Ameya DalviJun 10, 2020 08:34:05 IST
Overall Rating: 3.8/5
Price: Rs 21,999
Realme has entered the smart TV segment in India with the launch of their 32-inch and 43-inch models. We have the latter for review today. While the price is competitive, the competition is quite stiff in the segment. Let’s see if this Realme TV can hold its own against some of the established players that ply their trade in this price bracket.
Realme Smart TV 43 - Design and connectivity: 8/10
There is nothing striking about the Realme TV design, nor does it offend any sensibilities. It has a standard look with fairly narrow bezels on three sides, and a much thicker bottom bezel with a tiny chin under the company logo that hosts a power LED and IR receiver. The TV is quite light and can be wall-mounted or placed on a desk using the bundled stands. The plastic stands are among the lightest I have ever seen, but they hold the TV firmly in place. The wall mount kit isn’t provided in the package, and needs to be purchased separately.
The necessary screws are bundled along with a wireless remote control and a pair of AAA batteries; more on the remote in the next section. In the connectivity department, you get three HDMI ports - one of which supports ARC, two USB 2.0 ports, SPDIF audio out, headphone out, A/V in and a LAN port. Two HDMI ports, one USB port and the LAN port are placed at the bottom of the rear module, while the rest of the ports can be found along its left edge.
Since this is not a large-screen TV, the ports are not so difficult to reach, even if you wall mount it. You also have a couple of wireless connectivity options in Bluetooth 5.0 to connect to wireless speakers or headphones, and 2.4 GHz WiFi with support for b/g/n standards. There;s no support for 5 GHz WiFi networks here, but then I can’t think of too many budget 43-inch TVs that support it.
Realme Smart TV 43 - Features and specifications: 8/10
The Realme Smart TV 43 has a 43-inch VA panel with a Full HD resolution of 1920 x 1080 pixels and a 60 Hz refresh rate. While a bunch of brands offer 4K panels on their 43-inch models, I am perfectly content with Full HD on a screen this size. The difference in quality is barely noticeable. The panel has a rated brightness of 400 nits and supports HDR10 and HLG. The company doesn’t go overboard with the HDR talk, and rightly so. None of the budget Full HD TVs are adept at handling HDR content, so it’s best not to raise the buyer’s expectations.
On the specifications front, this TV is powered by a Mediatek chipset that has a quad-core processor with four ARM Cortex A53 cores and Mali-470 MP GPU. Each of the four CPU cores can throttle between 1000 MHz to 1300 MHz. You get 1 GB RAM, which is sufficient for crunching Full HD content smoothly, and 8 GB of internal storage, a chunk of which is taken up by the official Android Pie 9.0 OS. Sound output is rated at 24 Watts RMS with support for Dolby MS12 audio.
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. I must include a special mention for the wireless remote control that’s bundled with this TV. It is compact and minimal, but doesn’t miss out on any important keys. Unlike the one you get with Xiaomi TVs, the remote here has keys for Settings, Input selection and most importantly - Mute. It operates both — on IR and Bluetooth. The power button on the remote communicates with the TV using IR when switching on, and then everything operates over Bluetooth.
The remote is voice-enabled, so you can bring up the Google Assistant by pressing the dedicated key and issue voice commands. It works smoothly. The remote has hotkeys for Netflix, Prime Video and YouTube, along with Home and Back keys, input selection, volume control, a mute button, settings and a D-pad, which has a yellow ring on the inside that adds a touch of Realme’s design language. The only complaint I have about the remote is the quality of plastic used. The build doesn’t feel as solid as the Xiaomi, or certain Vu remotes. Other than that, this is probably the perfect remote for an Android TV, with just the right number of keys that cover all the necessary functions.
Realme Smart TV 43 - User interface: 7.5/10
The Realme TV runs official Android Pie 9.0 and has the stock user interface that you see on most official Android TVs, without any third-party launcher. It is simple and easy to use. 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 TV comes preloaded with apps for Netflix, Prime Video and certain popular Google services. There’s the Google Play Store too that gives you access to thousands of popular apps.
While there is a dedicated settings button on the remote, it doesn’t do anything if you are on the Android home screen or watching something on YouTube, Netflix or any other app. You hear a sound when you press a key but that’s pretty much it. But the button does have some utility when you consume content through an HDMI source such as DTH or watch something via USB. Pressing the button gives you access to various settings in HDMI mode including Picture and Sound presets as well the entire system settings, from where you can fine tune the picture and sound, among other things.
In USB mode, pressing the settings button takes you directly to Picture and Sound settings, which is even better. So the company has bothered to provide two different settings interfaces under HDMI and USB mode, but hasn’t assigned anything to the button on the Android home screen or in other apps. This is quite strange! Hopefully the company will bother fixing this in future OTA updates.
Realme Smart TV 43 - Picture quality: 7/10
The overall picture quality of this TV is good for the price, but not the best in the segment. The VA panel is bright enough, but doesn’t feel as bright as some other 400-nit displays I have seen in the recent past. The colour reproduction of this TV is pretty good but needs a bit of tweaking to get it right. Thankfully, this Realme TV offers ample options to fine-tune the picture ranging from standard brightness, contrast, saturation, sharpness adjustments to gamma control, white balance and more.
The contrast is acceptable for the segment, but the black levels could have been better. Some of the details in darker areas in high-contrast scenes in our test videos were not clearly visible, and they appeared a bit too dark. The Vu UltraAndroid TV and Onida Fire TV Edition did a noticeably better job in this department. Though the TV doesn’t brag about its HDR prowess, the Netflix app on the TV considers it HDR-compliant and turns on HDR in shows that support it. Unfortunately, this leads to erratic contrast, unnatural colours and a bit of flickering in certain areas in high-contrast scenes. I couldn’t find a way to switch off HDR on this TV either.
Regular 1080p (Full HD) content looks sharp and vibrant on this TV, with accurate colours (after tweaking) and ample detail. 720p videos were perfectly watchable, though not as sharp. Anything lower than 720p looks washed out. The upscaling engine here isn’t the best I have come across, even as far as budget TVs go. But since this is Realme’s first TV release, I am willing to give them a pass. When watching stuff on DTH, HD channels look good but a bit soft. You may need to push the sharpness bar close to its maximum. The viewing angles are more than decent, but there is a bit of colour shift when watching the TV from sharp angles. Not a deal-breaker though.
As I mentioned earlier, the picture adjustments are available on the fly only in HDMI or USB mode. When in Netflix, Prime Video, YouTube or other apps, you have to get out of the app, go to TV settings, adjust the picture, get back to the app you were in and check if the picture looks fine. If not, repeat until it works for you. This is one aspect that I want to see fixed at the earliest. Xiaomi errs in this department too, and Realme has a chance to go one-up on them here, if they care to.
Realme Smart TV 43 - Audio quality: 8/10
Two pairs of bottom firing speakers rated at 24 Watts RMS total deliver Dolby-certified audio. Each speaker module has a full-range driver to take care of mids and lows, as well as a dedicated silk dome tweeter to handle the high frequencies. The audio output of the Realme TV is quite impressive, and in fact, is one of the best in the segment. The output is quite loud even at 25 percent volume level, there is ample clarity in the vocals and more than decent frequency separation. There is a touch of warmth to the sound, but I would have preferred a bit more bass for a more rounded sound output.
The speakers are tuned well out of the box and you have a good amount of sound adjustments to tweak the audio further. The TV speakers take care of most of your general audio needs from watching news or sports to listening to music. If you want the extra thump, you have a handful of audio outputs on this Realme TV such as HDMI ARC, SPDIF, Bluetooth and a 3.5mm jack to plug in a soundbar or a speaker system.
Realme Smart TV 43 - Overall performance: 7/10
The TV takes about 35 seconds to boot up when you switch it on from the mains, which is slightly faster than average Android TVs these days. After that, if you switch it off and on from the remote, the TV comes back on in just a couple of seconds from standby mode. It is good to see this instant resume/wake feature become standard on smart TVs.
There seems to be a tiny bug in the instant resume feature, though. At times, you cannot wake the TV up from standby using the Bluetooth mode of the remote. You have to point the remote towards the TV and use IR to wake it up, if you leave it in standby for too long. Not a big issue, but something that needs to be fixed. Also, the TV always boots up to the Android home screen when you switch it on from the mains, and not the previous input source that was being used (such as HDMI) when you switched it off.
Speaking of bugs, the Prime Video app here also seems to have a minor one. The video resolution for anything you play seems to be locked at HD as per the app, when in reality, it most certainly streams in 1080p Full HD resolution. In fact, in shows like Jack Ryan that support HDR, it turns on the feature (though the app doesn’t say so), and just like in the case of Netflix HDR content, it messes up the contrast and colours. The non-HDR Full HD content looks crisp and gives you no reason to complain.
On the positive side, despite having just a GB of RAM, you hardly notice any lag in operation. Be it the UI, or when watching content or simply issuing voice commands, everything works smoothly. It managed to play most videos with various codecs I threw at it smoothly through its default player, except 4K videos. Using a different player didn’t help either. Likely the processing hardware isn’t powerful enough to crunch them.
Realme Smart TV 43 vs Mi TV 4A Pro 43: Which is better?
The answer to this question is a separate article in itself, but I will jump directly to the conclusion. In most aspects, the Realme TV is better than its Xiaomi counterpart that’s priced exactly the same. The picture quality and processing power are pretty much at par for both TVs, but the Realme has noticeably better sound output. Also going in favour of the Realme TV are faster boot times (35 vs 50+ seconds), an instant wake option and a more feature-rich remote. The Mi TV 4A Pro, on the other hand, doesn’t suffer the HDR issues that I mentioned above.
All things considered, Realme has a better overall product here. But let’s not forget that the Mi TV model is over a year old, and a fair comparison can happen only when its 2020 variant is out.
Realme Smart TV 43 - Price and verdict
The Realme Smart TV 43 can be purchased on Flipkart for Rs 21,999 with a one year warranty on parts and two years on the panel. That’s a fair price for what the TV offers, but you will have to try your luck in the weekly flash sale to buy one, something I personally despise. No points for guessing where the inspiration for that came from. If you hate flash sales too, here are some alternatives you may want to consider.
Coming back to this Realme TV, it is a very good first attempt from the company. So much so that it gets its nose ahead of its closest rival from Xiaomi, but doesn’t necessarily raise the bar in the segment. The competition is quite stiff and the company also has TVs such as the Vu UltraAndroid, iFFALCON K31 and Onida Fire TV Edition to contend with. Having said that, Realme has got enough things right to build on for their next release, which I keenly look forward to.
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