The allure of a 55 inch smart TV at less than Rs. 30k is simply hard to resist. Isn’t it? The specs look great, the display is 4K, its Android based with Google assistant voice recognition. The only catch? It is a so-called Chinese brand. Well, you can’t really call them that because almost every brands have their manufacturing facility in China nowadays.
So how do they fare when compared to incumbent brands like Sony, LG and Samsung? Is it worth buying a TCL, VU, Micromax, Sanyo or Mi? Let us take a look.
The display of these budget-friendly TV brands are fairly good when you consider the price. The Chinese factories where the brands outsource their manufacturing, generally have vast experience with manufacturing hardware and they have refined the quality well. So, quality wise when you watch HD content, you are likely to have satisfactory viewing experience.
If you are opting for a 4K UHD TV, you will find a difference in display quality while viewing content from Set Top Box. The main difference you will find in the Chinese brands is in color reproduction and contrast. Color may appear a bit washed out. Contrast too might not be that great. But there will be no fall in picture quality when viewing 4K content from Netflix or Prime.
One of the reasons for this is because, in 4K UHD sets, there is a 4K upscaler which has a huge role to play in the display quality, especially while playing content from set top box. This is where the cheaper brands cut corners. The 4K upscaling technology of Sony, LG and Samsung are far better and advanced. In fact, some of them even use AI to aid in upscaling. So, you will find a noticeable difference in picture quality in 4K UHD TV segments between an LG and a VU or Micromax or TCL. Many of the Chinese brands also offer IPS panels. But the brightness and saturation of an LG is never seen in a lower end Chinese TV. But when it comes to HD ready, the differences are minimal.
Yet another aspect to consider is that Samsung, LG and Sony have stringent processes which ensure that specs they mention are met in the manufacturing process. But that is not quite the case in these pocket friendly brands. The specs might mention HDR compatible supporting HDR10 content. But being an open source format, no one monitors whether the specs of the format is actually met. However, if the TV supports Dolby Vision, that is a different case as Dolby takes a licensing fee and strictly enforces the specifications. For this reason, we can actually trust Sanyo Kaizen 4K UHD series as they support Dolby Vision HDR format.
To conclude, if you are looking for smaller size screens, then Chinese brands would be alright. Even in 43 inch segment, it is decent. But when you go to larger screen size or if you opt for 4K UHD TV, you are likely to be disappointed with the picture quality.
The audio quality of TVs have been hit ever since manufacturers started trying to build slimmer televisions. Sony, LG, Samsung and even OnePlus for that matter have come up with newer features and technologies to improve the audio quality. But when it comes to the budget brands, you can’t expect it to be very immersive or have superb surround sound experience. If you need a superior audio quality on a budget TV, you will have to invest in a sound bar.
Smart features is perhaps an area where you can find a noticeable difference in performance between reputed brands and the newer ones. The processors, software and interphase of LG, Sony and Samsung and far better than any of the Chinese brands. They are smooth, lag free and fast.
Most of the Chinese brands are based on Android. These companies don’t invest a lot on improving the interphase or making it seamless. So, compared to the reputed brands, you will find that it takes more time to load apps and initialize casting. Initial booting up also takes a bit longer than established brands.
That being said, Mi seems to be an exception as they are investing heavily to improve upon their Patchwall OS based on Android. Their advanced AI also provides recommendation based on your watching pattern. Micromax is also good in this aspect.
Voice recognition is mostly facilitated through Google Assistant. Even so, it doesn’t have the easiness of an LG or Sony as the hardware lacks.
You will also notice that certain brands don’t have licensing agreements with Video on demand apps like Netflix and Prime. They are however catching up at a quick pace.
As mentioned, Sony, LG and Samsung invest heavily on R&D to improve their TV’s performance. All the latest technologies in the TV industry are brought by these giants.
Sony for example with their A9G series has made huge advances in display and audio experience. The speaker is placed parallel behind the LCD panel of this TV that it appears like the whole screen itself is the speaker. Also, sound is emitted from section of the speaker behind the source on the screen. So, if a person on screen talks, the section of the speaker behind him produces the sound. This creates an immersive sound experience unlike any other.
LG is the pioneer behind OLED screens. In fact LG Display supplies OLED panels to LG Electronics’ competitors like Sony. QLED screen is Samsung’s innovation.
But when it comes to budget Chinese brands, you won’t find these brands bringing about any path breaking innovations. Rather, they usually just copy. In fact, it can also be contributed as one of the reasons why their products are cheap. After all, R&D comes at a price.
Indians expect their home appliances to last at least for 5-10 years. TVs are no exceptions. Even though we have a dearth of 4K content, we still buy a 4k UHD HDR TV to future proof the TV.
Durability is definitely an aspect the Chinese brands lack. To sell cheap, they make cheap. The build quality is not as good as an LG or Sony. The bevels of many( not all) of the Chinese TVs come in plastic finish, while metallic finish is the norm in the higher end brands. The panels and other components too lack the durability in comparison.
In fact, you find many complaints online about LCD panels of cheaper brands breaking down within a year or two. But it is far and few in reputed brands. Comparatively, more issues are found in cheaper brands compared to the incumbent ones.
Also, it is found that almost every brands cut corners to make cheap products for the Indian market. A TCL television in India doesn’t have the quality of one you find in the US. So, in that aspect, you do find a fall in quality from all brands.
After Sales Support
After sales support is yet another area where the Chinese brands fall behind. Their support network is insufficient compared to the quantity they sell.
If you live in a metro, though time consuming and frustrating, you might have access to the service centers. But in most tier 2 and tier 3 cities, after sales support is a pain. In fact, there are even reports of taking up to 20 days for a technician visit. So, if you have access to a qualified local technician who can provide support, then you might be good. But if you are solely depending on company’s after sales support, you will be taken for a ride.
Whom is it for?
So, let us discuss who should ideally buy a cheaper Chinese brand TV?
If you have a keen eye for detail and are looking for an outstanding entertainment experience with surround sound, vivid colors that pop out, beautiful contrast and saturation, then you would be better off with a Sony, LG or Samsung. But on the other hand, if you are not quite a video critic and are just looking for a TV to view channels from your Set Top box, and limited streaming from VOD apps, then you could probably opt for a Chinese brand. Most of the visual and audio differences are visible only when you view the TVs side by side. While viewing without any other comparison, you might not note the differences.
Next, if you are looking for a TV to last for at least 7-10 years, then, by all means opt for reputed brands. But if you are an immigrant who might shift cities in 2-4 years, you could opt for a cheaper brand with larger screen size and better features and just sell it off before you move to the next city.