Vu is firing on all cylinders when it comes to 4K, it seems. There’s a growing demand for 4K TVs in India thanks to our gaming and VoD streaming audiences, and there aren’t too many players in the market that do a good job at reasonable prices. Following last month's launch of its Quantum Pixelight 4K Smart LED TV Series, Vu has now launched a new range of 4K Android TVs in India, complete with support for downloading apps from the Google Play Store. There are three sizes in the range - 43, 49 and 55 inches - all of which are 4K panels and are priced quite competitively. The TVs come with Google Play Movies and Netflix preinstalled, and the latter even has its own dedicated button on the remote. All of this sounds pretty good, right? We got the 55-inch model in for review in advance of Vu's launch, so we put it to the test to see how well it performs.
The most noticeable thing about the Vu 55SU138 is the prominent speaker grille below the screen, which Vu boasts of as a ‘built-in soundbar’ and does give this series a distinct look. That aside, the panel has with relatively slim borders on the other three sides, giving it a standard TV look. We do appreciate that the TV doesn’t come with any annoying marketing stickers on the screen that can sometimes leave a gummy residue behind which is a nightmare to deal with.
The 4K UHD Android TV itself feels solid, and has a pretty good weight at 14.32kg (with stand). The TV comes with a standard wall mount in the box, so that additional cost is saved. The stand is quite minimal, and is easy to attach, with just two screws on either end. It gets the job done, and the TV doesn’t feel like it’s easy to tip over.
There are three HDMI ports - one on the side with support for ARC (Audio Return Channel) and MHL (for Android phone connectivity), and two at the rear towards the bottom. Then there's one USB 3.0 port on the side and another USB 2.0 port at the rear. There’s also an optical audio output at the rear to connect to a home theatre receiver or surround-sound speaker system. Other ports include one composite input, a headphones socket, an RF antenna socket, and an Ethernet port. The TV also supports wireless connectivity in the form of Wi-Fi and Bluetooth.
While HDR is sorely missing from this TV, which is a bit disappointing in 2018, it does support an 8-bit colour profile which is adequate for non-HDR 4K content. The TV’s interface and user experience are well taken care of by Android TV 7.0. Having the Google Play Store means that there’s scope for downloading and even side-loading apps that are not available in our country. The TV is relatively light on the bloatware, and comes with some popular Indian streaming apps, namely Hotstar, Sony Liv, and Alt Balaji out of the box. Of course this is aside from Netflix, YouTube and Facebook Video streaming services, which also come pre-installed. Amazon Prime Video is not available via Play Store but can be side-loaded. Finally, you also have the option to mirror your phone’s screen or cast media using the TVs built-in Chromecast. There’s the hope of regular app and OS updates, though Vu did specify that the updates will be coming from it, and not directly via Google.
The built-in media player managed to play all our 4K test videos with ease, though it didn’t seem to support the DTS audio tracks in certain videos. This issue has more to do with the software that comes preloaded on the TV’s OS, and we easily fixed that by downloading the VLC player from the App Store. Videos encoded with Dolby audio codecs worked just fine on the default player.
The Vu 4K UHD Android TV comes with two remotes - a standard one with a familiar array of buttons, and a second Bluetooth voice remote that has a more minimal design. As we mentioned earlier, the standard remote has a dedicated Netflix button for easy access. The voice remote is similar to what you would get with an Apple TV or Amazon Fire TV stick with the basic playback buttons, a toggle for volume and prominent mic button for voice inputs. Google Assistant on Android TVs is especially good with understanding Indian phrases, and here it's no different.
It would have been ideal to have a single remote with voice as well as the standard functions, since juggling between two remotes isn’t ideal. That said, once you’re done initialising the TV to your preferred settings and calibration, you can safely move entirely to the voice remote, since it will have more utility to offer in the long run as it really simplifies searches and content discovery for you.
We found that getting to the TV’s settings was a bit cumbersome. We had to go to the Android interface and select ‘Live TV Settings’ to be able to adjust the standard TV video and audio parameters. The menu had just about all the options that most people would need, but if you like to really tinker, you might find that the scope to optimise image quality is a bit lacking.
The 4K UHD Android TV (55SU138) has some pretty interesting things going for it. The IPS panel it uses didn’t have any noticeably distracting light leaks when sitting directly in front of it. However, when we moved to either side, the edge-lighting did become a bit apparent at the corners. It’s not too big a deal in most cases, but there was a lack of depth in the black levels in dark scenes, when watching this TV from an angle.
UHD content worked pretty well overall with good details reproduced in all scenes, especially in movies and TV shows. Upscaling Full-HD content was not one of this TV’s biggest strengths, and the difference in image quality was immediately noticeable. Reducing the TV’s sharpness setting to its lowest level did help, as the TV tended to over-sharpen video making it look artificial. For example, this was especially noticeable in Marvel’s The Punisher on Netflix, which already uses a film-grain effect quite heavily. This TV is better suited to 4K content than 1080p, which is a bit of a concern since most content available on streaming services in India only goes up to 1080p.
We tried some gaming using a PS4 Pro, had a few hits and misses. Games that require manual camera control, such as Uncharted 4 and Bloodborne, showed a bit of noticeable framing on the Vu 55SU138. This was an issue with older 4K panels with low refresh rates that caused vertical sync issues. Though Vu hasn’t specified the exact response time of the panel, we wouldn’t consider it well optimised for first-person shooters or any other fast-paced games. Other types of games such as Telltale’s Batman, Injustice 2, and Lego Marvel Super Heroes 2 all performed very well, without any noticeable issues.
Image processing overall isn’t the panels strongest suit, so what you get is pretty true to the source. While this is fine for 4K, lower resolutions tended to suffer a bit as we mentioned earlier. Colour reproduction was pretty good overall, and the TV’s peak brightness of 450 nits is pretty bright (for a non-HDR panel), and fills up a room well.
The speaker area packs in two 10-Watt speakers giving you a total power output of 20 Watts. It’s not really a soundbar as Vu claims, and the lack of a proper subwoofer is immediately apparent. The speakers do put out a decent volume, but the sound is quite flat. It seems that Vu has tuned them to emphasise voices over everything else, and it works for most mediums. We would recommend an external audio solution though.
Vu has an interesting product on its hand with the new range of Android TVs. There are some great things to consider that it's a 55-inch 4K panel at a pretty affordable price, with all the connectivity options you would need, and two bundled remotes right out of the box. There's no doubt that Vu is offering you a bank for the buck with its Android TVs. But lack of HDR along with the issues we faced with gaming and upscaling do take a bit away from making it a perfect living room TV that we can recommend to everyone on a budget.
Price: Rs. 55,999
Value for money: 3.5