OnePlus TV U Series (55U1) Review


When OnePlus launched its first televisions in 2019, there were mixed reactions from reviewers and enthusiasts alike. The OnePlus TV Q1 series is impressive for a number of reasons, but with prices starting at Rs. 69,999, it is still far too expensive for many to even consider. The company’s new televisions for 2020 aren’t replacements for the OnePlus TV Q1 series at all; these are more affordable TVs that will appeal to more value-conscious buyers.

The company has now launched the OnePlus TV U series and Y series, with the latter being the most affordable, meant for budget smart TV buyers. The former is what we’re reviewing today. There’s a single 55-inch model in this series for now – the OnePlus TV 55U1 4K LED Android TV. Priced at Rs. 49,999, this isn’t a budget option by any means, but it is significantly more affordable than the OnePlus TV 55Q1 because of the more cost-efficient LED-backlit LCD screen.

Apart from that, this television promises everything else that you’d get with the OnePlus TV Q1 series, along with various software tweaks and improvements that have been released since that model was first launched. Is the new OnePlus TV U Series (55U1) a good option to consider if you’re looking for a not-so-expensive big-screen 4K HDR TV? Find out in our review.

OnePlus TV U Series (55U1) design and specifications

The OnePlus TV Q1 series is quite radical in terms of design, with its carbon-fibre-like texture at the back and somewhat controversial stand. With the OnePlus TV 55U1, things have changed a bit. The television is just 6.9mm thick at the top and sides, with an aluminium body. The borders around the screen are slim, with a small OnePlus logo just below the screen that’s barely noticeable unless you’re right in front of it. The screen-to-body ratio is an impressive 95 percent, and this makes the TV look incredible from all angles.

It’s also rather heavy for a 55-inch TV because of the premium materials used. From the front, the 55U1 closely resembles the OnePlus TV Q1, and has rear-positioned speakers, while the power button is at the bottom near the lower-right corner.

The slightly thicker bottom section has a familiar carbon-fibre-like texture, with the wall mount sockets in the centre and all ports on the right, with a detachable shroud. If you’re table-mounting the TV, you might want to keep this on after plugging in any external devices, to maintain the uniformity of the back of the TV.

oneplus tv u series 55u1 review snowpiercer OnePlus  OnePlus TV

The OnePlus TV 55U1 supports the 12-bit Dolby Vision HDR standard

The TV has a decent set of ports, including three HDMI inputs (one of which supports HDMI ARC), two USB ports, an AV-In socket that can be used with an adapter, an RF socket for an antenna, an optical audio output, and an Ethernet port for wired Internet connectivity. A notable omission here is a 3.5mm audio jack, but there is Bluetooth for wireless speakers or headphones.

If you intend to table-mount the OnePlus TV U Series (55U1), it’s a fair bit easier to install, and more stable than the OnePlus TV Q1 series. The stands attach firmly and securely near the corners of the TV, and you’ll therefore need a wide enough table to place the television on. It has standard VESA sockets at the back for wall mounting, and can take pretty much any VESA-supported wall mount kit for the size.

Wall mounting was a bit tricky for me, since OnePlus doesn’t include a kit in the sales package. I used a standard VESA kit, but because of the slanting back of the TV, this made it tilt slightly upwards. This wasn’t a serious concern for me because of the height and positioning of the TV at my home, but it could be a problem for some, and definitely looked awkward on my wall.

oneplus tv u series 55u1 review ports OnePlus  OnePlus TV

You get several useful ports on the OnePlus TV U Series, but there’s no 3.5mm headphone jack

 

OnePlus states that an official wall mount kit will be brought along by the company’s installation technicians, can be fitted at no charge, and will correct the tilt issue. However, the company wasn’t able to provide any further details on this, including the design of the wall mount kit, at the time of this review. Nonetheless, the fact that users might face this issue with anything but the official wall mount kit is a bit bothersome.

The OnePlus TV U Series (55U1) has a 55-inch Ultra-HD (3840×2160-pixel) LED-backlit VA panel, with support for HDR up to the Dolby Vision format. There is also MEMC for motion interpolation. The TV has a total rated sound output of 30W, through a four-speaker configuration at the bottom. Sound formats up to Dolby Atmos and DTS:HD are supported, and a Bluetooth Stereo mode lets you use the television as a Bluetooth speaker with source devices such as smartphones or tablets.

OnePlus TV U Series (55U1) remote and features

OnePlus went with a minimalist remote for the Q1 series, with a built-in battery and USB Type-C charging. With the more affordable U series, the company has gone back to a more traditional design, while retaining some good ideas. The 55U1’s remote is plastic and runs on AAA batteries, but still looks a lot like that of the Q1 series. It doesn’t feel as good in the hand, but it’s light and more functional than before.

There is a D-pad for navigation at the top, a Google Assistant button, Android navigation keys, hotkeys for Amazon Prime Video and Netflix, and regular volume and mute buttons on this Bluetooth and IR remote. There is still no dedicated power button; the OnePlus button controls power when the TV is in standby, and a long-press shows the restart, shut down, and standby options. This button also activates the Oxygen Play launcher with a short press when the TV is on.

OnePlus seems to have taken feedback seriously, and there is one significant new button that makes using the TV very easy. The multi-function button – signified by three squares and a circle – lets you access quick settings from wherever you are on the TV, without forcing you to go back to the Android TV home screen as was the case before.

oneplus tv u series 55u1 review remote OnePlus  OnePlus TV

The remote is a lot more functional than the one that shipped with the OnePlus TV Q1

 

From this pop-up menu, it’s possible to control network settings, choose a different source, adjust picture and sound modes, toggle Bluetooth Stereo mode, and go into the full Settings menu. All of this can be done even while something is playing on the TV, without interrupting playback regardless of the source device. This was much needed, and fixes something that I considered to be a major drawback when using the OnePlus Q1 series.

As is to be expected on an Android TV-powered television, there is built-in Chromecast and support for Google Assistant on the OnePlus TV U Series (55U1). Additionally, it’s possible to link the OnePlus TV U Series to Alexa, letting you use any Echo or other compatible device you might have at home with the TV for voice commands.

OnePlus TV U Series (55U1) software and interface

Not a lot has changed on the software front for the OnePlus TV U Series (55U1); the television runs the familiar Android TV 9 Pie with OnePlus’ own Oxygen Play launcher. You get access to apps and games through the Google Play store for Android TV, and a handful of apps including Netflix and Amazon Prime Video are preinstalled on the television. There are no notable app omissions here, so you’re getting the full-fledged Android TV experience on this TV.

What I’m happy to report here is that OnePlus has managed to iron out most of the early software issues that I encountered on the OnePlus TV Q1 Pro. This TV is fast, responsive, and a breeze to use. The only issue I did notice during my time with the TV was that the Dolby Vision logo was often visible on screen even though the toggle was off. This is a small issue though, and could easily be fixed by going into the settings and toggling it on and back off.

Furthermore, the settings are detailed, and tweaking picture and sound settings is much more responsive on the OnePlus TV 55U1. Differences in picture quality were visible, and switching off motion interpolation and other picture processing modes actually showed a difference. It was easy to tune the TV to the right picture settings for various types of content, while HDR and Dolby Vision content took on its own special settings that didn’t need to be adjusted much.

There is also an AI picture quality mode that lets the TV adjust settings on the fly according to the content on screen, and this too worked quite well. The television was quick to boot, starting up from standby in just about two seconds. On the whole, I’m quite impressed with how easy it is to use the OnePlus TV U Series, and how polished and hassle-free its software is.

oneplus tv u series 55u1 review android tv OnePlus  OnePlus TV

The OnePlus TV 55U1 runs Android TV 9 Pie, along with the Oxygen Play launcher

 

Oxygen Play was a little half-baked when it was launched with the OnePlus TV Q1 series last year, in my opinion, but it does seem to have improved quite a bit since then. Various streaming services such as Sony Liv, Hungama Play, and Zee5 are officially supported on the platform, giving you a content-centric approach to the interface with quick access to specific movies and TV shows. However, as before, you do need to be subscribed to these services, and link your accounts to be able to use Oxygen Play properly.

One big improvement now is the addition of Amazon Prime Video, but strangely this has its own tab rather than being a part of the general list of content. This is a bit silly, in my opinion, since I could just as easily use the Amazon Prime Video app to access the same content with the native Prime Video user interface. While I didn’t use Oxygen Play much, I do see the appeal for people who might prefer the content-centric interface and the ability to discover new movies and TV shows without much effort.

OnePlus Connect returns on the OnePlus TV U Series (55U1), and is also largely free of the bugs and issues that were prevalent last year. This app lets you use your smartphone as a remote, cast content on your smartphone to the TV easily, and discover content based on recommendations. Like before, this isn’t a very elaborate app, but it does its job well enough.

OnePlus TV U Series (55U1) performance

OnePlus has taken things down a notch with the U Series using an LED display compared to the Q series’ QLED panels, but picture performance is still largely good. The OnePlus TV U Series (55U1) is priced a bit higher than similarly specified options from Xiaomi and Vu, but is just a bit more affordable than the TCL 55C715 which has a QLED display. Interestingly enough, the OnePlus TV 55U1 fits perfectly into what I feel is the ideal middle ground in terms of performance for the price.

As would be expected, the OnePlus TV U Series (55U1) performs best with Ultra-HD Dolby Vision content, but I was also very impressed with how good full-HD content looked on it. Lower-resolution content naturally showed some flaws because of the size of the screen, but I found performance with 720p and SD content to be better than on some of the slightly more affordable options I’ve used.

Starting out with Dolby Vision content on Netflix, I played what I believe to be the most visually stunning television show ever made – Our Planet. The television immediately showed the Dolby Vision notification in the top corner, and produced a picture that was detailed, clean, and accurate when it came to colour reproduction. I particularly liked how smooth and polished it looked, avoiding some of the sharp and jagged edges that some 4K TVs produce by over-processing the picture.

oneplus tv u series 55u1 review dolby vision OnePlus  OnePlus TV

Dolby Vision content naturally looked best on the OnePlus TV 55U1

 

The LED display also meant that the OnePlus TV could push the brightness up to levels that do Dolby Vision justice. It was impressive just how well the television handled contrast, ensuring that bright zones were bright while dark zones looked as they should. Sunlight in particular looked as realistic as a TV can make it look, and scenes shot in bright daylight were impressive.

However, darker shows such as Night On Earth and Snowpiercer revealed a major shortcoming in the OnePlus TV U Series – strange black levels. The TV could never quite produce anything that even came close to a true black, with practically all black parts of scenes looking more like dark grey.

This is somewhat to be expected from an LED-backlit TV because of the limitations of the technology, but the OnePlus TV 55U1 performs a bit below expectations when compared to the competition. Slightly better results on the whole could be seen with my collection of 4K and HDR sample clips, than with streaming media, but this wasn’t a marked difference.

Next up was ‘Game Over, Man!’, also available in Dolby Vision on Netflix. This action-comedy movie was a bit too edgy for my tastes, but the viewing experience itself was impressive for one big reason – motion handling. The OnePlus TV U Series (55U1) uses MEMC (Motion Estimation, Motion Compensation) to excellent effect, making for a smooth picture (if that’s what you like) that was largely free of judder and artefacts.

oneplus tv u series 55u1 review matrix OnePlus  OnePlus TV

Upscaling is excellent on the OnePlus TV 55U1; full-HD content looked almost like 4K

 

That’s not to say these weren’t visible – all motion interpolation produces some effects – but it was down to a minimum and was barely noticeable. Switching it off produced the motion blur that a lot of people do want to see, but also seemed to add a bit of judder to the picture. I quite liked the smooth motion, which helped keep the picture sharp and made watching TV a bit easier on the senses for me.

What perhaps impressed me the most about the OnePlus TV U Series 55U1 is how well it handles full-HD content. I watched the entire Matrix trilogy streaming in full-HD, and the TV upscaled it so well that at times it looked like I was watching the movies in Ultra-HD resolution. The smoothness, detail, and colours were particularly impressive, while motion interpolation held up impressively even in the fast action scenes. The iconic green tinge of the series when the characters are in the Matrix was reproduced perfectly, as were the rest of the colours and skin tones.

Upscaling on the OnePlus TV U series is decent even when working with lower-resolution content, with 720p and SD video clips looking a fair bit better than we’ve seen on most affordable big-screen TVs. The motion interpolation and smoothening capabilities of the TV do seem to be doing a big part of the lifting here, and there are still some expected artefacts and dull edges to be seen. However, for the most part, this is among the better large-screen TVs to consider if you aren’t ready to let go of your cable or DTH connection, or if you watch a lot of content on YouTube.

The OnePlus TV U Series (55U1) has a 30W box-speaker setup consisting of four drivers (two full-range speakers and two tweeters), and support for up to the Dolby Atmos format. While it all seems good on paper, I was largely unimpressed with sound quality on the TV. Apart from a lack of uniformity in volume levels, the sound was also oddly tuned and a bit too boomy for a television.

Action scenes were loud and aggressive, while speech and gentle background scores were often too soft to hear clearly. I usually had to keep the remote in my hand and keep adjusting the volume while watching the Matrix trilogy to keep the wildly fluctuating volume levels in check. Dolby Atmos content did fix this slightly and sound better, but there isn’t too much commercially available content in this format for now. With most streaming content using the lower Dolby or DTS formats, this TV doesn’t quite live up to expectations when it comes to sound quality. I’d recommend budgeting for a good soundbar or speaker system as well, if you’re planning to buy the OnePlus TV U Series.

oneplus tv u series 55u1 review gravity OnePlus  OnePlus TV

It’s a bit expensive, but the OnePlus TV U Series does offer better performance than budget 4K options

 

Verdict

OnePlus’ first attempt at televisions was far from ideal, but the company has worked on improving that product with software updates over time. This new model has benefited from that learning, and comes across as much more focused, polished, and calculated. Priced more affordably than last year’s Q1 series, the Rs. 49,999 OnePlus TV U Series (55U1) gets most things right, from the design and software, to picture quality. The 55U1 comes across as a much more capable product than the Q1 series did at the time of its launch, offering exactly what it promises for the price, and doing a good job with the core experience.

That isn’t to say this TV is without its issues. The potential incompatibility with aftermarket wall-mounts, poor black levels, and inconsistent sound are worth keeping in mind if you intend to buy the OnePlus TV. However, the pros far outweigh the cons here, and the OnePlus TV U Series (55U1) is an impressive mid-range LED television that makes a lot of sense for buyers who are not only heavily invested in streaming platforms, but also still somewhat attached to good old cable or DTH.

That said, you might also want to consider the TCL 55C715, which is priced just a bit higher but offers slightly better picture and sound quality. Alternatively, if Rs. 49,999 sounds a bit too high for you, options such as the Vu Premium 4K Android TV and Xiaomi Mi TV 4X 55 are nearly as good for a fair bit less.


Mi TV 4X vs Vu Cinema TV: Which is the best budget TV in India right now? 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.



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