Recently, this phrase has often surfaced in TV discussions. Like, the Chinese now make smartphones no worse than the Korean ones. And their TVs are also quite modern in terms of characteristics: there are both 4K and Android, but they cost several times less. Isn’t it an option? And since there is a request, there will be an offer! So, I tested a Chinese 4K TV. Meet: Xiaomi L55M5.
The above model name is marked on the TV itself. On the Internet, it is also known under the name Xiaomi Mi TV 4S 55. This is not the latest model – and recently the company showed a new line of TVs – but it will remain on sale for a long time.
If you go to the website of the company store, it may seem that a discount has been introduced for this model, and the price has become fantastically low – 33,900 rubles, while the original cost was one and a half times higher. But in fact, such a low price was in the summer of last year, that is, the indicated amount is the official cost of a 55-inch 4K TV with Android TV from Xiaomi. Attractive, isn’t it? So we are interested.
And immediately a shock – a TV set was made in the Kaliningrad region! Downright rupture of the template, because Xiaomi is a Chinese company, and everything should be from the Middle Kingdom.
The second surprise is that the TV is quite thick, although not at all heavy. We immediately dismiss thoughts of an outdated design – it cannot contain old electronic components, because it works under the Android TV OS, which is fundamentally not installed on the ancient chips used in those thick flat TVs.
The formal explanation for the increased size is the mention in the official specifications of the type of backlight – Direct LED. Some observers, even very experienced ones, have deciphered its name as “straight carpet”. In fact, it is not.
By simply going through the test tables, it is easy to establish that under the formulation Direct LED the Chinese mean that the LEDs are located just behind a stack – that is, a sandwich with a panel and light-scattering filters – but not over the entire area, but on the sides.
And this is by no means a deception of the buyer, because in the Edge LED backlight, which is not quite correctly called side lighting, the diodes shine at the ends of the light-scattering filters of the stack, and not just stand at the edges. In general, the dimensions are a consequence of the choice of a simplified design, due to which, apparently, the price was reduced.
At the same time, outwardly, the TV is not perceived as frankly cheap. Of course, the back panel is made of plain plastic. But just due to the above-described design, the frame around the perimeter of the screen is not large, and it looks very good due to the anodized aluminum overlays.
The legs are graceful, simple in appearance and do not pretend to be too original in terms of design. True, they protrude very little forward, and the TV on them does not seem to be a very stable structure. So if there are children or animals in the house, it is better to provide for some kind of safety fastening like a cord – from the case to the wall or furniture behind the TV. And don’t laugh – something like this is often put in a set for expensive models for this very purpose.
For wall mounting, it is better to choose the thinnest possible bracket for VESA 400×400 – there is no need to leave a gap for cable outlet at the back, all connectors are located in deep recesses close to the center of the panel. And for the same reason, you should immediately connect all possible cables and even an extension cable for USB, because you cannot blindly reach the connectors without hanging the TV to the wall.
The USB ports themselves for this model are not the latest and fastest version 2.0. But all its HDMI ports are v2.0, that is, they are capable of receiving 4K video with a frequency of up to 60 Hz and a depth of 12 bits. The LAN connection has standard characteristics for TVs – Ethernet 100Base-TX. Wi-Fi standard dual-band: 2.4 and 5 GHz.
The remote control looks very modern. It is extremely minimalistic in terms of the keys, simple to finish, but does not look cheap. It communicates with the TV via Bluetooth and, accordingly, requires initial setup when you turn it on for the first time – fortunately, it’s very simple. By the way, you can connect a keyboard to the TV via Bluetooth to enter names, but in fact, even with fairly active use of streaming services, it is not needed – and here’s why.
After connecting the remote control, the TV immediately prompts you to enter your Google account. If you do not have an Android smartphone, then entering characters at the entrance and subsequent search in most cases will not really be very convenient – with a long selection of characters on the virtual keyboard of the screen. If there is such a smartphone, then everything becomes much easier.
On your smartphone, you just log into Google, say “Okay Google, set up your device”, find the TV in the list and enter a 4-digit code from the screen. The TV works under Android TV 9 Pie – accordingly, it supports Chromecast and not only, it connects to the account via a smartphone, but can also use it as a keyboard, microphone for voice search, as well as for streaming video from it to the big screen.
But the TV has its own version of Android, stripped down. It lacks a preinstalled browser and streaming services, and Netflix cannot be accessed even through Google Play. If desired, all this can be put, but the reason for the absence is much more interesting.
Xiaomi uses its shell in both smartphones and TVs. In this case – PatchWall, a proprietary launcher, for which a separate MI button is provided on the remote control. This is a kind of second Smart TV system with its own application store, a library of movies, memes, videos, its own media player and external device manager. Naturally, in order to have access to most of this wealth, you also need to have an account with Xiaomi. If you have one, you can use the six-month movie subscription.
The purchase also gives out similar gifts from some third-party streaming services like Okko, ivi, Kinopoisk, MEGOGO and others. But six months later, you still have to pay for all this. Would anyone looking for the largest yet most inexpensive TV on the market do this? I doubt it. Although this move on the part of the company is certainly correct, because it acquaints users with the modern way of distributing content, which has an unambiguous future.
For those who have not yet become disillusioned with traditional video sources, I would like to inform you that this TV is equipped with a standard hybrid TV tuner that supports the reception of both analog and digital broadcasts according to DVB-T2 and DVB-C standards. In Xiaomi TVs from China, judging by the reviews, there is no such tuner, which is logical – there are several other broadcast standards, that is, you need to buy a set-top box to watch TV broadcasts.
I am sure that a potential buyer of such a TV probably plans to use it for watching spectacular films, but he hardly intends to buy external players for it. Accordingly, the built-in media player is interesting.
Overall, it’s not bad. The player accepts DLNA and UPnP servers over the network, but not over SMB – however, like most other TVs. At the same time, the choice of connection – wired or Wi-Fi – has almost no effect on the continuity of playback. The main thing is that the network is not busy with torrents or massive video downloads through gadgets. If this still happens, it is better to choose playback from USB drives and flash drives.
Its omnivorousness in terms of video files is almost the same as that of most TVs – good, but not total. Common containers like MKV, AVI, MP4 with video of all resolutions up to 4K and almost all video codecs, including even VP9, but not AV1, are supported. HEVC with 10-bit encoding reads with a bang.
This model does not accept DVD and Blu-ray disc images – and neither ISO, nor BDMV, nor BDAV, nor VIDEO_TS. Feeding him 3D files is also useless. It also plays poorly on rare files with non-standard frame rates – for example, 23 or 22.5 Hz – which, oddly enough, often come from iTunes.
But, I repeat, common containers with standard video are readable – and no problem. Even HDR video with dynamic metadata is supported – in particular, with HDR10 +. But Dolby Vision in full is not here due to the lack of image support, so the video on the screen is displayed a little faded. The fact is that the TV, seeing a non-standard encoding for itself, includes a kind of tone mapping – so the video does not look too dark, as is usually the case on devices without Dolby Vision support.
In short, it makes sense to install additional media players via Google Play if you use completely unverified video distribution sources – for example, trackers without moderation like Rutor or local regional servers, where everyone is not too lazy to upload files. For such options, it will be enough to install a VLC player – and then the readability of the files will be really total.
How it looks on the screen
When using any player – be it built-in, installed or external connected via HDMI – you will hardly notice a huge difference in quality between Full HD and HDR 4K versions of the same movie. First of all, because of the design of the TV itself. It has no local screen dimming and the LEDs seem to be pretty basic. It does support HDR decoding, but judging by the measurements and visual assessment of the test materials, it does not have an extended range of colors and brightness.
However, like most video devices in the entry and middle price range. In HDR video, its image is not brighter, not more dynamic, not more contrasting and not more colorful than on SDR, but the details in the shadows appear, which is not bad, although this is entirely the merit of those who made transfers for HDR films. But Full HD and 4K video with standard dynamic range are displayed pretty well, which is even more important, because they are the majority.
It’s funny that some films, on the contrary, look better on Xiaomi than on high-contrast devices. One problem is that the image is too cold. And this is not corrected by the settings – they really only work when receiving TV programs.
The increase in clarity when playing 4K video in comparison with Full HD is also not at all great due to the panel control features. It is VA-type here, but it more affects the viewing angles. The real reason is that when the brightness decreases, the TV does not reduce the transparency of all pixels at the same time, but alternately. This can be seen even with the naked eye when looking closely at the panel in a multi-grayscale image. After all, the main details in films are not located in the brightest areas, but just in the middle brightness. And just there, the picture seems to be covered with a grid, as a result, reducing the clarity.
It is also not helped by the fact that any video TV remakes for a screen refresh rate of 60 Hz. In movies, this leads to a kind of intermediate effect between blurring and “soap opera” – that is, there seems to be no insertion of additional generated frames, but processing is present. And on videos with a frequency of 25 Hz (from our streaming services) and 50 Hz (DVB-T), twitching sometimes appears due to this mismatch.
However, few will notice. But everyone will pay attention to the fact that when connected to a computer via HDMI, fonts (and in general all small details) this TV does not display very accurately – both when displaying an image with a resolution of 1920×1080, and when outputting 4K. I did not measure the output delay – nothing.
The names of the modes are clearly confused on the TV. When you select “Standard”, the maximum brightness is about 310 cd / m2, and when you select the “Sport” mode, which in theory should be brighter – 256 cd / m2. The black level is high in any case and does not fall below 0.138 cd / m2. That is, the limiting contrast ratio is 2246: 1 – a good result. In this case, the gradations are displayed correctly – the gamma is close to ideal.
Color gamut in all modes is less than BT.709, that is, HDR video is output with range compression. Here is the maximum breadth of coverage without calibration (profile changes):
The color balance is independent of the temperature setting in the menu. It changes depending on the mode. This is how it is when choosing the “Standard” mode:
It is not only unstable depending on brightness, but also contributes to an average temperature rise of up to 10 150K. This is too far from the recommended 6,500K, which is visible to the naked eye – the image is too “cold”.
This Xiaomi is not without flaws. It is quite thick, in fact it only decodes HDR video, but it does not have an extended dynamic and color range, and 4K shows strangely – with a loss of clarity. However, given its cost, the presence of Android and the proprietary shell from Xiaomi, all these shortcomings are unlikely to be taken so seriously. Such a model cannot be called a breakthrough, but its appearance on the market will definitely ruin the mood of leading manufacturers.