Although better known for its car audio equipment, Blaupunkt is also very popular for its home and audio products. The company now has a range of televisions in India, which are positioned as value offerings priced affordably for what's on offer. One of the company's latest series in India is the Palladium BU680 range, which features 4K resolution screens, HDR, smart connectivity, and more. With affordable pricing, the Palladium series is meant for buyers looking for a premium option at a fraction of what the more well-known television makers charge.
On review today is the smallest and most affordable model in the range, the Blaupunkt BLA43BU680 4K HDR Smart LED TV. Priced at Rs. 21,999, it's one of the most affordable 4K smart televisions available in India today, and promises more than what similarly priced televisions from many competing manufacturers do. We find out if the Blaupunkt BLA43BU680 television is as impressive as it seems in our review.
Most affordable televisions go with a standard look involving glossy plastic borders around the screen, but Blaupunkt has adopted a different approach with the BLA43BU680. The television has bright silver borders; it's plastic, but with a coating that gives it the appearance of being metal. The Blaupunkt logo is at the bottom, just above a module that holds the IR receiver and indicator light.
There isn't much else to this television when it comes to the look and feel. The borders are about as thick as you can expect on a modern budget television, and the unit on the whole is neither too slim nor too thick. The silver borders might appeal to some, but we found them a bit distracting due to the contrasting colours, particularly in shows and movies with a lot of dark scenes. Perhaps a darker shade of silver would have helped in this case.
The sales package includes stands to table-mount the Blaupunkt BLA43BU680 television, but no wall mount. Blaupunkt does offer standard installation for free with the television, so it is possible to have it wall-mounted when requesting installation (the technician will bring the wall-mount kit at no extra cost). The table stand legs are easy to install and don't take up a large footprint, so you can safely place the television even on a smaller table.
The Blaupunkt BLA43BU680 has two clusters of ports. Facing downwards close to the bottom are two HDMI ports, one set of AV sockets, VGA, Ethernet, Antenna, and Audio In, and facing to the left you'll find a second set of AV sockets, two USB ports, an Audio Out socket, and a microSD card slot. The positioning of the ports and sockets near the edges has its pros and cons - it makes for easy access even when the TV is wall-mounted, but cables and dongles attached are quite visible as they stick out the side or bottom of the television.
In terms of specifications, this television is on par with competing options at around the same price. The Blaupunkt BLA43BU680 has a 43-inch 4K screen with support for HDR; a 1.4GHz quad-core processor and 1GB of RAM for the Android-based Smart TV interface; Wi-Fi and Ethernet connectivity; 30W of sound output; and a standard 60Hz refresh rate.
While we have seen some good remotes with televisions priced below Rs. 25,000, we're more used to seeing old-school remotes that just get the basics right. The Blaupunkt BLA43BU680 has a standard infrared remote with no smart functionality, and lots of buttons. While many of these buttons are useful, we found that we never used some of them.
The remote felt a bit tacky to us, and we weren't happy with the button layout either. The navigation buttons are placed too close to the ones around them, and we often pressed the wrong button when trying to navigate around the smart interface. Other useful buttons such as volume control, source, and mute were too small and not in convenient spots.
The remote has a mouse mode, which is needed for some of the apps on the smart interface of the Blaupunkt television. This enables a cursor on screen, which has to be moved using the navigation buttons. It's slow and clunky to move around, and we only used it when absolutely necessary. The remote and smart interface in general didn't work too well with each other, which was quite bothersome during our review.
The Blaupunkt BLA43BU680 doesn't have much else in terms of features. You do get the rather useful Miracast for screen mirroring with compatible smartphones and tablets, but the television has nothing beyond the basics, not even Chromecast or AirPlay which are offered on some other televisions in this price segment.
Blaupunkt's smart televisions in India run on Android with custom interfaces, and we'd have preferred the use of the official Android TV software. The current implementation tries to come close, but doesn't quite have the same level of quality. Our experience with the smart functionality of the Blaupunkt BLA43BU680 was far from good.
This television runs on Android 6, which is rather dated when you consider that other options in this price segment run Android TV or custom interfaces based on Android 8 or 9. The interface itself is quite a mess - it seems to have been designed for phones and modified somewhat for a television. There are multiple app stores including the Google Play Store. Some apps are preinstalled, but they didn't always work for us. On some occasions, we had different versions of the same streaming service; YouTube and Amazon Prime Video had multiple apps depending on which store the app was installed from.
The interface is slow and confusing to navigate around. There are odd video recommendations and unwanted pop-ups, and for some reason the location and weather displays insisted that we were in Brisbane, Australia no matter how hard we tried to convince the TV otherwise. Apps such as Netflix worked using the clunky mouse mode, but Amazon Prime Video would only work till we tried to play something, at which point it would crash or state that the TV had connectivity issues even when the connection was fine. Even the settings menus didn't have too many options and were rather confusing to move through.
The YouTube app didn't work initially, but we fixed this by updating it through the Google Play Store. All of these might sound like small problems, but we think that usage will be too confusing, buggy, and chaotic for the average consumer. No one should have to figure out and troubleshoot so many problems. As such, we'd recommend this TV only as a display for your other source devices, such as a streaming device, set-top box, or gaming console. As a smart TV the Blaupunkt BLA43BU680 was frustrating and unusable for us.
While the Blaupunkt BLA43BU680 has its issues when it comes to design, features and smart connectivity, it does to some extent make up for all that with performance. At Rs. 21,999, it's one of the most affordable 4K HDR televisions you can buy today, priced at around what other full-HD options of the same size go for. Our experience with the television was largely positive in terms of picture quality, particularly with top-quality content.
We started with the best kind of content the Blaupunkt BLA43BU680 can handle - 4K HDR. This naturally brought out the best the TV could offer, with decent colours and contrast levels. Watching season three of The Crown on Netflix, we were impressed with how well bright and dark parts of the same frame worked with each other. Bright parts of the frame were incredibly bright, while dark segments of the same scene were detailed and could show different shades of the same colours.
However, we weren't entirely convinced with the black levels even with HDR content, but this is an LED-backlit TV after all and we haven't typically seen good black levels on any affordable LED options. We also weren't very impressed with motion handling; video appeared shaky and jarring in scenes with rapid motion, such as the fast-moving scenes in the first episode of The Grand Tour Series 4 on Amazon Prime Video. The built-in interpolation was poor, and there was nothing we could do to make rapid motion less jarring.
However, the sharpness and detail were impressive, particularly when watching the visually striking Our Planet on Netflix. These same qualities were visible even with regular 4K content without HDR, and we liked how detailed and crisp the viewing experience was with War (the movie starring Hrithik Roshan and Tiger Shroff). While the issues with motion remained, another big differentiator was the contrast. Without HDR and the ability to get brighter when (and where) needed, the black levels were poorer and the general difference between bright and dark was a bit more pronounced on this TV.
Going down a notch to full-HD content, we watched multiple episodes of The Office and The Purge. Sharpness, detail, and colour were impressive, largely because the 43-inch screen of the Blaupunkt BLA43BU680 isn't big enough to reveal the lack of detail in lower-resolution content.
While we've obviously seen better full-HD performance on full-HD televisions, the Blaupunkt BLA43BU680 still handles 1080p content well given that it is a 4K TV at this price. Motion issues were less jarring with full-HD content, but watching sports on Hotstar wasn't as clean a viewing experience as on full-HD TVs at this price.
However, lower-resolution content is not a strong point of this TV. Performance with 720p video was mediocre at best, and standard definition videos on YouTube and through the NDTV app on an Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K was far worse than what we'd expect from an affordable television. Considering that this kind of video is what the majority of viewers in India still largely watch, we found this to be an issue.
Detail and motion issues tended to combine unfavourably on the Blaupunkt BLA43BU680 with SD content. The image was completely lacking in sharpness and showed far too many artefacts and pixelation issues. The television is unsuitable for this, and it would perhaps make sense to spend on an equivalently priced 43-inch full-HD TV such as the Vu Ultra Android TV if you heavily depend on your set-top box, YouTube, and local streaming services for most of your viewing.
Blaupunkt is best known for its audio products, and some of that background seems to have gone into the BLA43BU680 television. The TV is loud (with a rated 30W of output), and the sound tuning is properly geared for most television viewing. We found speech and voices to be crisp and clear, with decent performance from the television's speakers even for music-based content. Naturally, it doesn't quite hold up as well as a good soundbar or speaker system for action-driven scenes in movies, but you do get above-average sound on the whole.
Blaupunkt's expansion into the affordable television and personal audio segments has been good for the company; the fact that it's a German brand with a proven record in car audio has been enough to entice buyers. Although its car audio products are considered premium-grade, the company has approached other segments sensibly, taking on the budget space first. This TV is in line with what we've experienced from Blaupunkt so far - it's very good for the price, offering what few others can for this kind of money.
4K televisions are typically priced at around or above Rs. 30,000, so the idea of a 43-inch 4K TV for closer to Rs. 20,000 is enticing. Blaupunkt largely delivers your money's worth, offering good picture performance and sound. The design is polarising, the remote and features are a bit dull, and the software is plain terrible, so users will have to find ways to cope with these issues if they go for the Blaupunkt BLA43BU680.
If you have and rely on source equipment such as a streaming device, full-HD set-top box, or gaming console for your viewing or gaming, the Blaupunkt BLA43BU680 will suit you just fine. If you're looking to take the plunge into 4K streaming, make sure you factor in the need for a streaming device such as the Fire TV 4K in your costs, since the smart TV experience on the Blaupunkt is very hard to deal with.
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