Is this the most affordable smart TV you can buy right now?
By Ali Pardiwala | Updated: 4 June 2020 13:15 IST
The Realme Smart TV is available in two sizes – 32-inch and 43-inch
The Realme Smart TV is priced at Rs. 12,999 onwards
We had the 43-inch variant for review
The TV supports HDR, which is rare for a full-HD television
Realme entered the Indian market in May 2018 as a relative unknown, then marketed as a sub-brand of its much more established parent Oppo. In two short years, the company has separated its brand identity from Oppo and established itself as a key player in the Indian smartphone market thanks to good products and competitive pricing. The company is now looking elsewhere for growth, including the popular and rapidly expanding smart television segment.
After months of chatter and rumours, the company's first smart televisions are finally here. Priced at Rs 12,999 onwards, the Realme Smart TV series takes on the entry level smart television segment with models at two of the most popular sizes for flat-panel TVs in India - 32 inches and 43 inches. We received the Android TV-powered 43-inch Realme Smart TV for review; read on to find out everything there is to know about this brand new affordable smart TV.
Realme Smart TV design and specifications
Despite all the marketing hype and publicity, the Realme Smart TV is fairly ordinary when compared to other options in its price segment. That isn't a bad thing, of course; this LED television sticks to the basics and tries to offer as much as it can at a sensible price. While the more affordable 32-inch variant costs Rs. 12,999, we had the 43-inch variant for review, which is priced at Rs. 21,999.
Apart from the obvious difference in screen size, the more expensive variant also has a higher resolution. While the 32-inch Realme Smart TV has an HD-ready (1366x768-pixel) screen, the 43-inch option has a full-HD (1920x1080-pixel) panel. The rest of the specifications are identical across the two variants, so users looking at the 32-inch model due to size constraints don't have to worry about losing out on other key features and capabilities.
The Realme Smart TV looks like pretty much any other TV in its price segment, with slim borders on three sides of the screen and a slightly thicker chin. At the centre below the screen is a Realme logo, with a small module just below that for the IR receiver and a status light. The TV is neither very slim nor too thick, and has a plain black plastic back. There are two speaker sets near the corners that fire downwards, for a rated total output of 24W. Each set consists of one full-range driver and a tweeter.
Included in the sales package are stands to table-mount the Realme Smart TV, and installation is easy enough if you have a screwdriver at home. The 43-inch variant weighs just 6.7kg without the stands, and was easy enough to assemble and install ourselves. The TV can be hung on a wall as it has standard VESA sockets. However the wall bracket is an optional extra that you'll have to purchase separately. Realme told Gadgets 360 that its service technicians can sell you one and set it up at the time of installation.
The Realme Smart TV series offers the basics, at prices starting at Rs. 12,999
Despite being an entry-level smart television, the Realme Smart TV is fairly well equipped when it comes to ports and inputs. You get three HDMI ports (one facing to the left and two facing down), two USB ports (one facing left and one facing down), a LAN port, an antenna socket, a digital audio out RCA port, a single 3.5mm AV connector, and a 3.5mm jack to connect wired headphones or speakers. Although it isn't mentioned in the specifications, HDMI-ARC is supported on the HDMI 1 port.
The Realme Smart TV has a brightness rating of 400 nits and a standard refresh rate of 60Hz. Powering the television is a MediaTek MSD6683 processor, with 1GB of RAM and 8GB of internal storage for apps and app data. The television does of course support Wi-Fi for Internet connectivity as well.
Interestingly, the Realme Smart TV is a rare case of an HDR-capable television that doesn't have a 4K screen resolution. It claims to support HDR up to the HDR10 format; a rarity in this segment. We've explored the actual usefulness of this later in our review, but it's an interesting specification to note.
Realme Smart TV remote and features
We're used to seeing a lot of design innovation in remotes these days, as manufacturers look to offer minimalist controllers that are focused on smart functionality. The Realme Smart TV is no different, and the remote is an interesting one to look at. It's compact and designed to feel bottom-heavy, with the Realme logo in front and a distinctive yellow ring around the D-pad. You'll need two AAA batteries to power this remote, which are included with the TV.
All the important buttons are present, including volume, mute, direction controls, Android TV navigation, Google Assistant, and source selection. There are also hotkeys for Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, and YouTube, which we've now started to appreciate having on televisions. Pairing the remote is easy enough. The IR emitter is used to control power, and once paired, all other functions can work using Bluetooth even without a direct line of sight.
The remote has hotkeys for Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, and YouTube
While most functions on the remote worked fine, we found that the Settings button didn't do anything; we did hear a button-press sound suggesting that this wasn't a problem on the remote itself, but rather the software which currently doesn't seem to recognise its function. This meant that it wasn't possible to quickly access the Settings menu while content was playing; we had to navigate to the Settings menu in the Android TV interface.
The remote also supports Google Assistant voice commands through its built-in microphone, which worked well for us. Additionally, it has built-in Chromecast functionality, which lets you cast video from supported devices and apps, and this worked properly for us. You can use Bluetooth to pair external audio devices such as headphones or speakers.
Realme Smart TV software and interface
Android TV appears to be a safe choice for many manufacturers looking for a software solution for their televisions, and it's not something we're complaining about. The platform supports all popular streaming services and many other apps and games, making it one of the best platforms for smart TVs today.
Realme has gone with Android TV, and has its televisions running the latest version of the operating system - version 9 Pie. If you're looking for a simple smart TV experience without the need for additional equipment such as streaming devices, the Realme Smart TV is fully functional out-of-the-box. That also makes it appropriate for buyers looking to explore streaming services for the first time.
Android TV 9 Pie on the Realme Smart TV is fully functional with no significant shortcomings or modifications
There are no limitations on the platform in terms of what apps you can install, and no additional launchers on top of Android TV on the Realme Smart TV. You get the stock experience straight away, with access to all the popular apps and services. YouTube, Netflix, and Amazon Prime Video are the notable apps that come preinstalled, and you can access the Google Play Store for Android TV to download and use other apps on the Realme Smart TV. Fortunately, the television is quick to wake, thanks to a standby mode that doesn't have it fully reboot every time you turn it on.
As mentioned in the previous section, there were some software issues on the TV such as the inability to access the Settings menu using the remote. We also noticed some unusual behaviour related to HDR handling. Amazon Prime Video was not able to play HDR content, and while Netflix detected HDR support, the effect of this wasn't significant. Upon closer inspection and after a brief chat with Realme, we understand that the TV does not actually display HDR content, but can decode the HLG and HDR10 formats which has some effect on picture quality at the software level. Essentially, HDR data appears to be helping in some small way, but the screen can't render all of that data.
Realme Smart TV performance
With its first smart TV series, Realme has sensibly taken on the budget segment with its potential for selling in volumes. 32-inch and 43-inch models are among the most popular flat-panel TVs in India, and Realme hopes to get buyers on the smart bandwagon at affordable prices much in the same way that Xiaomi has done with its Mi TV range. As an affordable television series, performance is largely in line with what we've typically seen at this price, with a few ups and downs.
Although it isn't specified anywhere, the Realme Smart TV appears to have a VA-type LED-LCD panel. We found the TV to be very bright, and contrast was good; this was useful in dark rooms, which was our typical use case. Watching at wide angles was less than ideal, with colours losing their integrity and brightness diminishing as we went further off to the sides of the TV. However, from roughly straight on, we appreciated the brightness and contrast levels.
Full-HD content looked sharp, but colours weren't always ideal
That said, while this is an appreciable first effort from Realme and a satisfactory experience for the price, there's a lot of room for improvement. Picture quality was less than ideal when compared to similarly priced options such as the MarQ 43SAFHD and Vu Ultra Android Smart TV. With full-HD content, the television offered up a sharp and detailed picture to the extent of its capabilities, but colour tones felt a bit inaccurate at times.
When watching content on Netflix, the preinstalled app was able to recognise the Realme Smart TV as HDR-capable. The overall picture quality was boosted ever so slightly when watching HDR shows such as The Witcher and Our Planet on the TV. We felt that the additional data being decoded had a slight impact on improving picture quality, but you shouldn't expect a full HDR experience.
With non-HDR content, there were some shortcomings in colour accuracy. As mentioned earlier, Amazon Prime Video was unable to play HDR videos. Standard dynamic range content did seem a bit dull in comparison.
With HD and SD video, performance on the Realme Smart TV is a mixed bag. Better quality content on YouTube and some of our sample clips from a USB drive looked decent enough, but SD streams didn't quite upscale as well as we've seen on other televisions in this price segment. We saw some issues with motion handling, rough edges, and some artefacts in some of the older video clips we played, as well as when streaming the news on the NDTV app for Android TV.
Sound usually isn't something that budget televisions get right, but the Realme Smart TV does. With 24W of sound output through a four-speaker system, as well as support for Dolby Audio, we quite liked how the TV sounded. It's loud, and we didn't experience too many unreasonable spikes in volume suggesting that the TV is doing its part in keeping the level uniform across content. The four-speaker setup also made for clean, detailed sound – the highs in particular were crisp and clean thanks to the dedicated tweeters.
Amazon Prime Video didn't support HDR on the Realme Smart TV
For its first effort, Realme gets a lot right. The Realme Smart TV is technically up to the mark with good hardware and software, and HDR support (even though it's a very basic implementation) which isn't usually seen at this price or resolution. Sound quality is impressive as well. However, as would be expected when any brand ventures into a new segment, the Realme Smart TV does have its shortcomings.
We liked how bright the TV was, and the contrast and black levels were good. Picture quality is only on par with what the competition delivers when watching top-quality content. With anything less than that – whether SDR full-HD or standard definition video – the Realme TV didn't quite get things right. We also faced some minor software issues, including the inability to access settings while watching anything. It's also worth remembering that you don't get a wall-mount kit in the sales package, so that will be an additional cost.
It might be worth looking at this television if you're a Realme fan or want the full stock Android TV experience on a tight budget. HDR support at this price level and resolution is unique, even if it only works with Netflix for now. Of course, it's also worth considering options such as the Vu Ultra Android TV and Mi TV 4A Pro if you're shopping in this price range, both of which come from brands that are more established in the smart TV segment in India.
Is Realme TV the best TV under Rs. 15,000 in India? We discussed this on Orbital, our weekly technology podcast, which you can subscribe to via Apple Podcasts or RSS, download the episode, or just hit the play button below.