The Chinese know exactly how to conquer India. Through their favourite gadgets! Xiaomi first invaded the Indian mobile market, pushing others unceremoniously out of the way. And now they’re after televisions — and we know how much we Indians are fond of those.
A few days ago, Xiaomi launched its giant 55-inch Mi LED Smart TV 4 at a price that can’t fail to win hearts here. At a mere ₹39,999, it obviously went right out of stock on the first flash sale, forcing those who really want it to wait for the next sale on Flipkart.
I had to get a cupboard relocated to fit the Mi TV on my wall. You have to consider where a TV this size would fit in your house rather carefully because typically, in the average home, there won’t be too many places it could go.
It’s best to get the Mi TV wall-mounted as it’s so paper-thin, it could be knocked over if it’s just sitting on a table. Someone joked that we shouldn’t turn on the ceiling fan else the TV would topple. Comparing it with the mobile phones around me, I found it was visibly thinner (at 4.9 mm) except for a bit where the ports go towards the lower half.
A tip for anyone buying the Mi TV is to make sure to take a photograph of the ports at the back because picking the TV up off the wall is a little scary. Too much pressure on the upper one third would perhaps not be a good idea. But if you know the ports you can attempt to reach in behind from the side and connect whatever you want.
Once it’s up and turned on, it totally dominates the wall, if not the room, in which you can’t look anywhere else but at the massive screen.
The 3480x2160 display is very bright and may even need toning down from the settings depending on the size of the room and the viewing distance. Luckily, that’s easy to do. It’s perhaps not as vivid and colour-rich as OLED televisions and I did find myself missing that a little, but again, the adjustments I made brought it close to the way I like my screen to be.
The display is frameless, which somehow adds to one’s viewing pleasure. Look for 4K HRD content if you can because this screen supports it but not too much is available right now. Streaming it online will need a high-bandwidth connection unless you want jitters and pixellation in the picture.
The sound is not as room-filling as the screen. Mind you, it’s not bad, but given the thin form of this TV, there will be a limit to the depth of sound it can emit. You can fix that by connecting to an existing set of Bluetooth speakers as I did, or adding a soundbar for an all-round expansive experience. I’ve been watching it in a smaller room where the need for enhancing the sound is not too great. Overall, I’m finding the urge to go to a theatre diminishing rapidly.
Not just a pretty hunk of hardware, the Mi TV 4 is also meant to offer more than the usual viewing experience. Xiaomi has been working hard on a smart way of interacting with the TV that is also intuitive and doesn’t call for any special degree of comfort with technology. It’s basically working on Android but not like other smart TVs, such as the Sony Bravia, for example. It’s based on the Android Open Source platform and Xiaomi’s take on it is called PatchWall. It will keep getting updated as we go along. The idea is for the whole interface to be source-agnostic. Whatever multiple content sources are feeding into it, the system will begin to learn user preferences and push forward those that you like. The Home screen brings up trending shows and movies or organises things to watch. There’s a universal search feature to look for something across all content sources, which isn’t something you find everyday on a television.
Apart from TataSky, for which you will have your own set-top box, Xiaomi has content partnerships for 5,00,000 hours of watching. Sources include Voot, Hungama Play, SonyLiv, ALT Balaji, Zee5, TVF, VIU, Sun Nxt, Flickstree.
Partnerships with Netflix and Amazon Prime are planned but not present right now. There are, of course, still ways of watching movies from these popular sources, the easiest being an Amazon Firestick. Once that’s in, you have a universe of stuff to watch, all of it accessible in an increasingly intuitive way because of the personalisation. Unfortunately, there’s no multiple user support yet, so it’s really one user’s preferences.
The Mi Remote is a surpassingly simple gadget with just eleven buttons — including power, volume up, volume down etc. Once everything is set up, you just use these basic buttons to move from one thing to the other. Set up with the Firestick, you can even use the same Mi remote for that additional content. An IR cable will also bring the TataSky remote into the ambit.
Simple as things are, there are lots of little bits to iron out. For example, the Home button on the remote is weirdly placed on the left and one keeps pressing the middle one instead, which happens to be the Back button. On the interface, I couldn’t rename ports. Other little interface items could be made easier. I’m told a companion app is due soon and so is voice control, at some point. These will make the TV even easier to use and navigate.
If you can actually manage to beat the others in the next sale and get the Mi TV, you’re in luck as it’s such value for money, it could be a game changer in the television market in the country.
Pros: Superb frameless screen, supports 4K content, thin and light, immersive, unbeatable price, simple remote
Cons: Sound a little underwhelming, workarounds needed for Netflix and Amazon
Prime for now