Realme is one of the newest smart TV brands in India, which premiered with two affordable TVs earlier this year. Earlier this month, Realme officially entered the most popular television segment of India – budget 4K LED smart TVs. This particular bit of the industry saw Xiaomi gain an early boost thanks to its reliable Mi TV lineup. Their primary competitors were the underrated TCL and India-bred Vu. In recent times, the budget 4K smart TV market has seen iconic smartphone brands such as Nokia and Motorola being introduced by Flipkart, possibly in hope that the relatability of the brand names, coupled with interesting software features, would increase competition in the market. Now, spicing things up yet again is Realme, which decided to make a case for itself by claiming a new LED panel technology altogether. Enter, the Realme 55-inch SLED 4K Android TV, at an introductory price of Rs 39,999 (set to increase to Rs 42,999 shortly).
Realme’s big pitch with the SLED 4K Android TV is its new display technology. The SLED display technology replaces the traditional white LED backlight of typical LED TVs with an RGB spectral power distribution (SPD) backlight. In essence, Realme claims that this display tech will help reduce the strain on your eyes, by reducing the amount of exposure to blue light that you get when watching TV. This claim is a less visibly evident one than other display technologies, such as QLEDs (that produce higher brightness and vibrancy) and OLEDs (that produce deeper blacks and higher contrast ratios). Will this claim be enough to make the Realme SLED 55-inch 4K Android TVs successful?
Design: Minimal approach does the trick
I’ve always found commenting on TV design a rather awkward piece of business. Televisions today no longer have thick bezels the way LCD TVs initially had, and the extent to which TV design has been standardised means that for the most part, all TVs look the same. The Realme SLED TV is no different, and that is not a bad thing by any yardstick. Practically all TV makers claim that their TVs are “bezel-less” nowadays, and Realme says so too. Sure, the TV is definitely not bezel-less, but thankfully, the TV bezels are minimal enough for us to not protest vehemently.
I’m not particularly fond of the table-top pegs that Realme has included with the TV. They feel plasticky, and while I haven’t experienced any undue wobble, they just don’t look very reassuring. If your TV sits on a tabletop in a crowded living room, this would be a slight concern. Beyond this, one major issue that many would face is the distance the pegs are set at – each peg is slotted in at the farthest end of the TV’s base. This means that placing it on smaller TV units or tables would be impossible. In comparison, the Nokia 4K Android TV we reviewed recently offers better distance between its standing pegs.
Apart from these quirks, the Realme SLED TV’s overall design is minimal and neat, and there’s nothing to complain about at all. The general quality of the build seems decent, and thanks to minimally placed branding, the Realme SLED TV actually looks rather suave.
Picture and audio quality: A pleasant surprise
The SLED display technology, like we mentioned before, replaces the white LED backlight with a spectrally distributed array that breaks the white light into red, green and blue. This seemingly helps in lesser incidence of blue light in comparison to standard LED technology, thanks to a second RGB filter – which in turn apparently helps the eye.
In the real world, the panel’s differences aren’t immediately apparent, but you will tend to think that the overall colours feel more washed out, than what they do on most other TVs. As for the main claim of putting strain on the eyes, viewing content on the Realme SLED TV in brightly lit rooms does not seem to make too big a difference, except for the overall brightness and sharpness levels being a bit low.
At night and in darker rooms, the Realme SLED TV does appear to put less strain on the eye when watching at night. In the long run, this will make a big difference for the vast number of people who (like me) suffer from myopic astigmatism, or simply spend too much time in front of laptops nowadays. Purely in terms of eye strain, I can qualitatively state that the Realme SLED TV does appear to strain eyes lesser than what the Mi TV 4X LED Android TV does. The difference is not massive, but it’s enough for you to notice.
In terms of the overall picture quality, Realme’s colours lack sharpness due to a clearly lesser balance of blues. It is biased towards producing more warmth – something that we expected to see since the TV’s panel claimed to cut down on the cool tones. This added warmth can be compensated for by tweaking the picture quality, but inherently, even at maximum backlight intensity, the Realme SLED TV’s panel does not appear to be the brightest. This hampers HDR content rendering, which in turn limits the range of colours and shadows that the Realme SLED TV can produce.
All things said, Realme has thrown in a pretty impressive bucket-load of toggles to make up for the ‘washed out-ness’ of the colours. There are options for you to configure your TV’s white balance, colour saturation, contrast levels and sharpness in varying levels of ease or difficulty. For instance, if you want an easy picture setup, you get simple, straight-up toggles for saturation, hue, sharpness, a four-step colour temperature selector (user-adjusted, cool, standard and warm), and so on. For those sitting between novice and display pundit-level expertise, there are features such as a three-step gamma selector (dark, mid and bright) for fine-tuning the levels of black and whites.
If you’re used to manually balancing colours and white points, you can use the individual red, green and blue gain adjustments for fine tuning colour temperature. There are also digital noise reduction adjustments, options for seven-way brightness, saturation, hue and gain tuning, and also what Realme calls an ‘11-point white balance correction’. This lets you define colour-wise intensities for saturation, hues, brightness and more. In ways, the range of colour adjustments somewhat make up for the TV’s default colour balance, and shows that if you really put in the shift, you can get the precise colour balance that you’d enjoy.
However, in the budget TV market, it is safe to presume that most buyers would rather want a plug and play TV, which offers well-balanced colours, shadows, hues and saturation right from the onset. The range of customisations on offer also somewhat show that Realme’s display tuning is still work in progress, and future iterations of the SLED panel will need to find a way to make the overall display colour balance less warmer, richer in contrast and better at dynamic range. It is also important to note that the content upscaling engine works well, and HD/4K upscaled content looks sharp enough in terms of details.
The overall audio performance of the Realme SLED TV is decent, with the integrated TV speakers managing decently on their own in terms of voice reproduction. It does not sound tinny. However, if you do pair the TV with the newly launched Realme sound bar, you’ll immediately realise the balance of better bass that you miss out on, and after that, you wouldn’t want to go back to the TV’s integrated speakers. On overall terms, though, the audio performance works just fine.
Software, remote and ergonomics: Begs for more
If you’re familiar with the Android TV interface, that’s about as much as you get with the Realme SLED TV. I personally prefer the absence of a custom interface layer like Xiaomi’s PatchWall (because I never use the custom layer), but enthusiastic users may find the lack of custom content offerings and curations slightly disappointing.
Those who have had prior experience with Realme TVs have noted that the remote has remained sleek and functional as before, and as a first time user, I personally find it very familiar with what the likes of Xiaomi and OnePlus offer in the budget TV industry right now. However, the button response feels a bit too tacky. One major design flaw is that the power button operates on infrared, and the IR receiver on the TV is placed such that if you bottom-mount the Realme sound bar (that you can buy separately), you will always struggle to find an easy angle to switch the TV on. This can be a major annoyance in the long run.
Just like the fine colour tuning, the software customisations and remote quality of the Realme SLED TV is work in progress as well, and future iterations should do better.
Verdict: A good TV with strong, clear intent
On overall terms, the Realme SLED TV is still a decent TV to buy in the sub-Rs 40,000 price bracket. It is a good 55-inch TV to use – it looks good, offers good picture quality (especially once you tune it manually), and the lack of software clutter makes it fairly fast and swift too. However, small annoyances like no picture quality tuning on the fly and the irritating IR reception for powering on the TV mean that the Realme SLED TV has plenty of room to improve.
At Rs 39,999, the Realme SLED 55-inch 4K HDR Android LED TV is slightly more affordable than the Xiaomi Mi TV 4X Pro 55-inch (Rs 41,990), the new Nokia 55-inch 4K HDR with Onkyo audio (Rs 41,999), the TCL P2 55-inch (Rs 44,990) and other similar products. Given its overall performance, it’s hard to not recommend this TV for smart television buyers looking for a 55-inch HDR smart TV on a budget – even with the small niggles at hand.