Xiaomi doesn’t want to be your ‘value-for-money’ brand anymore. Despite its leadership in the budget smartphone segment (followed by affordable smart televisions, and now a jab at the laptop market), the company has been trying to find its way in the premium smartphone market by putting out some solid options on the table. The separation of brands—the sub-brand, Redmi, was conceived to offer affordable products across the portfolio—has helped Xiaomi to seek a new identity breaking the shackles of its perception as a ‘budget brand’, or as we call it in India, a “massy” brand.
After finding success in and disrupting the smart TV market in India, Xiaomi went all-out recently to launch the Xiaomi OLED Vision TV in India. This is the company's first OLED television to be launched in India and, incidentally, the most expensive Xiaomi product in the market right now.
But before we go ahead, what’s the big deal about ‘OLED’?
An OLED TV explainer
OLED stands for "organic light-emitting diode" while QLED stands for "quantum dot LED TV." A QLED TV is essentially a variation of the ‘traditional’ LCD TV and relies on an LED backlight. An OLED TV though uses a fundamentally different technology from LCD TVs (much like plasma before) where pixels emit their own light. So, transmissive versus emissive display technology.
For the last few years, Samsung has been branding its TVs as ‘QLED’ while LG focused on ‘OLED’. Many perceive OLED to be a better technology than QLED, an argument that has been strengthened by the fact that Samsung too makes OLED TVs now, even though the company claims that quantum dots have evolved over time, improving the colour and light output of its QLED TVs.
That said, LCD, the dominant technology in flat-panel TVs, is cheaper than OLED, especially in larger sizes, and several panel makers manufacture it reducing the costs further (all OLED TVs use panels manufactured by LG Display, an independent subsidiary of the LG Corporation).
Since OLED TVs don’t need any backlight hardware, they consume less electricity theoretically and can get amazingly thin. OLED TVs also offer better contrast and black level while maintaining fidelity from extreme viewing angles. That said, some QLED TVs can get brighter than any OLED TV, which is advantageous in brightly lit rooms.
All things considered, however, neither an OLED TV nor a QLED TV is better than the other in absolute terms since a lot of image quality factors are the same and depend on the individual models than what the technology constitute.
(As an aside, there’s a newer technology called QD-OLED – Sony and Samsung have recently unveiled QD-OLED TVs – which combines the best of both worlds.)
Is the Xiaomi OLED Vision TV worth it?
Xiaomi may have started from a point to put the cheapest OLED TV in the market, but it doesn’t skimp on either the internals or the chassis.
The 55-inch all-black TV looks great with extremely thin bezels and a metallic frame. There are no steel or chrome accents to add a premium flair, but the minimal design too looks attractive.
The rear profile is awkward though. On the top, it’s only 4.6mm thin, but there’s a huge bulge on the lower side of the TV to pack in the internals. You can’t make it out from the front, but the side profile when mounted on a wall is inconsistent. The legs provided for table-top setup are quite neat, but do not raise the height of the TV sufficiently to slide a soundbar under it.
When it comes to display – the thing that matters the most – Xiaomi hits it out of the park. The 55-inch panel creates perfect black uniformity with an excellent contrast ratio and vivid colours. The viewing angles are impressive too. If I had to nit-pick, and only because it’s my job, the brightness could have been better.
While the Xiaomi OLED Vision TV offers a crisp television viewing experience (the immersive visuals and the popping 80s colour tones of Netflix’s Stranger Things sold me), the 60Hz refresh rate makes it sub-optimal for console gaming. That’s not uncommon with entry-level OLED TVs, mind you.
The delightful visual experience is complemented by an eight-way speaker system of 30W peak output with Dolby Atmos and DTS. The peak output might just be just enough on paper, but in real-world usage, the speakers are loud and clear delivering the most wholesome audio experience on any Xiaomi TV so far. For most bedroom sizes, you won’t need a soundbar, although having one in a larger living room might just up the aural experience.
The smart TV is powered by Android 11 with Xiaomi’s proprietary UI layer – PatchWall – slapped over it.
PatchWall has evolved over the years and offers nifty features like IMDb integration or a Kids Mode. There are about 30 OTT services integrated and several live TV channels clubbed in a new Mi TV+ app and PatchWall does well to aid discovery of content via showcase banners and curated lists. It’s one of the best Android TV implementations, but Xiaomi has to allow filtering of content partners and OTT services since the crowded home screen has content splashed from so many services or TV channels or in languages you are not interested in.
Also, while PatchWall is impressive when compared to the barebones Android TV experience and Amazon’s Fire TV UI, the competition in the premium segment is with LG’s fantastic webOS or Samsung’s Tizen OS experience and the new Google TV on Sony televisions.
The performance, though, is pretty good. I think Xiaomi should’ve gone for 4GB RAM instead of 3GB on a premium TV because it could have taken care of some occasional glitches while firing up an app or switching between interfaces, but it’s mostly a lag-free TV viewing experience. A future update might just optimize things better.
Xiaomi has a reputation for democratizing technology by offering impressive value at a competitive price which has often led to broader adoption of its products, and in some case, the disruption of the category.
It’s awkward to say the same for a product priced at around ₹1 lakh, but for the category, it’s not a misplaced assertion for Xiaomi's first-ever OLED television.
At ₹ ₹94,999, the Xiaomi OLED Vision TV  is the most affordable 55-inch OLED television in the market. Most of the OLED TVs from legacy brands like LG and Samsung are priced above a lakh.
If you are in the market specifically for a 55-inch OLED TV, the Xiaomi OLED Vision TV actually has all that it takes to be great option on the table. It is good for the most part, even if not the best. Plus, it saves you at least a bundle of two-thousand-rupee notes (invest in a soundbar, maybe?).
However, the stakes are higher to compete in this category. Most of the customers buying a premium television also have more bandwidth to spend extra cash to place more value on the brand value, the warranty period, past service experience, and similar factors.
And, as I said in the opening paragraph, that’s what Xiaomi aims to work on. If their first OLED TV (and the recent slate of flagship smartphones) is any indication, the company is pretty serious about that ambition. A little polish here and there and some compelling differentiators may be a faster route to achieve that than just the cost savings aphorism that worked for the company in the past.
Display: 4K OLED | 3840 x 2160 resolution | Dolby Vision IQ | HDR10+ | HDR10
Audio: 30W (8 Speaker setup - 4 Passive and 4 Active drivers) | Dolby Atmos | DTS-X
Software: Android TV 11 | PatchWall 4 | 15+ Languages | Kids Mode with Parental lock
Connectivity: Bluetooth 5.0 | Wi-Fi 6 - 2.4GHz/5GHz | Chromecast built-in
Performance: Quad core Cortex A73 CPU | Mali G52 MC1 GPU | 3GB RAM | 32 GB Storage
Ports: HDMI 2.1* x 3 | USB x 2 | Ethernet x 1 | AV x 1 | Optical x 1 | 3.5mm x 1
Price: ₹ ₹94,999 on Flipkart.com