The smart TV space has exploded in India ever since Xiaomi entered it in 2018 with its Android TV and Patchwall combination. So much so that in a mere three years, it has become the biggest smart TV brand in India, apart from it being number one in smartphones and a bunch of other categories. Of course, other consumer electronics giants have been looking in on this space, including OnePlus which launched its first smart TV, the Q-series, with QLED technology at the fag end of 2019. Last year, it targeted something more massy with affordable TVs targeting a wider audience. Its latest TV, the U1S takes the middle road. It is big and boisterous at 65-inch, taps into all the hooks of the OnePlus ecosystem - with smart synergy with its other gadgets in almost an Apple-like way, but does so while keeping things affordable. For the large part, if you don’t want to spend a lot of money on a massive 4K 65-inch screen, this wouldn’t be a bad option to choose considering its affordable and affable nature.
I have been testing the OnePlus TV for over a month and its rounded set of features have impressed me. But if you’re looking for something that just dazzles you with picture quality and smarts, this will not be the one. It becomes attractive as a package. The first and foremost thing about the OnePlus TV is the setup process — it is quite straight forward unlike the Q1, which was quite convoluted. I chose to wall mount the TV, though it comes with a pretty elegant stand if you choose to prop it up on a table. The wall mounting process was simplified thanks to the VESA sockets that OnePlus has implemented.
As for the design, well, most TVs, these days have almost zero bezels — the U1S 65-inch is no different. But it is made out of premium materials, which makes it quite hefty by even its own standards. That’s a good thing because this isn’t like a phone that you will be fiddling within your palms. It has a carbon fiber-like finish on the sides and bottom and as the Q1, it comes with a massive set of rear-firing speakers. It also gets connectivity sorted with 3 HDMI ports supporting HDMI ARC, 2 USB ports, and an AV socket that works via an adaptor. It also gets an antenna with an RF socket, an optical out for audio, an ethernet port though no 3.5mm headphone jack, which is frankly a big miss on a device that could be the center of a home theatre set up. It, however, does have Bluetooth for wireless audio, if that’s your cup of tea.
The big takeaway is that it looks good, blends seamlessly with the furniture of any neat room, and is well built which is not what we can say about so many Android TVs that are starting to flood the market. Take a bow, OnePlus, though I still miss the headphone jack because wired audio especially on the tele is very important to me, all of this would be arbitrary if OnePlus didn’t have a good screen.
Thankfully not, the 65-inch 4K LED-backlit panel is very good. It supports HDR10+ video and also has motion smoothing tech at its heart with MEMC. The calibration of the screen isn’t optimal out of the gate and I could also see some screen bleed from the edges but this isn’t a major issue. I got around with the cooler calibration issues by using the Apple TV 4K to calibrate it using the iPhone’s front-facing camera which works wonders. All of this of course can be done manually by playing around with the picture settings if you have a trained eye, but generally even if not calibrated manually, it is a good screen with excellent picture quality.
I saw a bunch of things on the TV — Loki on Hotstar, the Euro 2020 championships on SonyLiv, Justice League, the Snyder CUT with full 4K HDR enabled on Apple TV+ and generally, the experience was sublime. What I didn’t like was the brightness levels of the screen. This is something I struggled with quite a bit on Justice League which has a dark and dystopian color palette. But most people will like the picture quality on the U1S and its HDR 10+ experience shines through.
I also managed to play a few games on the Xbox Series X using the OnePlus TV U1S, the experience was good, but it wasn't optimal for AAA gaming as it lacks a high refresh rate gated at just 60Hz. Gaming for sure isn't the strongest suit of this TV for casual gamers it will fit the bill, but someone very particular about multi-player performance and frame rates will not enjoy it.
But the thing that blows me away about the U1S is the speakers on it. The 30-watt 4-speaker array has been tuned by the audio specialists at Dynaudio and they sound sublime. You get the immersion of a big speaker system, it has pretty tight bass for something as petite and a creamy mid-range which sounds great if you’re playing tons of music videos and it never gets shrill with a squeaky high treble. Interestingly, these speakers also support DTS: HD. It even supports Bluetooth Stereo mode something I tested with the OnePlus TWS earphones which work really well.
There are numerous other improvements as well — first and foremost the remote which was kind of a paradox. The new OnePlus remote is a lot like what Xiaomi has been offering with its Mi TVs. This means it is highly functional with a D-Pad, dedicated buttons for Prime Video, Netflix, and the Google Assistant. It even comes with a button to switch over to the stock Android TV interface. But from what was offered with the original OnePlus TV — this is a downgrade in terms of build quality and the ability to charge it over USB Type C. This is a plain basic plastic remote that gets powered by AAA batteries. It is functional and gets the job done gracefully as it also doubles as a microphone for the Google Assistant voice commands.
Perhaps, the one area where OnePlus deeply needed to play catchup was its user interface. It has more or less caught up to Xiaomi in record time. Its Oxygen Play 2.0 interface first works beautifully well with the phone app elegantly allowing you to control the TV experience with the phone. It also has now integrated tons of content sources like Prime Video, Lionsgate, and even "Live TV". The interface also looks similar to what Xiaomi has implemented so if someone is familiar with PatchWall, they will get it easily. If that's not to your liking then you can always press the "O" button on the remote to back into the stock Android TV UI.
Long story short, as I said while starting the review, if you're in the market for a big screen for your living room or bedroom, this will do the job without punching a big hole in your bank balance. It strikes a sweet balance between functionality and quality of performance. It will not give you the moon, but then again it isn’t also asking for your kidneys. It is affable, affordable, and utterly functional. It is particularly recommended if you are a OnePlus user, even if not, it will be great.
First Published: IST