Ameya DalviApr 27, 2020 17:38:13 IST
Overall Rating: 4/5
Price: Rs 31,999
Soon after the launch of the impressive Vu Cinema TV comes a Premium series of smart TVs from the company. This time, Vu trades a couple of features on the Cinema TV with a bump in specs, and strives to deliver a comparable performance at an even lower price. Let’s find out if it actually manage to pull that off, and how this TV compares with some of its popular competitors from Xiaomi, TCL, etc., as well as its cousin.
Vu 55PM Premium Android TV — Design and connectivity: 8/10
Though its design isn’t as striking as the Cinema TV, the 55PM is quite elegant. This TV is almost bezel-less on three sides, with a not-so-thick gray bottom bezel. This model doesn’t come with an attached soundbar, and the bottom firing speakers are neatly hidden away. The power LED and IR receiver are placed on a tiny chin below the Vu logo on the bottom bezel, at the centre.
The TV is quite slim, and can be wall-mounted or placed on a desk using the matching grey stands. The necessary screws and mounts are provided in the package, along with a wireless remote and a pair of AAA batteries. In the connectivity department, you get three HDMI ports — one of which supports ARC, two USB 2.0 ports, optical audio, headphone out, and a LAN port, all of which are placed along the left edge of the rear module. AV input ports are placed at the back of the TV.
Though most of the connectivity ports are placed along the side of the TV, they are a good 20 inches inwards from the edge, making it quite hard to reach if you wall-mount the TV. I would have preferred to see them at least eight to ten inches closer to the edge. There are a couple of wireless connectivity options too — Bluetooth 5.0 to connect to wireless speakers or headphones, and dual band Wi-Fi.
Vu 55PM Premium Android TV — Features and specifications: 8.5/10
The Vu 55PM has a 55-inch Hisense VA panel with an Ultra HD (4K) resolution of 3840 x 2160 pixels, and a 60-Hz refresh rate. The panel has a rated brightness level of 400 nits, a drop of 100 nits as compared to the Pixelium glass panel on the Vu Cinema TV. This TV too supports HDR10, HLG, and Dolby Vision for HDR content. Like all smart TVs, there is built-in Wi-Fi, and unlike the Cinema TV, Vu 55PM does support dual band 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz Wi-Fi networks with support for a/b/g/n/ac standards.
On the specifications front, this TV 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 1,100 MHz and 1,400 MHz. There is a jump in RAM and storage figures, and you get 2 GB RAM and 16 GB of internal storage here, a chunk of which is taken up by the official Android Pie 9.0 OS. Sound output is rated at 30 W RMS with support for Dolby Digital and Dolby Digital Plus audio.
Like all official Android TVs, it has Chromecast built-in and lets you cast content to the screen from compatible apps on your phone or tablet. It comes with a full function remote control that supports 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 summon Google Assistant by pressing the corresponding button and issue voice commands; it works smoothly.
In the Vu Cinema TV review, I had mentioned that the company should have bundled a remote similar to the one you get with their OA series of TVs, and that’s exactly what we have here. The remote has hotkeys for Netflix, Prime Video, Hotstar, YouTube and Google Play Store, along with navigation keys, an input key, volume control, a mute button, settings button, and a D-pad. All other unnecessary keys have been knocked off, and the remote feels minimal yet complete. The only minor issue here is the layout of keys at the centre. The buttons above and below the direction pad almost seamlessly merge into the D-pad, and you often end up pressing the wrong button when not looking at the remote.
Vu 55PM Premium Android TV — User interface: 9/10
The Vu 55PM Premium 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 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 TV comes preloaded with Google Play Store and gives you access to thousands of popular apps. Apps for Netflix and Prime Video are preinstalled.
Like most Vu Android TVs, the Vu 55PM allows you to change the sound and picture settings on the fly while viewing content from any source, be it while viewing something on an app like Netflix or YouTube, or an HDMI source like DTH, or simply when watching something via USB. All you need to do is press the settings button on the remote to bring up the menu and make the necessary adjustments. You can have different settings for each input source or have common settings across the board. Interestingly, while playing HDR content, the list of picture presets is different.
Vu 55PM Premium Android TV — Picture quality: 8/10
The picture quality of this TV is pretty good for the price, but not better than that of the Cinema TV. The 4K panel is reasonably bright, but again, it’s not brighter than the panel on the Vu Cinema TV, which can hit 500 nits. The Vu 55PM has good contrast, and details in dark areas in high contrast scenes in our test videos were visible for the most part, but black levels could have been better. The colour reproduction of this TV is very good and colours feel quite natural even at the default settings.
This TV supports Dolby Vision, and HDR content encoded in that format looks good on this screen. But I can’t say the same about all HDR content playback here, which can be a bit of a hit or miss. In Ultra HD content with HDR on Prime Video, the picture feels a little darker than ideal, with aggressive contrast in some scenes, possibly because of lower peak brightness of the screen. There’s also some noticeable flickering in certain areas in high contrast scenes. Such issues weren’t observed when playing non-HDR content. Unfortunately, there is no option to switch off auto HDR on this TV; at least I couldn’t find it.
Regular non-HDR 4K content looks sharp on this TV, with accurate colours and ample detail. Most of the 1080p Full HD content looks equally good too. 720p videos were perfectly watchable, though not as sharp. Anything lower than 720p looks washed out, which is the case with almost every budget 55-inch 4K TV that I have tested till date. The viewing angles are pretty good with only a marginal colour shift when watching the TV from sharp angles. There is one small issue though that I would like to point out. I noticed a bit of backlight bleeding along the lower edge of the TV, something I haven’t seen in previous Vu models. It might be a problem with my unit though, and it doesn’t impact the viewing experience for the most part, but it is something that could have been avoided.
The picture is calibrated well out of the box and you also have a good amount of picture adjustment options like brightness, contrast, sharpness, saturation, etc., to fine-tune it to your liking. In addition to that, you also get advanced options for adjusting white balance, gamma control, colour temperature, digital and MPEG noise reduction, and more. The overall picture quality is a notch lower than that of the Cinema TV from the same company, but clearly, a notch higher with respect to other competitors like Xiaomi’s Mi TV 4X 55 and TCL’s iFFALCON K31 (55-inch) priced around Rs 35,000. Given its selling price, there’s very little reason to complain.
Vu 55PM Premium Android TV — Audio quality: 8/10
A pair of bottom firing speakers rated at 15 W RMS each deliver up to 30 Watts of Dolby certified audio. While this TV cannot match the output quality of the built-in soundbar on the Cinema TV, it is still quite impressive for a flat panel display. There is a fair amount of warmth in the sound, with more than decent frequency separation. There is good clarity in the vocals and a decent amount of thump too. The speakers are well tuned and you have a bunch of sound adjustments to tweak the audio further. The speakers can get surprisingly loud and I could make do with 25 percent volume level for most parts.
The TV speakers are compliant with Dolby Digital and Dolby Digital Plus audio, but as always, one needs to be realistic about the expectations from built-in TV speakers. The sound is better than what you get on most LED TVs, but not as good or better than that of a soundbar with a dedicated subwoofer. The built-in speakers should 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 TV to plug in a soundbar or a speaker system.
Vu 55PM Premium Android TV — 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 these days. I would like to see them breach the 30 seconds mark though. But 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 always good to see this instant resume feature on smart TVs.
I had one concern in the otherwise excellent Vu Cinema TV, and that was the relatively low amount of RAM (1.5 GB) included. This has been addressed in this Premium TV lineup, with 2 GB of RAM accompanying the same faster CPU and GPU. The internal storage has also been doubled, which is a great option to have in the long run. Thanks to the higher quantity of RAM, there was no noticeable stutter in the UI or during video playback all the way up to 4K HDR content. The TV also manages to play 4K through USB smoothly with the default player or using a third party app like VLC.
Vu 55PM Premium Android TV — Price and verdict
The Vu 55PM Premium TV can be purchased on Flipkart for Rs 31,999 with a one-year warranty after the nationwide lockdown ends. The 50-inch variant of the same sells for Rs 27,999. That’s 3K and 2K lower than similar sized variants of the Vu Cinema TV. While the Cinema TV does have better video and audio quality, the Vu Premium TVs offer you extra RAM and storage for a few thousand Rupees lower. Choose one based on your priorities, budget and of course, availability.
As for the competition from other brands, especially the two big Chinese players — Xiaomi and TCL, these two TV series from Vu pretty much sweep them aside. But let’s not forget that their 2020 lineup is yet to arrive. There’s another dark horse in the race, namely the new CA (Certified Android) series of TVs from Kodak that we will be reviewing shortly. Things may change then, but for now, Vu can enjoy the pole position amongst budget TVs.
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