Although QLED TVs were once considerably more expensive than their LED counterparts, 2020 has seen some impressive options at much more reasonable prices. Samsung's once-premium QLED TV range now starts below Rs. 80,000, while brands such as OnePlus and TCL have options with similar specifications for even less. QLED technology is worth considering if you want a reasonably good big-screen Ultra-HD TV and are willing to look beyond the entry-level segment, but don't want to spend too much.
Xiaomi, best known in the television segment for its affordable smart LED TVs, is ending 2020 with the launch of its most premium television yet, the Mi QLED TV 4K. Priced at Rs. 54,999, the new QLED TV from Xiaomi is an impressive option on paper, and one that truly stands apart from the company's more affordable televisions. However, competition in the segment is strong, particularly from brands such as TCL and OnePlus. Can Xiaomi overcome its ‘budget champion' reputation and give the competition a tough fight with the Mi QLED TV 4K? Find out in our review.
The Mi QLED TV 4K has only been launched in a single 55-inch size in India, so there are no options here when it comes to pricing and variants. That said, 55 inches is large enough for a big-screen experience without being too large, and is in my opinion the ideal size for a 4K TV in a regular home.
The step up to the premium space for Xiaomi also sees the use of a silver-coloured metal frame around the screen, as well as a carbon-fibre-like texture at the back. Xiaomi claims a 96 percent screen-to-body ratio on the Mi QLED TV 4K, and this is visible in the slim borders all around. As would be expected, the design rightly draws your attention to the screen, with few distractions surrounding it. There's only a tiny Mi logo at the bottom, and the TV is neither too thick nor too slim. What we have here is a good-looking television, which isn't really a talking point in itself, and that's just fine.
The ports and sockets face to the left and bottom of the Mi QLED TV 4K's screen. There are three HDMI ports (all HDMI 2.1, with one of them supporting eARC), two USB ports, a 3.5mm audio output, an Ethernet port for wired Internet connectivity, an optical audio output, three RCA sockets for composite AV input, and an antenna socket. Of course, the TV also supports Wi-Fi 2.4GHz and 5GHz for wireless Internet connectivity, as well as Bluetooth 5 to connect to the remote and to wireless audio devices such as headphones or speakers.
Included in the box are metal table stands, if you want to table-mount the Mi QLED TV 4K, and these can be fixed on easily enough with the included screws. You can wall-mount the television as well, but the required kit isn't included in the package. Free installation is offered with the TV, and a Xiaomi technician will be able to sell you a suitable wall-mount kit at that time. Although it was a bit heavy, I was able to attach a bracket and put the TV up on my wall by myself. Unless you know what you're doing though, I recommend having the TV wall-mounted professionally rather than doing it yourself.
The 55-inch Mi QLED TV 4K has a 3840x2160-pixel (Ultra-HD) quantum-dot LED screen, with support for HDR up to the 12-bit Dolby Vision format. There's no full-array local dimming here, and the peak refresh rate is 60Hz even at 4K. There is also an auto low-latency mode with a claimed input lag of 5ms even at 4K 60Hz, giving the Mi QLED TV 4K some capabilities on paper when it comes to use with gaming consoles.
Sound output is rated at 30W through a six-driver, two-box system with four full-range drivers and two tweeters. There's 2GB of RAM, 32GB of internal storage for apps and app data, and a quad-core MediaTek MTK9611 SoC with integrated Mali G52 MP2 graphics. Although these specifications do sound impressive, I'd have preferred more RAM even at the cost of less storage instead, since Android TV apps and app data don't tend to need that much space, but more RAM is always good in the long run.
Xiaomi's familiar compact and minimalist remote returns on the Mi QLED TV 4K, with no changes at the hardware level. There are hotkeys for Netflix and Amazon Prime Video, a Mi button to quickly launch PatchWall, and a Google Assistant button. The remote uses Bluetooth to communicate with the TV, in addition to its infrared emitter. Unfortunately, and despite the fact that this is a Rs. 55,000 television, the sales package doesn't include the two AAA batteries needed to power the remote.
While there are still no buttons to mute or quickly get to the TV's settings on the remote itself, these functions have been enabled through software. Double-pressing the volume down button now mutes the TV, while a long-press of the Mi button from within any content or source takes you to a quick settings overlay so you can adjust the picture and sound, among other things. It's an interesting and effective way to cover for the physical shortcomings of the remote.
There's access to Google Assistant on the Mi QLED TV 4K, with the trigger button and microphone on the remote. Naturally, this can be linked with other Google Assistant-compatible devices in your home, including smart speakers and IoT products. You can use it to control TV-specific functions through voice commands, such as fetching specific content, search for information online, and interact with the rest of your compatible smart devices.
Of course, there's also Google Chromecast built in, to cast from compatible devices and apps. Just like the Mi TV 4A Horizon Edition, the Mi QLED TV 4K can wake from standby in less than five seconds, although it will take around 45 seconds to boot up after a full restart, or if the main power supply to the TV has been interrupted.
Xiaomi's televisions are special in that they offer two user interfaces – Android TV and PatchWall – giving users the choice of how they want to interact with them. Both of these interfaces are based on the same base Android operating system, but have different approaches to how content is offered and delivered. With the Mi QLED TV 4K, this entire package comes with up-to-date firmware and an improved overall experience.
The Mi QLED TV 4K runs on Android TV 10, the latest version, and is the first smart television in India (that we know of) to do so. However, the stock Android TV UI remains the same as that of Android TV 9 Pie, and all improvements are entirely under the hood. The new Google TV UI remains exclusive to the Google Chromecast with Google TV for now, so it will be a while before we see it on televisions from Xiaomi and other brands.
That said, the stock Android TV UI is still among the easiest to use, and the operating system supports a large number of apps and services all optimised for use with a big screen and remote. While I do hope that Xiaomi eventually offers an update to the Google TV UI (when it's available) for the Mi QLED TV 4K, the stock Android TV UI is perfectly fine for now.
PatchWall also gets an update to version 3.5 on the Mi QLED TV 4K. This is a slight improvement over PatchWall 3.0 which rolled out earlier this year, and includes features such as universal search, a kids' mode, smart recommendations, and live channels. Visually, there are small changes that improve the look of the UI, including larger icons, nicer content recommendation banners, and easier access to apps and connected source devices.
A key feature of PatchWall has always been its content curation and recommendation system, which now sees some useful improvements and deeper integrations with services such as Disney+ Hotstar and others. The curated show and movie collections are a bit more sensibly put together than before The easier access to apps and sources will be a welcome change for users who have so far preferred the simplicity of the Android TV UI. It's taken a while, but I do now believe that PatchWall is competitive and very reliable, especially if you like the recommendations and show release banners that it offers.
As with practically every 55-inch Ultra-HD TV, the Mi QLED TV 4K is best used to watch high-quality content on. However, the company's experience in the budget segment and with smaller, more affordable televisions seems to have been put to use here; this television is a reasonable all-rounder, working well with content of all resolutions and types. That is to say, you'll see the fewest faults with Ultra-HD Dolby Vision or HDR10+ video, but you won't find yourself too disappointed if you step down to lower resolutions and standard dynamic range content.
Much of that has to do with the quantum-dot LED screen itself, which does much of the heavy lifting, resulting in vibrant colours and good brightness. I watched content across various OTT platforms including Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, and Hotstar, as well as streaming videos on YouTube, and a live stream of the NDTV 24X7 news channel.
My review of the Mi QLED TV 4K coincided with the release of some excellent, visually impressive content across platforms, including season two of The Mandalorian on Disney+ Hotstar, season four of The Crown on Netflix, and The Grand Tour: A Massive Hunt on Amazon Prime Video. While Dolby Vision content continues to look noticeably better than HDR10 and HDR10+, the difference in picture quality was considerably less pronounced on the Mi QLED TV 4K than on competing TVs, suggesting that Xiaomi's previous experience with the formats has come in handy here.
With HDR content in both the Dolby Vision and HDR10+ formats, the Mi QLED TV 4K did a decent job, offering a significant step up in performance from entry-level 4K HDR LED TVs such as the Mi TV 4X or Hisense A71F series, including sharp, detailed picture, more accurate colours, and excellent brightness and contrast across the screen despite the lack of local dimming.
That said, there were some issues with motion as well as black levels. The Mi QLED TV 4K didn't handle motion blur well enough, making for jittery and shaky video in scenes with fast-moving elements when watching high-resolution content. This wasn't a big issue with slow or even moderate motion on screen, with the TV successfully avoiding too much jitter, as well as unsettlingly smooth motion. The picture is relatively noise-free with motion interpolation disabled, but turning smoothening on even at the lowest levels made for a fair amount of noise, which got quite distracting.
Black levels weren't quite as impressive as on the TCL 55C715 or OnePlus TV Q1 series, largely due to the lack of local dimming. Although the Mi QLED TV 4K was able to drop its brightness considerably in dark scenes, the inability to completely switch off the backlight in parts of the screen meant that blacks were never quite as deep as I'd have liked. In bright scenes with a few black zones, these appeared dark grey.
Full-HD resolution content didn't benefit from the enhanced colours of HDR, but still looked fairly good for what it is on the Mi QLED TV 4K. I watched Schitt's Creek and the 2011 movie Chillar Party on Netflix, and both looked quite sharp thanks to decent upscaling on the TV. Although Schitt's Creek didn't reveal any significant issues in the picture quality, Chillar Party did show some of the same issues with quick motion, as well as some artefacts and noise even with motion interpolation switched off. However, this was never too much, to the point of being a distraction.
Standard definition and 720p content from YouTube and the NDTV app for Android TV was naturally much less pleasant to look at than high-quality video, as would be expected on any 55-inch 4K TV. That said, performance with low-resolution content was nearly as good as that of the Sony 55X9000H, suggesting that Xiaomi's upscaling is decent enough. It'll work for the occasional low-resolution YouTube video, but the Mi QLED TV 4K is meant for high-quality content above all else.
Sound quality on the Mi QLED TV 4K is better than on any of the company's earlier televisions. The tuning is also a hint cleaner and better than that of the competing TCL 55C715. However, sound wasn't too refined at loud volumes, and as a result this TV wasn't always able to bring out the drive and excitement in action-driven shows such as The Mandalorian. Speech-focused content – sitcoms, news, certain movies, and the like – sounded good, with the tuning optimised to ensure clear voice output.
Although Xiaomi has a strong position in the smart TV market in India, this has been built on its range of affordable televisions. With the Mi QLED TV 4K, Xiaomi hopes to take on the premium segment in India, without going too far past the competitive pricing it's typically known for. At Rs. 54,999, the Mi QLED TV 4K is well worth the price, and delivers good design, features, software, and all-round performance.
Competing QLED options from brands such as TCL and OnePlus do offer more when it comes to picture quality and sound, with the Mi QLED TV 4K falling a bit short particularly in terms of motion and black levels. However, it does make up for these shortcomings with good software and UI performance, and I'd recommend considering this over the similarly priced TCL 55C715 for that reason.
Everything said and done, this is an entry-level QLED TV, and you will get better performance with more premium models from brands such as Samsung and Sony, particularly the Sony 55X9000H or even the Sony X8000 series. You should consider the Mi QLED TV 4K primarily if you want to look beyond the budget LED TV segment but don't want to spend too much either.
Why do Indians love Xiaomi TVs so much? We discussed this on Orbital, our weekly technology podcast, which you can subscribe to via Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, or RSS, download the episode, or just hit the play button below.