A month ago, VU launched a cricket team of new Smart TVs in India across three series. We got their 55-inch model from the Premium Android series for review. As the name suggests, the VU 55-OA is an official Android TV with stock Android UI, built-in Chromecast and the works. It is priced around the 40K mark and that immediately posts a challenge to one of the best TVs we have tested in that price bracket, Xiaomi’s Mi TV 4X Pro that boasts of similar features and specifications. So let’s see if this VU can one-up the 4X Pro.
VU 55-OA Premium Android 4K Smart TV — Build and Design: 8/10
The VU 55-OA doesn’t mesmerise you with its looks but is elegant enough with narrow metallic grey bezels around the 55-inch screen. The slightly thicker bottom bezel bears the company logo along with a power LED and a power button underneath. The TV can be wall-mounted or placed on a desk using the bundled stands. The necessary screws are provided and they hold the TV firmly in place without a wobble. Unlike most TVs, the stands are made of solid metal with a skid-proof base and give you that extra assurance of sturdiness.
The company has done a smart thing here with ports. Realising that this is a big screen and ports would be hard to reach when wall mounted, all the ports are placed close to the left edge of the screen instead of at the centre. A common sense approach where it scores above its Xiaomi counterpart. One USB port, two HDMI ports — one of which supports ARC and Optical and headphone audio output ports are placed along the side of the TV, while another USB and HDMI port each, a LAN port and coaxial AV-in connectors can be found along the lower edge. The ports are reasonably easy to reach as compared to other TVs this size.
VU 55-OA Premium Android 4K Smart TV — Picture quality: 8/10
Moving on to picture quality, this VU TV does a good job but doesn’t outperform the Mi TV 4X Pro (Review). 4K videos look excellent on this TV with vibrant colours and good contrast. 1080p Full HD videos look good too. But 720p videos or anything lower feels noticeably washed out. This TV boasts of a 4X upscaling technology that does a reasonable job but it’s not perfect yet. Yes, it does reduce the noise and smoothens the motion but a lot of the finer detail is lost. This is one area where the Xiaomi performs better. It is also helped by the fact that it has a 10-bit panel as compared to the 8-bit panel on the VU 55-OA. If you are wondering what this is about, 10-bit panel is capable of displaying over a billion colours, while an 8-bit panel can display up to 16.7 million.
Diving deeper into the picture quality, when playing 4K videos, the picture looks sharp and the colour reproduction is impressive. Colours feel natural in most cases and pleasant to look at. You have picture adjustment options like brightness, colour, contrast etc. to let you tweak it further to suit your taste. HDR performance was average though. Despite this TV being HDR10 and Dolby Vision compliant, the contrast is nothing spectacular in high contrast scenes. You tend to lose some detail in dark areas. But again, I wasn’t expecting it to be in the same league as a Samsung or a Sony priced at twice its selling price. Also, 8-bit panels and HDR aren’t the best of friends. In VU’s defence, I am yet to come across a TV in this budget that excels at HDR. Even the Mi TV 4X Pro failed to impress me in this department. However, the overall contrast and picture quality are near the top of the pile in this segment with only Xiaomi edging it on points.
As I mentioned, this TV does offer you picture adjustment options but what’s even better is that you get to access them while watching videos from any source or app. All you need to do is press the settings button on the remote and choose the option you want to adjust without exiting the app. Now that is something that was sorely lacking in the 4X Pro. The same applies to sound settings too which we shall touch upon next.
VU 55-OA Premium Android 4K Smart TV — Audio quality: 7/10
The audio output on the VU 55-OA is an interesting case. The TV has a pair of stereo speakers that deliver a total rated output of 24 Watts RMS. In case of most flat screen TVs, you get speakers with a lot more loudness than clarity (at times neither). The speakers on this TV produce very good and clean sound, and with a semblance of bass too. But strangely, the output is just not loud enough at most times. Rarely have I gone past the 50 percent volume level in TVs I have tested till date. In the case of the VU 55-OA, I could never drop it below 50 percent. In fact, while streaming several Full HD and 4K movies, I had to bump it up to 100 percent and it still wouldn’t be loud enough. I was testing it in a modest mid-sized room; you wouldn’t place this TV in anything smaller given its size.
Yes, expecting great sound through built-in speakers on budget LED TVs is asking for too much, I know. But for once I thought we were getting somewhere with the audio quality in this case, only for my hopes to be dashed by the loudness of all things. Sound is an integral part of high-res videos and hence I would suggest plugging a good soundbar in one of its audio out ports. I tried connecting wireless headphones to this TV to test its Bluetooth functionality and that process worked smoothly.
VU 55-OA Premium Android 4K Smart TV — Features and specifications: 8.5/10
The VU 55-OA has a 55-inch Ultra HD (4K) panel with a resolution of 3,840 x 2,160 pixels and HDR10 and Dolby Vision compliance. The company doesn’t specify the panel type except that it’s a High Bright A+ grade panel with Direct LED backlighting. On close observation, it seems to be a VA panel. The response time is slightly slower at 8 ms as compared to the Mi TV 4X Pro which is rated at 6.5 ms. Despite the extra 1.5 ms delay, there was no motion blur when watching videos. A pair of stereo speakers claims to deliver 24 Watts RMS audio output, a 4 Watts increment over the Xiaomi. During the launch, VU officials claimed that they had put extra emphasis on the sound output in this TV series.
This VU TV is powered by a 1.1 GHz quad-core CPU and Mali 450-MP GPU. It has 1.75 GB RAM (I wonder why that weird figure instead of 2 GB) and 16 GB of internal storage, a chunk of which is taken up by the Android Oreo OS. You get a quarter GB less RAM here but the internal storage is double that of the 4X Pro. The specs are decent enough and there was no noticeable lag during my testing. Since the TV has built-in Chromecast, it lets you cast videos from supported apps like YouTube, Hotstar, Sony LIV and many more. However, the same cannot be said about Netflix as is the case with several certified Android TVs.
The wireless Bluetooth remote control here is a massive improvement over Xiaomi’s. Though fairly minimalistic, it offers a lot more necessary features that are missing on its prime competitor and can accept voice commands too for Google Voice Search feature. A pair of AAA batteries have also been bundled. The two major absentees on the Xiaomi — a mute button and a settings button, are present here along with a few extras. You have dedicated keys for the Home screen, YouTube, Google Play, input selection and voice search among others.
The build quality is pretty good and the quality of keys gave me no reason to complain. The only minor issue here is the layout of keys at its centre. The buttons above and below the direction pad almost seamlessly merge into the D-pad and several times I accidentally ended up pressing the voice search key when trying to scroll up in the menu or the Home button when looking to scroll down. That can be quite frustrating. The company could have (and hopefully will in future releases) easily spaced these buttons further apart to avoid those accidental key presses as there is ample real estate on the remote.
VU 55-OA Premium Android 4K Smart TV — Connectivity and User Interface: 8/10
You get a good spread of connectivity options on the VU 55-OA. There are 3x HDMI ports, 2x USB ports, one RJ45 LAN port, one A/V in, Optical out and a 3.5 mm headphone jack. As I mentioned earlier, one of the HDMI ports on the side also supports ARC. The analogue audio out gives it a slight edge over the 4X Pro. The TV also supports Bluetooth 5.0, so you can send the output to a Bluetooth soundbar or headphones. Conversely, you can sync your phone or tablet with this TV and play audio on the TV speakers.
The TV supports all popular Wi-Fi standards including AC dual band and can latch on to 2.4 GHz as well as 5 GHz Wi-Fi networks. Being an Android TV, it runs Android 8.0 Oreo with stock UI and has Google Play Store pre-installed along with a bunch of Google apps. There is Chromecast built-in to cast videos directly to the TV from compatible apps.
VU 55-OA Premium Android 4K Smart TV — Overall performance: 8/10
The TV takes about 30 seconds to boot up and get to the home screen when you switch the power on from the mains, which is above average for smart TVs. But post that, if you switch it off and on from the remote control, the TV comes back on in 3 seconds flat from standby mode. Even better, it only switches the screen off and not the app. So let’s say you are streaming a video on Hotstar and you pause it and switch off the TV from the remote. When you switch it back on, the screen looks exactly the way you left it. That is a great option.
Video file format support through USB is excellent and it played every file with various codecs I threw at it smoothly through its default player, including 4K videos. However, if the default player fails to play some of your videos or load subtitles, you can always install a different player like VLC from the Google Play Store that takes care of those issues. You can control the playback using the D-pad on the remote but dedicated playback buttons on the remote would have been better.
Being an Android TV, there is no Amazon Prime Video app yet, but given the ceasefire between Amazon and Google, we can expect it soon. But there’s no Netflix compatibility either. Neither is there a functional app nor can you cast it to this TV from your phone. That will not please the Netflix regulars as they will have to invest extra in something like an Amazon Fire TV Stick to watch videos from the platform. The casting issue was limited only to Netflix and it worked fine with YouTube and other services that I tried. Barring that I had very little to complain about the VU 55-OA and I was happy with its overall performance.
VU 55-OA Premium Android 4K Smart TV — Price and verdict
The VU 55-OA Premium Android 4K Smart TV can be purchased on Flipkart and in VU stores for Rs 41,999 with a one year warranty. At that price point, you a 55-inch 4K TV with good picture quality, a pure Android TV experience, Chromecast built-in and decent connectivity options.
Coming back to the comparison between this TV and its closest rival, Mi TV 4X Pro, if you are looking for out and out picture quality, the Xiaomi is a better option, though not by a proverbial mile. However, this VU TV provides a better or comparable experience is every other department, so not a bad buy at all.
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