Impressive debut for SLED tech, but the TV could have been smarter- Technology News, DD FreedishNews
Ameya DalviOct 15, 2020 16:05:14 IST
Overall Rating: 3.8/5
Price: Rs 39,999
Realme entered the smart TV segment in India earlier this year with the launch of their 32-inch and 43-inch models. With the launch of this third model, not only does the company strive to enter the large screen TV space, but also looks to debut a new screen technology called SLED. The company claims that the technology is good enough to give QLED TVs a run for their money. It’s time to put that claim to the test, and the time couldn’t have been better with me fresh from reviewing an iFFACON H71 QLED TV.
Realme Smart TV SLED 55 – Design and connectivity: 7/10
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As for the design, the Realme Smart TV SLED 55 follows a template that’s pretty much standard for the current lot of budget smart TVs with extremely narrow bezels on three sides and a thicker bottom bezel. A tiny chin with a power LED and IR receiver is placed slightly off centre here. The TV can be wall-mounted or placed on a desk using the bundled metal stands, which look a tad larger than usual. The wall mount kit isn’t provided in the package, but will be offered free of charge if you choose to hang the TV on a wall.
The necessary screws are bundled along with a wireless remote control 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, coaxial audio out, headphone out, A/V in, component input and a LAN port. Wireless connectivity options include Bluetooth 5.0 and dual band WiFi. It’s good to see support for 5 GHz WiFi networks that a lot of budget TVs skip.
Inexplicably, almost all ports except USB are placed along the bottom edge of the TV. Irrespective of whether you place the TV on a desk or mount it on a wall, those ports are going to be hard to reach, unless you connect the cables beforehand. Having them on the side and closer to the edge would have been a more sensible design decision.
Realme Smart TV SLED 55 – Features and specifications: 8/10
Before we head to the feature-list, let me answer the obvious question on your mind – what is SLED? To put it simply, it isn’t a different type of panel but a different form of backlighting. Traditionally, a blue backlight is used in most LED or QLED Tvs, which is then converted to white. In case of SLED, a combination of Red, Green and Blue backlight is used to produce a more natural white light and achieve a wider colour gamut. At the same time, it is said to reduce the magnitude of blue light which can be harmful to the eyes.
Moving on, the Realme Smart TV SLED 55 has a 55-inch 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 of 400 nits, can display over a billion colours and supports HDR10/10+ and HLG. One notable absentee here is support for Dolby Vision that we are used to seeing on most TVs in this price bracket this year. The sound output is rated at 24 Watts RMS with support for Dolby Audio but not Dolby Atmos.
On the specifications front, this TV is powered by a Mediatek chipset that has a quad-core processor with four ARM Cortex A55 cores and a Mali-470 MP GPU. Each of the four CPU cores can throttle between 1100 MHz to 1400 MHz. You get 1.5 GB RAM and 16 GB of internal storage, a chunk of which is taken up by the official Android Pie 9.0 OS. You are left with about 11 GB space for your apps and data, which is fine. 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.
You get the same remote here that was bundled with Realme’s earlier TVs. There was nothing wrong with it, so why bother changing? It is compact and minimal but doesn’t miss out on any important keys. The build quality also seems to have improved a bit here, though not the best around just yet. It operates on IR and Bluetooth both. The power button on the remote communicates with the TV using IR when switching on, and then everything operates over Bluetooth once you pair it.
The remote is voice-enabled, so you can bring up the Google Assistant by pressing the corresponding 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, mute button, settings and a D-pad, which has a yellow ring on the inside symbolising Realme’s design language. This remains one of the best remotes for Android Tvs, with just the right number of keys that perform all the necessary functions without clutter.
Realme Smart TV SLED 55 – User interface: 7.5/10
This Realme TV runs official Android Pie 9.0 and has the stock user interface without any third party launcher. It is simple, easy to use and was pretty much stutter-free during the course of my testing. 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. The Google Play Store gives you access to thousands of other popular apps.
While there is a dedicated settings button on the remote, just like in case of its predecessor, it doesn’t do anything if you are on the Android home screen or watching something on YouTube, Netflix or any other app. The button does serve its purpose when you consume content through an HDMI source like Fire TV Stick or watch something via USB. In those input modes, it gives you access to various settings including Picture and Sound adjustments or even the system settings.
When watching content on OTT services like Netflix, Prime Video, YouTube etc., you have to pause the video, go to the Android home screen, go to TV settings, adjust the picture, get back to the app and check if the picture looks fine. If not, repeat the process till it feels right. This is extremely frustrating and far from an ideal method of adjusting the picture or sound. I was a touch disappointed that this issue still persists in this new Realme TV. If it’s any consolation, we have been informed that the company is working on a fix, and hoping to resolve it before the end of this year.
Realme Smart TV SLED 55 – Picture quality: 8/10
To be brutally honest, it doesn’t matter what panel or backlighting technology a particular brand uses; what really matters is how the picture looks on the screen. I am happy to report that the picture quality of the Realme Smart TV SLED 55 is quite impressive. The VA panel is fairly bright, but more importantly, there’s something soothing about the picture. It actually seems to put noticeably less strain on the eyes when watching it. The colour reproduction of this TV is pretty good but needs a bit of tweaking to get it right. Post that colours appear fairly natural and not unnecessarily boosted.
Though this Realme TV offers ample options to finetune the picture ranging from brightness, contrast, saturation, sharpness adjustments to gamma control, whitebalance and more, one has to endure the aforementioned ordeal to get it right, if you are playing something through an installed OTT app. The contrast is generally pretty good for the segment but the black levels aren’t as deep as we have seen on a budget QLED TV like the iFFALCON H71. While details in darker areas in high contrast scenes were visible for most parts, certain spots appeared a bit too dark in our test videos.
This TV is compliant with HDR10 and HDR10+ standards, and 4K content encoded in that format on Amazon Prime Video looks excellent on this screen. There was hardly any flickering in high contrast scenes which certain LED TVs in this budget tend to display. Dolby Vision content on Netflix looks good on this TV but the picture lacks the edge that you find on some of its competitors like the Hisense 55A71 (Review) that support the format. Even 4K SDR content looks impressive on this SLED TV, with vibrant colours and ample detail.
Most Full HD (1080p) content looks good on this TV too with fairly accurate colours and a good amount of detail, but not the best I have seen in this segment. The skin tones feel just a bit flatter than they should. 720p videos were watchable, but noticeably soft. The upscaling engine here certainly needs a bit of work. But given that this is Realme’s first 4K TV, we can give them some leeway for now. Anything with a resolution lower than 720p looks washed out on this screen, but that’s common to almost all 55-inch 4K TVs.
The viewing angles are surprisingly good for a VA panel, with just a marginal colour shift when watching content from sharp angles. Despite its shortcomings, there’s a lot going in favour of this Realme TV when it comes to picture quality, and it’s an impressive debut for SLED tech. Though it doesn’t outperform budget QLED TVs, it acquits itself well, and is much more comfortable on the eyes. I will be keeping a close eye on SLED, as there is some definite potential there in the budget as well as the premium economy segment.
Realme Smart TV SLED 55 – Audio quality: 7/10
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 mid and low end frequencies, as well as a dedicated tweeter to handle the highs. It seems Realme has simply plucked the audio system from their 43-inch model and plugged it in here. White I termed the audio output as very good for their TV priced around the 20K mark, it is just about acceptable for one with double the price tag.
The output is fairly loud even at the 30 to 40 percent volume level, and there is ample clarity in the vocals, making it better suited for watching news, sports and soaps. But there isn’t enough warmth in the sound to make watching movies or listening to music an enjoyable experience. It is serviceable at best, even after playing around with the equaliser. I would have preferred a bit more bass. The Hisense and Vu models have likely raised my expectations. But hey, they sell for a few thousand rupees lower than this TV, so no excuse for Realme here.
All said and done, we are still talking about built-in TV speakers. If you want real thump, you have a handful of audio outputs on this Realme TV such as HDMI ARC, Coaxial, Bluetooth and a 3.5 mm jack to plug in a soundbar or a speaker system. Conveniently, they launched a soundbar alongside this TV and it appears in promos and ads. We will review it shortly.
Realme Smart TV SLED 55 – Overall performance: 8/10
The TV takes about 30 seconds to boot up when you switch it on from the mains, which is arguably the fastest among certified Android TVs I have come across. A big pat on Realme’s back for that. Subsequently, if you switch it off and on from the remote, the TV comes back on in just a couple of seconds from standby mode, like most smart TVs these days.
I was initially concerned about the 1.5 GB of RAM on this TV. From my past experience, I have seen TVs with less than 2 GB RAM exhibit the odd stutter, especially when consuming 4K content. But I hardly noticed any lag here, be it the UI or while watching content all the way up to Ultra HD resolution. Voice commands were received and executed promptly too. If I have to nitpick, the default media player is incapable of playing a few file formats. It’s best you download and use a third-party player like VLC instead.
Another small thing I would like to point out is the location of certain hotkeys. I would have preferred the OTT hotkeys on the remote to be placed a little further away from the volume controls. I accidentally ended up pressing the Prime Video key on a few occasions when looking to lower the volume, and subsequently starting the app when watching something else. The company could also consider disabling OTT hotkeys when using a different app.
Realme Smart TV SLED 55 – Price and verdict
The Realme Smart TV SLED 55 can be purchased on Flipkart or on the company’s website for an introductory price of Rs 39,999 with a one year warranty on parts, and two years on the panel. Post the initial phase, the price is expected to jump to Rs 42,999, something I would advise against, given the level of competition in the segment, especially from the likes of Hisense 55A71 and Vu Cinema TV. But a Rupee under 40K is a fair price for what this TV has to offer.
For that price, you get a TV with a good quality display that’s less taxing on the eyes compared to the competition, a clean stock Android TV OS that boots in 30 seconds, and a wide variety of connectivity options. If the company can actually provide on-the-fly picture and sound adjustments across all apps, that would make it even better. Lastly, SLED technology looks quite promising, and I will look forward to more TVs based on it.
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