After the frankly vexatious few weeks of counting the teasers and wondering what the OnePlus TV would be like to finally seeing it in the full metal and glass glory, one can safely say it has been a roller coaster of a journey. Emotionally, in particular. This is the first time this well-known smartphone maker is jumping into the business of making TVs. Yet the very first foray into the television business for OnePlus isn’t about taking the easy way out—make some affordable TVs and multiply your chances of success on the shop floor. No sir, not by a mile.
The OnePlus TV line-up currently has a QLED TV 55Q1IN which is priced at Rs 69,899 (at the time of writing this) plus you pay Rs 2,990 additionally for the tabletop stand and the QLED TV 55Q1IN Pro which is priced at Rs 99,899 and you don’t pay extra for the tabletop stand because that is mercifully a part of the package. Serious price tags those particularly for what are essentially first-generation devices by a brand that is getting into the TVs business, and sure to test the willingness of anyone who is ready to part with so much money. But let’s just say, there is enough substance on the spec sheet to keep you interested in the proposition. Let us just say, Android TV is one of its strongest aspects.
For starters, the design. A very important element for a large screen premium television that would most likely be the center of attention in your living room. It wouldn’t be incorrect to say that contemporary is the theme that OnePlus seem to be going with here. With a generous dollop of uniqueness to go with it. Straight up, this large 55-inch panel is framed by a very thin bezel, which quite simply melts away as you watch your favorite movies or enjoy a bit of the Mercedes and Ferrari tussle during the Formula 1 races. This is a pretty slim TV and quite light too compared with some other 55-inch televisions that have come and gone before it. There is a carbon fiber-esque finish at the back, though I’m not quite sure about all the excitement around that since I really don’t go looking behind my TV—but that could just be me.
What I do appreciate a lot though is the ability to hide away the ports and the wire clutter that comes with it, with a rather nifty and well-made removable flap cover. This ties in perfectly with my uncompromising attitude towards a clutter free life.
The oval shaped table stand is something I truly admire, and value. This sentiment emerges from the fact that it seems to have become a common theme in televisions to have a table stand installation that is two part, where they attach with the TV close to either edge of the panel. That means you need a table as wide as the TV—and no compromise of even a centimeter. OnePlus has kept it simple and beautiful with a center-aligned stand. Therefore, you don’t need a table as wide as the TV itself. The way this stand attaches with the TV is another rather interesting situation. It is basically a vertical mount design, where this stand attaches near the top and once near the middle—at the back of the TV.
Overall, this is a very well-built TV. Attention to detail is quite evident too. The magnetic removable strip on the table stand mount, the slide-out speakers and the overall finish is one that shows a lot of thought has gone into the project. I can say with utmost confidence that this rather unique table-top stand design does a great job of holding up this TV. Actually, this TV seems more stable and planted than a lot of other TVs we have tested in the recent past, which makes it difficult for me to understand any criticisms that may be directed at this table-top stand design, implementation or the stability of the entire package.
The display is almost always the heart and soul of an TV. In this case, it is a QLED panel. A 55-inch one while at it with the 4K resolution (3,840 x 2,160 pixels). It also has the widest HDR support as well—for HDR10, HDR10+, HLG and Dolby Vision. Some of the features that the OnePlus TV line-up packs in include Super Resolution, Contrast enhancement and support for Dolby Atmos as well.
The QLED TV panel technology which OnePlus TVs are using is also used by Samsung and is short for quantum-dot LED screen. These QLED panels rely on LED backlighting, and the quality of that will have a huge bearing on the contrast ratio and high dynamic range (HDR) performance. Simply put, this display tech is not the same as the similar sounding but very different OLED display tech. In an OLED display, individual pixels emit their own light, which then results in perhaps better local dimming and illumination of different parts of the screen, depending on the content being viewed at the time—and also how the calibration has been done. It isn’t to at all say that either display technology is superior or inferior, because each of them when deployed properly can offer a great viewing experience.
That is a great foundation to build on. It is quite apparent when you first set this up that brightness is one of the strong points of this display. This is great news for homes where you either have a generous amount of sunlight streaming in all day or there are bright lights indoors once the sun goes down. Colours also look very bright and there is a genuine vividness that should appeal to a lot of users. So much so, you may have to tone down the colour saturation level in the settings. Once you settle down to watch a movie or a TV show, it’ll not take long to notice the very good black levels on this panel. Really deep blacks also mean that every other colour looks better. It is perhaps not OLED level, which can be even darker, but for most users, this will be better than anything they may have experienced with TVs thus far. And that is genuinely a big and a pleasant change if you are upgrading from a standard LED TV.
Contrast is the difference between the darkest and the brightest parts of any visual on the screen. The darker the black representation on a display, the better the former look. And the less hard work a panel has to do to create a genuine difference with the latter. In the case of the OnePlus QLED TV 55Q1IN, the local dimming works well enough to do a fine job here. In fact, there is a settings option where you can control the level of the local dimming—and in this three-step setting, even the medium one does a fantastic job between the bright and the dark.
At this point, I must praise the very detailed picture quality settings that are available to you. I quite to tweak the picture settings till the most comfortable viewing experience is achieved, and this simply helps with that. Perhaps not Sony Bravia level of fine settings, but it’s almost there. And that is a great thing.
The good work with the contrast makes the rather shoddy job with HDR handling all the more perplexing. Our OnePlus TV running the TV55Q1IN_2.A.01_GLO_014_1909210202 firmware did exhibit a certain weird eccentricity when viewing HDR content—the visuals brighten up too much at times when HDR kicks in. This could simply be the way the backlit local dimming has been programed, and a software update could solve this. However, I must point out that I did see this issue when viewing The Grand Tour on Amazon Prime Video via the Amazon Video app installed on the OnePlus TV itself—but no such issues with HDR content on Netflix viewed via the Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K.
For sound, at least on the OnePlus TV 55Q1IN Pro, there is the magic of the slide-out soundbar that is a visual treat even before the audio experience kicks in. Switch on the TV and this soundbar comes sliding out with a bunch of illuminated LEDs at the front getting your attention. Weirdly, these occasionally came on and sometimes didn’t—but that isn’t much of a concern. I like minimal lights around the display. Inside this soundbar are 8 audio speakers packed in, for replicating a 2.1-channel audio setup. This can go really loud, that is for sure. But you will have to spend some time tweaking the audio settings in the Android TV menu to get this to sound just about right. While it is loud, clarity does suffer at the default settings and the dialogues aren’t the most well reproduced. I did realize that turning off Dolby Atmos audio-upscaling had a positive impact with most content, including football matches and TV shows. Even with the audio leveling activated, there is the distinct feeling that it could certainly do a better job than what it manages just now.
The proverbial cherry on the cake is the Android TV operating system, which is right now by far the best smart TV platform you can find. OnePlus has left it untouched for the time being, with their value add being the content discovery tool called OxygenPlay. Yet that remains out of the way unless you specifically call out for it, which is great—the content discovery works a lot like Xiaomi’s PatchWall in Mi TVs, except it isn’t as omnipresent. At present, OxygenPlay will curate content from Amazon Video, Hotstar, Sony Liv, ErosNow, Zee5 and Hungama—you will need separate subscriptions to be able to access the content, with the idea being to help you find content you may like to watch and not have to jump from one streaming service to the other.
Now we have to address the big issue. There is no Netflix available on the OnePlus TVs just yet. Actually, hang on. Netflix thinks otherwise, because the streaming service even has a support page that resoundingly assures you “Welcome to Netflix on your OnePlus TV!” But alas, the TVs being sold in India still do not have the Netflix app preloaded, Netflix app doesn’t show up on the Play Store on the OnePlus TV, the side-load version of the Netflix app doesn’t work and OnePlus has still not made an official statement about if and when the Netflix app will be rolled out for TVs in India. All we know is, it will be coming at some point in the future.
There is just something about the OnePlus TV remote which reminds me of the minimalist Apple TV remote. There, I said it. It is compact, looks great and is quite slim too. However, that could potentially be a big problem. While the Apple TV’s remote was meant to power a streaming media player and navigate apps, it was never designed to power a full-fledged TV—the experience which includes controlling the volume and perhaps even changing channels if you have paired your direct to home (DTH) set top box (STB) with the TV. To be able to replicate this, OnePlus had to go with the volume rocker on the side spine. But for heavens’ sake, this is not a smartphone. It is a TV remote. Quite unintuitive, till you get used to it. Then there is the button placement which is not exactly the best. My parents couldn’t have figured out on their own which button is the power button on this remote. You remember, the one that switches on and off a TV—a rather unassuming thing? As it turns out, you need to do the long press routine on the 1+ button to power off the TV. But how long is a long press? You’ll find out for yourself. That is not all. The home key and the back key are just too close to each other, and you will end up pressing the wrong one if you aren’t looking. Last but not least is the fact that you need to charge this remote, from time to time—there is a Type-C port. I have used this TV for 2 weeks now and there have been no prompts to recharge this battery, and guessing it lasts longer than one would imagine. Sure, there are advantages of a rechargeable battery in a remote. You don’t have to go hunting for AA or AAA batteries all of a sudden, for instance.
OnePlus aren’t the first. Rival smartphone brand Xiaomi has already seen tremendous success in the TVs business, which indicates that there is a consumer appetite for the good old idiot box. Televisions are becoming the new smartphones. In a way, this is a good time for OnePlus to get into the smart TV business. The pricing is truly premium, perhaps more than what we would have probably expected. However, there is no taking away from the QLED TV viewing experience, thanks to those deep blacks and vibrant colours. For most of the issues we pointed out with the experience, such as the inconsistent HDR, the audio clarity and the volume normalization, those can be ironed out with software updates. In the end, there is no getting away from the fact that the Samsung The Frame QLED’s shadow is looming large. And OnePlus really needs to get the train of software updates on the way to sort out some of the rough edges that still prevail. At these prices, even the slightest of faults get magnified.