Realme Android TV 43″ Review: Tough Competition for the Mi TV
For a two-year-old brand, Realme has acquired recognition and success much faster than any of its competitors. The India-born start-up – conceived by the Chinese smartphone giant OPPO – has made its way into the top smartphone brands of India and the entire world. This monumental growth is a result of Realme’s swiftness and youthful vigor with which it has been diving into different categories of consumer technology. Although the brand has primarily been known for smartphones, it has been steadily moving into lifestyle tech with products such as wireless and truly wireless earphones, fitness trackers, or even some non-tech utilities like backpacks and tote bags. It also intends to more tech products such as smart speakers, soundbars, and more to improve its lineup of IoT products. Last month, Realme entered another new category and introduced two new budget Android TV models.
Realme’s Android TV lineup debuted with two models – a 32″ HD-ready model and a 43″ Full HD model. Apart from the differences in terms of the display size and resolution, both of the Realme TV models are identical. They feature the same internal hardware, input-output ports, similar tuning of the display, and native support for OTT apps like Netflix and Amazon Prime Video.
Realme TV: Review Summary
- Saturated color reproduction
- Good contrast
- 178º wide viewing angles
- Options to customize picture and sound
- Ergonomic remote
- HDR10 support allows Netflix titles to be played in HDR
- Unimpressive audio quality and lack of bass
- Occasional lag and jitter
- No dual-band Wi-Fi
- Power cable not detachable
Realme TV 43″: Specifications
|Specification||Realme TV 43″|
|I/O & Connectivity||
|Interface||Android TV UI based on Android 9 Pie|
Build and Design
The Realme TV comes with an unintrusive design. It features a slim profile, measuring 8 cm in terms of thickness along the thickest part. The Realme TV sports the common black-colored outfit, and its slim profile is complemented by really lean bezels which measure less than a centimeter in thickness.
The Realme logo lies at the center of the chin bezel of the TV and underneath it is a tiny compartment housing the infrared receiver and a red LED that beams when the TV is either switched off or on standby. At the bottom of this compartment is a button-switch for power and it’s the only physical button on the TV.
The back of the Realme TV is made of solid polycarbonate plastic. The plastic – although plain and lackluster – feels very durable and doesn’t flex a bit unless you apply a lot of pressure. There are a series of slits on the back – perhaps to vent the heat out – and the panel’s backlight can be seen emitting out of these slits.
The Realme TV 43-inch is less than a meter long and the distance between the two legs is 90cm (3 feet). The fork-shaped legs of the Realme TV come with rubber cushions underneath so as to prevent the plastic legs from scratching the tabletop you place the TV on, as well as to let it be less prone to sliding. However, the TV is easily jolted if you nudge it by mistake because the legs aren’t long enough, nor do they have sufficient contact with the surface. That can potentially be an issue if you have kids or pets in the house; hence, mounting the TV is the only possible solution to the issue. You can order a standard 20 x 20 cm wall mount which has to be paid for separately.
Both Realme TV models use a bottom-firing stereo speaker setup with a combined output of 24W. Each side features a full-range speaker and a tweeter for clarity in commentary and dialogues.
There is no flexing or bending anywhere in the body of the Realme TV 43″, which indicates attention to quality in spite of the affordable pricing. The bigger Realme TV weighs only about 7kg and can be easily lifted or installed. Overall, the build of the Realme TV justifies its price.
The bigger Realme TV model is equipped with a Full HD display with an LED-backlit Vertical Alignment (VA) LCD panel. It measures 43-inches (108cm), as suggested by the name and this translates to a pixel density of only about 51ppi. As a characteristic of VA panels, the display has good contrast with much darker blacks as compared to an IPS panel. Realme claims a brightness value of 400 nits for this panel, which is very bright for most well-lit rooms. Adding to this, the display is not very reflective and any light source opposite of the TV should not hinder your viewing experience.
From about a meter (3.3ft) or more, the display appears very smooth and detailed, especially when you’re right in front of it. Interestingly, the Realme TV has great viewing angles of 178º, which is very impressive – and unusual – for a VA panel. This implies that Realme could be using a “wide-angle VA panel”, a technology that can be considered an intermediate between a pure VA and an IPS panel.
There is an observable color shift and reduction in saturation while viewing the TV at extreme angles but it doesn’t hinder the viewing experience. Furthermore, there is no extreme reduction in brightness as we see on standard VA panels.
The grays on the display appear uniform at high brightness. But at low brightness, the nonuniformity becomes more evident and you can see the brighter spots along the left and the right edges of the display while the center is relatively dimmer. Being edge-lit, the display does not support local dimming as confirmed by the test below.
The Realme TV 43″ is very good in terms of general color reproduction. The colors are really punchy and produce a really pleasing visual experience together with the high contrast of the VA panel. Other than claiming that the display supports 16.7 million colors, there’s no claim in terms of popular color gamuts like NTSC or DCI-P3 – and to be fair, anyone spending just about ₹22,000 (~$290) on a smart TV is unlikely to bother themselves with those details.
Realme has applied its learning from smartphone photography to enhance the vibrancy of the display. Both the models come with Realme’s Chroma Boost engine for a saturated color output. Both the models are capable of playing HDR formats such as HDR10 and HLG by decoding them on the software level – even though the panel is not certified for HDR. Notably, HDR10 does enhance supported content on Netflix – sadly, not Amazon Prime Video since it requires at least HDR10+ to play HDR content – but can make the display darker than intended since it uses static metadata for HDR. Currently, there is no option to turn HDR on or off on the display.
Realme TV’s display offers good color contrast, saturation, surprisingly good viewing angles.
On the software level, Realme gives you the option to extensively tune the image quality and the colors of the display. Besides the range of display presets, you can fine-tune elements such as saturation or hue or adjust the white balance and the brightness per color. There is no frame rate upscaling (like MEMC) here, which I think could have been a practical addition since the panel supports 60Hz. But there are many options to enhance the picture quality, including:
- DNR – which reduces or smoothens out visual noise
- DI Film mode – which upscales movies (or 24fps content) to HD frame-by-frame
- Adaptive Luma Control – which automatically adjusts brightness and contrast based on the content
- Game mode – for shorter display response time
Overall, the display is reasonably good in terms of colors and brightness, even though a slightly brighter panel (or an option to turn HDR off) would improve the experience. Despite the low pixel density, you’ll not notice any distortion or noise unless you look at the display from very close by. The wide-angle VA panel allows for good saturation and contrast of a VA panel while also ensuring good viewing angles like an IPS panel – rewarding you with the best of both worlds. The display completely justifies the Realme TV’s price.
Realme has stocked both the Android TV models with dual-unit stereo speakers located at the bottom of the TV and hidden by a plastic grille. Each of these speakers assemblies consists of a full range speaker complemented by a tweeter for boosted treble and upper mid-range frequencies. This typically helps improve the clarity of speech in narratives and dialogues. Both of the channels are rated at 12W each, resulting in a combined output of 24W, which gives Realme an edge over competitors that utilize relatively less powerful speakers on their TVs in this price range.
While the full range speaker and the tweeter combined do result in a pretty loud and clear audio experience, the speakers distinctly perform poorly when it comes to bass. Instead of the bassy elements of any audio – a song like heavy or rumbling bass – you just hear a flattened sound without any reverb. On a standard frequency response test, the Realme TV’s inbuilt speakers are audible between 150Hz-16,000Hz.
Realme TV’s speakers are loud and clear but lack impactful bass.
While the hardware does not feel very proficient, Realme has tried to make up for its deficiencies through software. Besides a range of audio presets, you get a 5-band equalizer and surround sound effect. The Realme TV also supports enhancements under Dolby Digital and you can choose from a range of Dolby Audio presets to optimize the audio experience to your liking. The addition of Dolby Digital helps significantly if you have an external audio setup attached to the TV.
The audio is clearly not one of Realme TV’s strongest points but Realme has already confirmed they will launch a 100W soundbar with a subwoofer soon. This could happen as early as in the month of July 2020 when Realme will also launch a 55″ “flagship” Android TV. The 43″ Realme TV also features an SPDIF port and that suggests the soundbar would also support the same.
The Realme TV is furnished with stock Android TV Pie without any content discovery system like Xiaomi’s PatchWall or OnePlus’ OxygenPlay. This, as per Realme, is to empower users to exercise control over the content they wish to watch. A few apps such as Netflix, Amazon Prime, and a web browser called “Pango Browser” come pre-installed on the Realme TV. Realme has also added a tile for “AI Point” which is just a shortcut for an app drawer where you can access downloaded and sideloaded apps. There is no direct access button on the remote controller to access Android TV’s app drawer but you can do that by long-pressing the home button – although you will not see sideloaded apps here. Besides the extra options and settings mentioned under Display and Audio sections, there aren’t many customizations to the TV interface.
In terms of hardware, the Realme TV runs on a quad-core MediaTek chipset with four ARM Cortex A53 cores on the CPU and a Mali-470 MP3 GPU. Along with the MediaTek platform, the Android TV comes just 1GB of RAM and 8GB of internal storage. While the user experience is mostly smooth, the Realme TV has occasional performance stutters, especially while starting up, and when several apps are open at once. This feels like a limitation of the single gigabyte of RAM even though the RAM used here has a high 2133MHz frequency.
Performance is bottlenecked by a single GB of RAM.
I found out that limiting the number of active background apps to three or four from the Developer Options in the Android TV’s Settings can reduce this laggy behavior, but any user would have been at peace with 1.5GB or 2GB of RAM. Realme appears to have cut some corners to keep the price of the TV under check.
The Realme TV 43″ comes with a Widevine L1 certification and that allows Full HD playback on OTT apps including Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Hotstar etc.
It is worth pointing out that Realme has disabled downloads on browsers and you will have to use a USB drive to play media or sideload apps. You can install Aptoide TV along with ATV launcher from the Play Store to remedy the latter.
Lastly, the Realme TV comes with Google Assistant support but there is a delay of 2-5 seconds every time you try to invoke or communicate with the Assistant. The Realme TV also has difficulty connecting and being controlled by Google’s Android TV Remote Control application – especially while using the keyboard input function in the app.
The remote bundled along with the Realme TV is lightweight and very ergonomic. Realme has opted for an airfoil design instead of symmetry so that remote is center-weighted and does not feel heavier on any one end. The thickness and curvature around the bottom also improve the grip.
In terms of the layout, the Realme TV’s remote controller resembles the second version of the OnePlus TV remote, which was updated to add the Netflix button. The D-pad on the remote has also been accented with the typical yellow color from Realme’s branding. The remote comes with quick access keys for Netflix, Amazon Prime, YouTube. and Google Assistant. Unlike the usual vertical alignment, volume buttons on the Realme TV are placed horizontally and that might take some time to commit to muscle memory. The remote also comes with an in-line microphone
Realme TV remote is light, ergonomic, and pleasant to hold.
All of these buttons are made from a rubber-like material and feel nice upon touching. The matte-like texture of the Realme TV’s remote also adds to the pleasant feeling.
The remote supports both – infrared and Bluetooth – for communicating with the TV. Communicating with the TV over IR is much slower as compared to Bluetooth and I strongly recommend ensuring the latter. If you connect the remote via Bluetooth, you can also see the percentage of charge left in the AAA batteries in the Accessories settings, which is a neat addition.
Connectivity and I/O
For connectivity, the Realme TV seems packed with options. On this, you get:
- 3x HDMI ports out
- Only the first one supports the HDMI ARC
- CEC is supported on HDMI 1 and HDMI 3 only
- two USB 2.0 ports
- an SPDIF port for digital audio out
- one Antenna port
- one LAN port
- a headphone jack
The ports are placed on the backplate and split into two groups instead of a single array. One HDMI port, the headphone jack, Digital Audio port, and the two USB ports point towards the left of the TV while the LAN port and two HDMI ports face the bottom. The ports are placed along the thickest part of the TV and may not be very accessible when the TV rests on a table with its back too close to the wall or when it is mounted on the wall. The power cable is not detachable, which means you cannot swap it out for a longer one.
For wireless connectivity, the Realme TV comes with single-band Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 5.0. The lack of dual-band Wi-Fi is unpleasant as the 2.4GHz has a significant speed drop with objects in between and struggles because of interference caused by 2.4GHz signals emitted by Bluetooth devices or appliances like microwaves. This can lead to a major reduction in the quality of the signal.
Many I/O options but all remain difficult to access.
As for Bluetooth, the TV resists while connecting to devices that are more than a meter away from it. However, once it is connected, the range is pretty good for you to wear wireless earphones and roam freely in a radius of about 10 meters (without any physical object in between).
The TV supports wireless casting via Chromecast, Miracast as well as wireless display support for Windows. You can also download an app called AirScreen and use it along with an iOS or macOS device via Apple’s AirPlay protocol.
Realme Android TV: Great display counter-acted by limiting internals
The Realme TV is furnished with a good and saturated LED-backlit display which is paired to a decent audio setup. But the mediocre hardware, especially the 1GB RAM, can avert a smooth experience. Realme has clearly cut corners in the internal hardware to ensure competitive pricing. While the software is stocked with useful features, there might be some optimization issues that we hope to see ironed out with future OTA updates. One such issue is the glitching while using Google’s Android TV remote control app.
If you need a great display performance and will be using the TV for watching OTT content or from an external set-top box, the Realme TV is a good option. I, however, hope Realme launches a 43″ inch model with 4K resolution – just as its primary competitor Xiaomi did last year. While the availability of a 4K model isn’t confirmed, Realme has promised they’ll launch a larger 55″ “flagship” smart Android TV soon.
The Realme TVs are currently available in India for a starting price of ₹12,999 (~$170) for the 32-inch HD model while the 43-inch Full HD model comes for ₹21,999 (~$290). These TVs are available via Realme’s official store and Flipkart via flash sales that happen every Tuesday.