Xiaomi and its Redmi sub-brand have, over the years, spent a substantial amount of their TV marketing budgets talking up the homegrown Patchwall user interface that sits on top of the Android TV platform and provides curated content to consumers. This is a platform that, according to the Xiaomi PatchWall Replay Report released in December 2022, witnessed a 76% growth last year with a 2x increase in time spent on 4K TV content.
So, it struck us as a bit odd when the Redmi sub-brand pivoted to Amazon’s Fire TV OS – yes, the same smart TV platform that powers Amazon’s own Fire TV devices, Alexa and all – for the latest Redmi Smart Fire TV 32 (Rs. 13,999) budget smart TV. Does the switch work in the new TV’s favor? Or are some things best left alone?
Available in a single 32-inch size, the Redmi Smart Fire TV doesn’t really take any major risks for its segment – you get a HD resolution (1366x768 pixels) panel, like most 32-inch TVs out there. The narrow metallic bezels, sturdy stand (included) and the minimal FireTV branding lend it a somewhat premium look which belies its price. Connectivity options include two HDMI ports (one which supports ARC for your soundbar), two USB 2.0 ports, AV-in and antenna sockets, an Ethernet port for wired Internet connectivity and a 3.5mm headphone/speaker jack…and of course, Bluetooth 5 and dual-band Wi-Fi.
There’s a bundled remote, which differs from the standard Xiaomi remote in a few key ways to better support the FireTV operating system – aside from the dedicated Alexa voice control button, there are dedicated playback buttons and a mute button which help immensely when viewing streaming media. Sure, it adds to the number of buttons on the remote, but it treads the fine line between ease of access and clutter successfully, and one hopes Xiaomi remotes on other TVs follow suit.
Let’s get to that Amazon – Google switcheroo on the Redmi Smart Fire TV, shall we? Out goes Google Assistant, and in comes Alexa, and it’s much like the Alexa experience on any other product. You can ask questions, play music and take advantage of the thousands of Alexa Skills – just press the Alexa button on the remote.
If you’re already invested in the Amazon ecosystem with an Alexa compatible security camera, you can bring up the feed on the TV and control any smart home devices linked to your account, including bulbs, air conditioners and fans. The Fire OS 7 experience is the same as other ‘FireTV Edition’ TVs launched previously by Onida and Akai or, for that matter, the Fire TV Stick or Fire TV Cube.
In use, the TV feels snappy and the experience of navigating around and launching apps happens quickly, thanks in large part to the lightweight nature of the interface and the apps. For a TV with 1GB of memory, the Fire OS makes the most of the hardware without feeling sluggish or underpowered, and the 12,000 apps available cover all the major streaming services and more. Bear in mind, you have 8GB of internal storage, so you’ll have to be careful when downloading apps or local media.
Of note is support for Miracast and Apple AirPlay, for mirroring phone/device content – AirPlay support was certainly not something one was expecting on a device at this price point. Mirroring the iPhone or Mac onto the TV worked very well, which checks off a box one wasn’t expecting to check.
Now, one thing you’ll certainly note is a lot of the recommended content being surfaced is from Prime Video, but the interface incorporates content from other streaming networks as well, and we encountered no issues in streaming content across Netflix, JioCinema, Apple TV, Hotstar and the like. There is the provision to integrate Live TV feeds from the set top box, but having cut the cord years ago, one wasn’t able to test out this feature.
Owing to its size, this is a TV that’s meant for smaller spaces and for watching content from relatively up close, and in that regard, the TV worked well for watching TV dramas or sitcoms and handled some of the darker scenes in YouTube/Netflix HDR content rather admirably for an entry-level TV. Colors tuning was biased towards the oversaturated, which makes for a viewing experience that pops, if you’re not overly particular about color accuracy. It’s not the brightest panel around, and the blacks in dark scenes were somewhat muted, but with its handling of most content outside fast paced sports, it’s easy to forget this is a sub-15,000 TV.
Similarly, sound quality from the two 10W speakers felt loud and worked well for listening to music and sitcom dialogues in smaller rooms – any larger and you may want to connect a soundbar or a pair of external speakers. Once you’re done with the setup, you’d be well advised trying the different picture/audio modes to find one that works best for the content you like – movie mode throws out the sound across the room a lot more than say music mode, which curtails the stereo output.
Heading over to the Amazon camp for the Redmi Smart Fire TV 32 has allowed Redmi to eke out better, more responsive performance from budget hardware, and will be a particularly useful addition to a home that already has some Alexa-compatible devices. As long as you check your expectations about TVs at this price point, you’ll walk away fairly impressed with the refinement of the overall package. This is a good choice for a first TV, or one for a smallish space within your home.
Tushar Kanwar, a tech columnist and commentator, tweets @2shar.