Xiaomi stirred the smart TV market with the launch of its 55-inch smart TV in February 2018. While new companies such as OnePlus and Honor are stepping in, Xiaomi has continuously stayed ahead of the curve. The latest launch Mi TV 4x 50-inch packs in a 4K HDR 10 panel with 3840x2160 pixels and 60 Hz refresh rate, 20W speakers Dolby+ DTS-HD, PatchWall and Android TV OS, multiple ports and hotkeys for accessing Netflix and Prime Videos for an aggressive price point of Rs 29,999. How does it perform?
Unlike the bezel-less design on the Mi TV 4Pro 55-inch launched in 2018, this new 4x 50-inch TV is looks simple and sleek. There is a small button sticking out of the bottom centre that houses a power button. All ports including three HDMIs, two USB and S/PDIF are placed towards the right rear. The TV is accompanied by a wall mount - two side stands and not the centre stand - which requires a rather large table to be placed on. Thankfully, unlike the OnePlus TV's fancy stand, this one does not wobble. The wall mount isn't a part of the package and can be purchased separately for Rs 499. Moving on to the remote, Xiaomi continues to have a sleek one with minimal buttons. There is a power button at the top centre followed by Google Assistant voice search button, circular navigation pad with select button, dedicated keys for PatchWall and Android TV UI along with hotkeys for Netflix and Amazon Prime and volume keys.
Best of both worlds
The new-age LED TVs have successfully managed to shed the image of an idiot box. After all, most of them are smart TVs with access to apps for watching content over the internet, eliminating the need for connecting a set-top box or any additional hardware to start watching. But most of the content available requires subscription. In the Mi TV 4X 55-inch, Xiaomi has included support for PatchWall TV as well as Android TV OS.
The PatchWall TV UI is rather neat and simple in-front of the Android TV one. The home page displays content from content partners on the top, which has also been categorised into movies, news, TV shows, regional, kids and more - followed by sources (HDMI, USB, AV), installed apps and more content options. It is visually dominating, making it easy to look for relevant content. On the other hand, Android TV UI has a row-based UI with small icons. The top most row shows installed apps followed by relevant videos. The PatchWall TV UI is intuitive to use. Moreover, switching between the two was rather easy as there are dedicated buttons for both. Voice search powered by Google Assistant came in handy when searching for content instead of typing, but it wasn't as fast as I would have expected it to be. After I pressed the voice search button, it took a good couple of seconds to activate and a few more to listen to the request and carry out a search. It also supports Chromecast.
On the content front, the PatchWall UI displays content from various partners such as Prime Video, Hungama, Voot, ZEE5, Alt Balaji and Eros. Barring a few, most of them required me to sign in and subscribe. To start streaming content on Netflix and Prime Video, hotkeys came in handy. Both the apps took a while to load. But, there wasn't any issue in streaming content. Also, users can easily connect their set-top boxes to watch traditional TV.
I streamed a mix of 4K and full HD contents on high-speed Airtel Fibre connection and the streaming part mostly worked fine. While most content streamed on this TV appeared sharp and bright, it could have been better. There was an issue with colour accuracy with some movies and shows as red and pink colours appeared oversaturated. One-Punch Man, the very first episode of Grand Tour, Black Mirror, Argo, some Nat Geo shows, are some of the regular shows along with some new movies and shows that I test on all TVs I review. While most of the content appeared just fine, I wasn't impressed with the colour reproduction as well as sharpness while streaming Grand Tour.
Tweaking settings isn't the easiest part on Android TV. I had to exit what I was watching and head to the settings. The display settings had a few preset modes including standard, vivid, movie and sport. I could manually adjust the settings using custom. Accessing sound settings was also a cumbersome process.
The 20w speaker onboard offers decent sound but is not extraordinary. The biggest challenge with all TVs out in the market is lack of balance between vocals and background music and I experienced the same issue with this TV. The sound output was loud but I often found vocals being overpowered by the background sound, especially while streaming movies. While the sound was pretty loud, I found clarity issue with certain content I streamed. The sound mode includes standard, news, movies, game and custom. If you want better immersive sound, you might want to get a soundbar along with this 50-inch television.
For Rs 29,999, the Mi TV 4x 50-inch with a 4K HDR 10 panel with 20W speaker and Android TV OS isn't a bad deal. There are a few shortcomings but can be easily overlooked considering the price tag. This one seems to be the best in this price category.
While the biggies such as Samsung and LG have developed their own operating system and UI for TVs, most other players use the Android platform. Even though there is a dedicated operating system for TVs designed by Google - known as Android TV OS - many brands use the mobile version of the Android OS and push out their panels as Android TVs. It means the UI of the TV with the mobile version of the Android OS is not optimised for big screens.
If you plan to buy an Android TV, go for the one with Android TV OS, not Android KitKat or others. Also, go for the company that regularly releases update patches.