The Smart TV market in India can be broadly categorized into three price-segments. The high-end spectrum has premium smart TVs from Samsung, Sony, LG, and Philips. The lower-end price category is dominated by Xiaomi and players like TCL, Flipkart (iFFalcon and Nokia re-branded TVs), Motorola and Kodak. Realme is also struggling to take a pie of the budget smart TV segment but it's a long way to go for the brand.
OnePlus, which started selling its smart TVs in India in 2019, sits right in the middle of these two price categories, i.e. Rs. 50,000 to Rs. 75,000 for a 55-inch 4K TV model. This particular price category has a good set of audience that do not shy away from shelling out extra thousands for a better overall Smart TV experience in their living room.
If you belong to this set of audience, there's a good chance you will like the newly launched OnePlus U-series Smart TV range. Priced at Rs. 49,000, the OnePlus 55-inch U1 4K Smart TV comes with a premium finish and promises to offer better audio/video performance than the 4K smart TVs from brands operating in the lower price bracket.
I tested the OnePlus 55-inch U1 4K Smart TV to assess how and where it improves the TV-viewing experience and does it really makes sense to invest some extra thousands on a slightly premium budget smart TV? Here's what I found out.
Design- Way More Polished Than Budget 4K Smart TVs
Having tested several 55-inch budget and premium smart TVs in the last few years, I can confidently say that OnePlus is the only brand that has managed to come close to deliver a premium design experience in the sub-50K price segment. The OnePlus 55-inch U1 is easily the most premium-looking smart TV in its respective price bracket.
The visual appeal, overall aesthetics, and the material used in construction are far better than the competition. The panel is unbelievably thin from the top and the sides, just 6.9mm in thickness, and is surrounded by extremely narrow bezels. The 55-inch TV offers a screen-to-body ratio of 95% which means all you get to see is the massive screen for a seamless viewing experience.
Premium Construction And Minimal Aesthetics
The TV unit is quite heavy, in fact, the heaviest in this price segment. The frame is made out of aluminum and the panel sits on a robust metallic table-top stand. The entire unit looks aesthetically premium than all the sub-40K smart TVs available in the Indian market. I have kept the big TV on a cabinet but you can also mount it on the wall.
OnePlus mentions that you can ask for the wall-mount stand for the TV while buying it and the brand will provide it at no additional charges. The installation engineer will set it up for you at free of cost.
Also, if you are worried that the massive 55-inch panel will not fit on the cabinet that you might have for the TV; you can use the OnePlus AR app to get a hang of the TV measurement. The AR app will help you place the TV in real-time on the table for a better understanding of the size and measurements.
Back Panel And Connectivity
The OnePlus TV also has a minimal and aesthetically clean rear side. The back panel with carbon fiber texture looks clean and subtle. There are no visible electronics, ports, or screws which keep the overall design minimal. The vital connectivity ports are smartly hidden under a removable plate that's easy to detach and mount. The plate houses the following connectivity ports.
- HDMI Input- 3x HDMI 1 Ports with ARC Support
- AV Input (Composite)- 1x (3 in 1) Port
- RF Socket for an antenna
- USB Ports- 2x USB Ports (1 USB 3.0 & 1 USB 2.0)
- The OnePlus TV lacks the 3.5mm audio jack which is a slight letdown. You have the option to use the Bluetooth to pair an external speaker setup.
Display- Immersive Viewing Experience
The 55-inch 4K LED-Backlit screen with 60Hz refresh rate offers 3840 x 2160 resolution and supports all major display formats including Dolby Vision, HDR 10/10+, and HLG. The smart TV also features the MEMC technology for motion smoothening, the feature that you can also experience on the company's recently launched OnePlus 8 Pro smartphone. I like the inclusion of artificial frames as the smooth playback gives you some useful insights about how the movie or the series is shot in real-time. However, a set of audiences is sensitive to the 'Soap opera effect', and some simply do not prefer it as the excessive smoothness affects the cinematic feel.
Thankfully, you can disable the MEMC from the TV's display settings or can customize the motion smoothness effect with four different settings. You must disable the MEMC or keep it on medium while watching the action flicks as it can impact the viewing experience. For instance, the bike chase scene in Will Smith's Gemini Man was full of judders and visual artifacts with MEMC set to high. Disabling it or running it at medium settings improved the visuals instantly.
How’s Picture Quality?
There's no QLED panel at play here as the OnePlus 55-inch U1 4K Smart TV uses an Ultra-HD LED-backlit VA panel. Does it affect the picture delivery? Not much. In fact, there's no other budget smart TV in the sub-50K price-point that can match the viewing experience offered by the OnePlus 55-inch U1 4K Smart TV. The 4K VA panel uses global dimming technology to offer deeper black. The contrast and color reproduction is excellent and you are welcomed with immersive visuals, especially while watching the Ultra-HD Dolby Vision and HDR content. The TV is quick to recognize Dolby Vision content on the popular streaming apps like Netflix and Amazon Prime Videos, provided that you have enabled the toggle in the Picture settings.
The content with the supported formats looked stunning, especially if you stream the critically acclaimed and visually delightful 'Our Planet' series on Netflix. Other movies and series on the OnePlus TV, from classics like Back to Future to the latest ones- Project Power, also looked immersive. If you have downloaded 4K and HDR files, you will have a ball with the OnePlus TV. Even the 1080p and 720p content looks good as the upscaling algorithms on the U1-series smart TV perform a wonderful job.
The TV's brightness levels are not mind-blowing but adequate to make things clearly visible. Bump the backlighting to 100% if you have kept the TV in a bright room.
Multitude Of Picture Settings
The OnePlus TV also does a decent job of rendering black areas in darker scenes. The black sports were not pitch-black but still better than other TVs I have tested in the sub-50K price-point. With a little bit of contrast and Gamma tweaking, you can derive a good picture output on the OnePlus TV. You must carefully tweak the Gamma levels depending upon the content and the placement of the TV as room lighting directly affects the visual output.
OnePlus has given a slider to customize the Gamma level with ratings from -3 to +3. High Gamma can improve the contrast levels, mid-tones, and how blacks are shown in a room with low ambient lighting but it may also create a very dark picture. You must tune it to your preference keeping in mind the content you are streaming and where you have kept the TV.
Moreover, the OnePlus TV has a plethora of Picture modes in addition to the traditional display settings such as contrast, brightness, sharpness, color, tint, etc. to tune the colors as per preference.
I found the 'Cinema Home' picture mode to be the best for OTT apps and even for the SD content. Also, you can tweak the color temperature, enable useful functions like Adaptive contrast, Dimming, Noise reduction, and of course the MEMC from 'Advanced Settings' in the display settings menu. Overall, the 4K LED Backlit VA panel with DCI-P3 93% color gamut support offers immersive visuals.
If you are tight on budget and don't want to compromise on the picture quality, the Hisense 55A71F is a very good option. The 55-inch 4K HDR TV is priced at Rs. 34,999 and delivers impressive picture quality.
Audio is equally important for an immersive viewing experience and the OnePlus TV also gets it partially right. The TV has two full-range speakers and two down-firing tweeters placed in a rather unconventional orientation (Rotated by 90-degree to the rear). While the 4-unit 30W speaker setup produces loud and clear audio, the sound tuning felt a bit off especially the bass output and the volume delivery. The bass lacks attack and feels boomy which also affects other sound frequencies and creates inconsistencies. We cannot confirm whether the boomy effect is because of the speaker placement or due to tuning but it does hamper the experience.
I got the best sound output with Dolby Audio Processing set on 'On' and Dialogue Enhancer and Sound mode set to 'High'. Also, the volume fluctuates quite a lot on this TV and you must enable the 'Volume Leveler' to avoid sudden bumps while watching action flicks. Also, the Dolby Atmos support seems to have no clear impact on the sound quality. Overall, I would recommend using an external sound setup to make the most out of the 55-inch smart TV.
The OnePlus TV ships with an elegant looking remote controller which gets many things right and a couple of them wrong. For instance, the remote controller is very lightweight and conveniently fits in hands. It has a good range and the buttons are also neatly laid out. The button's tactile feedback is good but could have been more responsive. Also, the navigation keys at the top are a bit too flushed with the base and the center button also gets mixed with the side keys. I like the mute button but then there's no dedicated power button to instantly switch off the TV. You have to long-press the key with the brand logo to access the Power off, Restart, and Sleep functions. Overall, I like the OnePlus' new remote but it's still far from being a perfect one.
OnePlus Connect App- The Hidden Gem
The remote controllers that often ship with the budget smart TVs, including the OnePlus, lack air remote control. It makes interacting with a big screen so much easier especially when you type the names of movies and series on the big keypad. OnePlus has offered a neat solution to address the problem in the form of the OnePlus Connect app that lets you use your smartphone as a handy remote controller. I paired the OnePlus TV with my OnePlus Nord via OnePlus Connect and it worked even better than the dedicated remote control.
The remote interface on your smartphone lets you cast media from smartphone to TV, navigate the UI with much ease, and even type more comfortably. I think every smartphone manufacturer should come up with their versions of the companion app to make things easier for end-users.
Hardware And Software Performance
Similar to its smartphones, the OnePlus TVs also deliver a smooth software experience and comes equipped with plenty of useful features and some most-used apps like Netflix and Amazon Prime Videos. The particular variant we are testing came running on Oxygen Play launcher (version 1.12) based on Android 9. The home screen is vanilla Android TV layout but you can anytime step into Oxygen Play interface by simply pressing the dedicated button on the remote controller with the Oneplus logo.
The interface is essentially the 'Content Discovery Engine' of OnePlus with movies and shows fetched from a multitude of streaming apps. The content is segmented neatly into categories such as New on Oxygen Play, Most Watched Shows, Binge-Worthy Originals, Global Blockbusters, Science Fiction, etc.
The TV comes with a built-in Chromecast and it worked flawlessly. The settings menu is neatly laid out and offers a plethora of settings to play around with. You can change the font type, tweak individual apps' permissions, reorder apps on the home screen, and enable/disable previews. The built-in File manager works well and the TV also comes equipped with a Kids mode for the safe watching experience. The software worked smoothly for most of the part and the TV was also able to run the Asphalt 8 game with no lags whatsoever.
At Rs. 49,999, the OnePlus U1 4K Smart TV comes across as a better version of the budget 55-inch smart TVs available at lower price-points. It has some pain points but it is still a more polished version of budget big-screen smart TVs priced in the sub-35K price bracket. The extra 12K to 15K you pay gives you a premium design, noticeably better picture quality, and some good software features that improve the overall TV watching experience.
If your budget allows you, the OnePlus U1 4K Smart TV is any day a better option but if you are on a tight budget, the Mi TV 4X 55/50 is a good option. We are also testing the newly launched Hisense 55-inch Android TV and it is one impressive sub-35K 4K smart TV with an excellent 55-inch Ultra HD display. Keep an eye on our detailed review of the Hisense 55-inch Smart TV as it is going to be live very soon on the website.