons, or probably a button or two too few. Don’t worry, it doesn’t miss out on the mute button. It is powered by a pair of AAA batteries that weren’t included with my review unit, but should be in a retail unit. More on the remote a little later.
In the connectivity department, you get three HDMI ports ― one of which supports ARC, two USB ports (one 2.0, one 3.0), optical audio out, A/V input and a LAN port, all along the right edge of the rear module. What’s good here is that all the ports are placed closer to the right edge of the TV, making them easy to access even if you choose to wall mount it; a sensible design choice that more manufacturers should follow. There are a couple of wireless connectivity options too ― Bluetooth 5.0 to connect to wireless speakers or headphones, and dual-band WiFi. One notable absentee here is a connector for analog audio out ― no headphone jack or A/V out. You cannot connect speakers with 3.5 mm or coaxial inputs to this TV directly.
OnePlus TV 55U1 - Features and specifications: 8/10
The OnePlus TV 55U1 has a 55-inch VA panel with an Ultra HD (4K) resolution of 3840 x 2160 pixels and a 60 Hz refresh rate. Information about peak panel brightness hasn’t been provided. This TV supports all popular HDR formats such as HDR10/10+, HLG and Dolby Vision. Like all smart TVs, there is built-in WiFi, but unlike several Android TVs these days, it does support dual-band 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz wireless networks. It has Chromecast built-in and lets you cast content to the screen from compatible apps on your phone or tablet.
On the specifications front, this TV is powered by a quad-core processor with ARM Cortex A53 cores and a Mali-G51 GPU. Each of the four CPU cores can throttle between 1000 MHz to 1500 MHz. Giving it company are 2.5 GB RAM and 16 GB of internal storage, a large chunk of which is taken up by the Android Pie 9.0 OS and preinstalled apps. You are left with a little under 7 GB free; quite a low figure for a TV with 16 GB storage. Sound output is rated at 30 Watts RMS with support for DTS-HD, Dolby Digital and Dolby Atmos audio.
It comes with a lean remote control that supports IR and Bluetooth both. The remote is voice-enabled, and you can bring up Google Assistant by pressing the corresponding button and issue voice commands. The remote has just 15 buttons that include hotkeys for Netflix and Prime Video, home and back keys, volume control, a mute button, settings and a D-pad. You also get a OnePlus key that brings up the OxygenPlay launcher and doubles up as a power button. I didn’t like the placement of the D-pad, which is right at the top, and you need to really stretch your thumb to reach it.
OnePlus TV 55U1 - User interface: 8/10
The OnePlus TV 55U1 runs official Android Pie 9.0 and has a stock user interface that you see on most certified Android TVs. It is simple and easy to use, even for a novice user. You have 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. The UI is snappy and stutter-free on this TV.
Apps for Netflix and Prime Video are preinstalled, but OnePlus doesn’t stop there. You also get apps for another half a dozen local OTT services like Zee5, Hungama Play, Jio Cinema, Eros Now, Voot etc. preinstalled. Unfortunately, you cannot uninstall any of them. No wonder you are left with less than 7 GB of free space for your needs. You also have OxygenPlay launcher here, that’s somewhat similar to Xiaomi’s Patchwall and aggregates content from various streaming services. You need to have an active subscription for the given service to watch a particular video though.
One very good feature about this OnePlus TV is that it allows you to adjust sound and picture settings on the fly while viewing content from any source, be it something on an app like Prime Video or YouTube, or an HDMI source like DTH, or simply when watching something from USB. All you need to do is press the designated button on the remote to bring up the menu and make the necessary adjustments while the video is playing in the background. The same pop-up menu gives you access to input source selection, network and all other TV settings too.
OnePlus TV 55U1 - Picture quality: 8/10
The picture quality of this TV is very good with accurate colours and good contrast. The 4K panel is fairly bright and details in dark areas in high contrast scenes in our test videos were clearly visible, but the black levels could have been better. They would be perfectly fine for a sub-40K TV but for one with a price tag of 50K, I expect better. The colour reproduction of this TV is excellent and colours feel quite natural most of the time.
This TV supports Dolby Vision, and content encoded in that format looks very impressive here. Strangely, the Dolby Vision logo keeps popping up sporadically at the top right corner of the screen (and at times refuses to go away) even if you switch it off from the settings. I expect it to be fixed in the next software update. The OnePlus TV U1 also supports HDR10/10+ standards and shows encoded in those formats on Prime Video look pretty lively too, for the most part. But in some HDR10 content such as Jack Ryan, there was some noticeable flickering in certain areas in high-contrast scenes. Among the Dolby Vision-compliant TVs I have tested this year, a similar problem was present in the Vu 55PM TV too, but the Cinema TV model from the same company and the Kodak 50CA7077 did not exhibit this anomaly.
4K content, be it HDR or SDR, looks sharp on this TV, with accurate colours and ample detail. Most of the 1080p Full HD content looks perfectly fine too. While 720p videos are watchable, they aren’t upscaled as well. Anything lower than 720p looks washed out, which is the case with most 55-inch 4K TVs. Having said that, the upscaling engine here isn’t the best I have seen on 4K TVs. The viewing angles are pretty good, but there is a noticeable colour shift when watching the TV from sharp angles; something expected of a VA panel.
The picture is calibrated reasonably well out of the box in standard mode, but you can make it better courtesy of a handful of manual picture adjustment options like brightness, contrast, sharpness, saturation etc. to fine-tune it to your liking. There are a good amount of picture presets too, and the AI PQ preset is quite an interesting option that offers AI based automatic picture adjustments depending on what you are watching. It seems to get it right more often than not, but I still prefer manual adjustments to get it perfect. Dolby Vision content has its own two presets - Bright and Dark.
In addition to that, you also get advanced options for adjusting colour temperature, digital and MPEG noise reduction and more. You have motion smoothening settings too, which when set to medium or high, produces unnaturally smooth motion on screen and motion artifacts. Better to set it to low or off for best results. After a bit of tweaking, the TV does produce very good picture that’s a cut above most of the 55-inch TVs selling around or under Rs 40,000. A bunch of new TVs have been launched around the 50K mark in the past few weeks, including a couple of QLED options. I will let you know how they compare to the 55U1 as and when I get them for review.
OnePlus TV 55U1 - Audio quality: 6/10
A set of four bottom-firing speakers deliver 30 Watts of Dolby-certified audio. They are supposedly Dolby Atmos compliant too. But the audio output for me is the biggest drawback of this TV. Now, 30 Watts is enough power and the speakers can get quite loud too. The problem is with the tuning, which is way off, and I am surprised that OnePlus' QC team didn’t spot the issue before release. The speakers can produce a decent range of audio frequencies in different modes but not all collectively.
There are three sound modes ― Standard, Surround and Clarity. The former is high on bass and low on voice clarity. So you really need to bump up the volume to hear the dialogues (even with dialogue enhancer turned on) but the background sounds become overbearing. Surround mode is best left untouched as it is too boomy. Clarity mode brings clarity to dialogues but at the cost of bass and warmth in sound, so the output feels a bit too flat.
Thankfully, there’s a User mode too that gives you access to a 10-band equaliser. Tweaking it diligently brings a semblance of balance to the sound output that is otherwise lacking in the above three modes. Even after that, the sound quality becomes just about acceptable, certainly not the quality you expect from a 50K TV. Also, I don’t expect an average user to bother with the equaliser, or get it right. Even OnePlus didn’t!
The best option is to connect a soundbar or some other external speaker system. But make sure it has HDMI, Optical input or Bluetooth, as this TV does not have analogue sound output options. Frankly, a soundbar is something everybody should opt for with flat-panel displays to experience the 4K experience to the fullest. In the case of OnePlus TV U1, I don’t think you have an option but to incur the additional cost.
OnePlus TV 55U1 - Overall performance: 7.5/10
The TV takes about 40 seconds to boot up when you switch it on from the mains, which is average for Android TVs these days. But after that, the TV comes back on in just a couple of seconds from standby mode. Ironically, it takes longer than usual to put it to sleep (standby mode). We have seen TV remotes skip a dedicated mute button, but this one actually doesn’t have a dedicated power button. The OnePlus button on the remote can be pressed once to turn on the TV but to switch it off you need to keep the button pressed for 3 seconds. After that, you get three options - Restart, Sleep or Power off. Wait, was I reviewing a phone or a TV? A completely unnecessary deviation from standard protocol, if you ask me.
There’s another small issue with the remote. After you sync it for the first time when setting up the TV, it only seems to operate in IR mode. It is listed under Bluetooth devices but doesn’t operate using Bluetooth. You need to remove it from the list and sync again for it to operate happily ever after. You can also use the OnePlus Connect app on the phone as a remote if you wish. Not a bad option, especially when you need to search for some content using a keyboard. Other than these little niggles and the aforementioned shortcomings with sound and excess preloaded apps, there were no glaring issues with the TV, and it was smooth sailing for the better part of my testing process.
OnePlus TV 55U1 - Price and verdict
The OnePlus TV 55U1 can be purchased on Amazon and on the company’s website for Rs 49,999 with a one year warranty on the TV and two years on the panel. Is it a straightforward choice under Rs 50,000? I wouldn’t say so. In terms of pure picture quality and design, it is currently one of the best options in this budget. Sound output is below par for the segment, but if you already own a good soundbar or home theatre, this is less relevant. Else, it would be an additional cost for those buying this TV.
Having said that, the OnePlus TV 55U1 still offers a lot better value for money than their Q1 series. It’s a more practical product for this market, and as I said earlier, probably the model OnePlus should have debuted with last year. Other options in this segment include the newly-launched H71 QLED TV from TCL sub-brand, iFFALCON. The Vu 55CA Cinema TV is a great option too, and for a good 12K to 15K less, IF you can find it in stock. In a non-Android world, you have the Tizen-based Smart Crystal UHD TV from Samsung and the Saphi-based Philips 58PUT6604 that offers a few extra inches of screen space along with support for Dolby Vision and HDR10+. We'll share more details about alternatives in another story.
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