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Realme Smart TV 4K 43 Review: Dolby Vision on a Budget, But Plenty Still Amiss

Realme Smart TV 4K 43 Review: Dolby Vision on a Budget, But Plenty Still Amiss

The Realme Smart TV 4K 43-inch gets a lot right on paper, but in reality, is not the wondrous budget 4K TV that it set out to be.

Like many other categories, the smart TV industry also saw a major overhaul in terms of prices when Chinese OEM Xiaomi entered the segment with its Mi TV range of devices. Companies such as Vu, TCL and more were already selling budget TVs in India, but none got the marketing quite as right as Xiaomi did – armed with largely positive critical reviews to boot. Realme, on the other hand, entered well after this initial phase, and its initial offering – the 55-inch Realme SLED 4K TV, was interesting to say the least. That it then decided to showcase the Realme Smart TV 4K 43 is likely proof that it’s not giving up on its TV ambitions, any time soon.

So, then, the Realme Smart TV 4K 43 is indeed a more assured offering, in the sense that the brand did not need to rely on trying to market an all new TV technology altogether with this one. It’s fairly straightforward, but with a few kicks – the Realme Smart TV 4K 43 comes with Dolby Vision, Dolby Atmos and TUV Rheinland certification, therefore claiming to be a competent 4K TV for those who want screen sizes smaller than 50 inches. It runs on Android TV 10.0, which is at the moment a gold standard of sorts for smart TV units. With all of this at hand, can it go wrong as a good budget TV to buy?

Display and sound quality: Average at best, glitch makes it worse

The Realme Smart TV 4K 43 brings 4K screen resolution to the 43-inch screen size, and on paper, this could not have been a bad thing – simply by virtue of the same resolution on smaller screens would ideally mean higher pixel density. On top of that, it has Dolby Vision, which in turn would mean crisper HDR visuals as well. In action, though, things aren’t quite as good as they should have been.

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While the sharpness of Dolby Vision content is quite commendable, the consistency of brightness and contrast adjustments are not. (Image: Shouvik Das/News18.com)

In terms of overall quality, streaming 4K and 4K HDR content is a mixed bag of an experience. The general sharpness levels are pretty good, as proved in 4K streams of shows such as Loki on Disney+ Hotstar, and Enola Holmes and I Care a Lot on Netflix. However, what I found rather disturbing is the inconsistent levelling of brightness and in turn colour precision on all 4K HDR content. On the Netflix shows, which are also Dolby Atmos rated alongside being in 4K, the overall visual quality ends up being a hit or miss, purely because of the inconsistent brightness levels.

While I found the sharpness and intricacy in the overall detailing to be fairly satisfactory, this lack of consistency in brightness, contrast and colour reproduction affects the overall TV quality as well. The easily configurable picture settings are also tricky to adjust as a result – while you may adjust your brightness, contrast and saturation levels based on the present frame that you’re viewing, the same would look wildly askew in a scene that is darker (or brighter, for that matter). This inconsistency makes it somewhat annoying, and the lack of consistency cannot be overlooked.

The unevenly lit band of pixels appeared automatically a few weeks into our review, and is persistent at appearing on its own well – something for Realme’s quality control team to think about. (Image: Shouvik Das/News18.com)

The review unit that I was sent, after about three weeks of being with me, also happened to automatically develop a vertical band of about 10 inches in width that is clearly not in line with the rest of the display panel. This appears to be a unit defect, for it also randomly appears and disappears at free will. It isn’t a dead pixel issue, but is most likely an issue with the LED backlight – something that does not reflect well on Realme’s quality control standards.

The inconsistency of visuals is only matched by the inconsistency in audio performance, albeit at a lesser level. While the Realme Smart TV 4K 43 is Dolby Atmos certified, it is not quite the level of depth in audio that you would expect. Particularly at slightly higher volume levels, the speakers sound distinctly too shallow, and lack any perceived sense of depth that rivalling budget 4K TVs have started offering. Thankfully, the general quality of vocals produced by the quad built-in speakers is certainly good, so at least on the audio front, the Realme Smart TV 4K 43 can be deemed passable.

Software and interface: Slightly sluggish, but mostly usable

The Realme Smart TV 4K 43 runs on Android TV 10.0, which Realme has thankfully not tinkered with in terms of how it works. It has also not attempted to offer a custom, curated content experience that most OEMs do (such as the Xiaomi PatchWall OS), which is something that we prefer. The TV features Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and YouTube pre-loaded, and features shortcut buttons of these services on the remote as well – and given that these three are ubiquitously among the most used video streaming apps around, there’s no reason to really complain.

The TV thankfully runs on a clean, unaltered version of Android TV 10.0, but there are lags in it already. (Image: Shouvik Das/News18.com)

However, despite the TV being new and the OS being updated, the interface has random moments of sluggish behaviour. This inconsistency will make you continue clicking the remote’s arrows repeatedly, before you realise that you’re stuck on one key when typing out a video’s title on YouTube. It was also not a one-off glitch, and also happens when you’re simply trying to switch from one app to the other on the Android TV home screen – suggesting that over time, the software on the Realme Smart TV 4K 43 might just become even slower.

Also Read: Xiaomi Mi LED TV 4X Pro 55 Review: You Won’t Find a Better 55-inch TV at This Price

The one thing that’s really appreciable are picture quality adjustments on the fly – the quick settings button on the remote pulls up options for Picture Mode, Sound Mode, a sleep timer, selecting input source, and ‘More’ for the expanded picture settings panel. While the Picture and Sound modes show Dolby modes on content that supports it, they show general presets such as Sport, Movie and so on in non-Dolby content – such as live sports. It is particularly in non-Dolby content that making manual adjustments become both necessary and tricky – thanks to the inconsistent image quality mentioned above.

All things considered, though, Realme has chosen to stick to the basics with a single Android TV launcher, and easy to access picture and sound quality settings – and that is something that would come of more help than what many may imagine.

Build, design and remote: The best part of the TV

The Realme Smart TV 4K 43 features genuinely slim bezels, which do make the TV look fairly upmarket. In fact, with its minimal design, it almost looks like the perfect fit for a small room, or as your second TV. The symmetry of the frame is only disrupted by the infrared receiver panel at the bottom, right below the Realme logo – but none of this looks bad. This receiver panel also features four indicator LEDs for the always-on mic, which glow white when turned on, and yellow when switched off.

The TV looks good on overall terms, but this panel has four LEDs that will stay lit at all times if you physically turn off the always-on mic. (Image: Shouvik Das/News18.com)

In what is a puzzling decision, while Realme has included a hard switch that disables this mic for all of us paranoid folks, doing so will keep the yellow lights on at all times – and you cannot switch it off at any point. Your best bet, therefore, is to completely disable Google Assistant and keep the mic enabled, hoping that your audio isn’t secretly captured in a hidden background task and relayed to a foreign server. Given the concerns around privacy and security that have become so much more relevant right now, this rather conscious design flaw from Realme may not have been the most prudent move. It’s either that, or proof that despite everything, not enough mass users still care about incidental digital surveillance and their online privacy.

Nevertheless, the TV has a fairly convenient remote that is reasonably tactile and the same as the one that was featured on the Realme SLED TV. Albeit its extremely plasticky build, the remote is quite good to use, and responds well to all button clicks. It has a dedicated Google Assistant button, a mute button and the quick settings button as well, all of which make it definitely more convenient than the remote that Xiaomi supplies with the Mi TV.

Verdict: A mixed bag at its best, underwhelming at worst

On a day when the Realme Smart TV 4K 43 works at its best, it can offer crisp 4K visuals courtesy Dolby Vision, crisp vocals thanks to Dolby Atmos, a clean Android TV interface, a convenient remote, easy to tweak picture quality, and the convenience of an always on Google Assistant. On another day, when everything goes wrong, even Dolby Vision HDR performance filters thanks to inconsistent brightness and contrast performance, the audio sounds way too shallow in action scenes, the Android TV interface lags terribly, and even the quick settings access wouldn’t help you adjust the picture and audio quality to the perfect point.

It is this inconsistency that mars the Realme Smart TV 4K 43 inch Android TV as an overall package, and all of this is in a TV that’s practically brand new. Given that we’ve encountered so many glitches (including the panel brightness difference) already, it’s difficult to vouch for the TV in the long run – even if the prospect of Dolby Vision at just Rs 27,990 seems pretty promising.

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first published:July 08, 2021, 08:00 IST