OnePlus TV U series 55U1 review – commendable comeback after a lacklustre start

Rating: 8.7/10                                                                                                                                                                           

Pros:

  • Deep blacks for an LED display
  • Gorgeous, slim design
  • Sturdy metal stand
  • Software tweaks that are actually useful
  • Great HDR performance for the price bracket
  • Smooth performance

Cons:

  • Viewing angles are not great
  • The sound quality from the in-built speakers is average at best
  • The remote design is uninspiring 

Introduction: 

OnePlus is clearly reading the Indian market well. After creating compelling phones for years now, the brand is setting its sights on capturing a pie of the Smart TV market, where Xiaomi has found great success. 

Although, after somewhat of a lacklustre start to its TV journey with the QLED TV – Q1, the company has launched a few more options to make a bigger impact. We now have two new affordable TVs in the Y-series. A 32-inch HD TV and a 43-inch FHD option. However, the star of the show is the third new TV – the 55-inch OnePlus U series TV.

And you know what, OnePlus is listening to user feedback intently. It has made fixes to almost every single problem most of us had with the Q1, including some really tiny ones I had too.

OnePlus TV – Design 

First things first, the OnePlus U series is a stunning looking TV that makes absolutely no compromises with the build quality. You get a sturdy aluminum body on the rear with an extremely thin frame of 6.9mm. That’s slimmer than a OnePlus 8 Pro, for context. Although, it’s not 6.9mm from top to bottom though. About 25-30% of the bottom rear portion is chunkier and has a slight design segway as well. It has a carbon fibre texture that moves away from the plain metallic rear. My TV is placed in a way where you can see the back – considering it is not wall-mounted – and I appreciate the clean design. 

The clean design also extends to the removable cover on the rear for the ports. I like this attention to detail in design. The fit and finish of the TV is as good, if not better, than a Samsung TV. And, that’s saying a lot. 

Talking about the ports, you get 3 HDMI ports on the rear, of which only one port supports ARC or audio return channel. All the three ports, however, do support CEC, which lets you control other electronic devices — such as my Apple TV out here — with OnePlus’ bundled remote. That’s actually useful considering I’ve broken my Apple TV’s remote and depend on the OnePlus TV’s remote for my needs. I don’t have to spend on a replacement remote. 

The other ports include an AV in, Optical port for audio, an RF port for cable TV, and a couple of USB ports; one with USB 2.0 spec and the other with USB 3.0. I’d have ideally liked an extra HDMI port but this should be good enough for most folks. 

The best aspect about the design, however, is that you get two sturdy metal stands holding the weight of the TV. The Q1 had a single cylinder running right down the central spine on the rear holding up the TV precariously. This made it super wobbly as well. This stand, on the other hand, is super duper sturdy and stable. I am glad OnePlus took this feedback seriously. 

There’s one thing to note that the TV is very heavy unlike the Mi TVs I’ve used in the past. You need two people to carry it. Also, I don’t know about the wall-mounting bit because it will be sold separately and I am unsure if it is going to be a standard VESA mount. I shall update the link to the wall mount in a pinned comment below. Overall though, I absolutely love the design of this TV. 

OnePlus TV – Display 

A TV is all about the display. Everything else is secondary. And for what it is worth, the OnePlus TV U1 impresses with its 55-inch LED Panel. Especially, with these really slim bezels that give you a screen-to-body ratio of 95% for an immersive viewing experience. 

So, OnePlus uses a VA panel on the U1. And as far as LED panels go, the VA type gives your deeper blacks compared to an IPS panel. Obviously, the U1 does not have the deep blacks of a Quantum Dot LED panel like the one on the Q1, but for its asking price, it gets the job done and some. Moreover, this panel supports all the HDR formats out there – HDR10, HDR10+, HLG, and Dolby Vision. Many TVs in this price range don’t offer Dolby Vision, which is a pity considering that’s the best kind of HDR out there with a 12-bit colour profile. 

Now that we are on the topic of colour, the U1 has a 93% wide DCI-P3 colour gamut. Plus you get a plethora of predefined picture settings and modes. You can tweak to your heart’s will and even change the Colour Gamut of HDR videos as per your preference. Note that the BT.2020 has the widest colour gamut of all. 

The colours pop out on the deep blacks of the screen and I generally preferred using the TV in Film mode because it had a fairly accurate colour reproduction. Moreover, it didn’t add any additional software based tweaks such as Motion Interpolation. All it did was increase the Global Dimming effect to Medium. There’s also a new artificial intelligence-based picture quality called AI PQ but it didn’t necessarily improve anything much for me. 

However, what worked wonders for me was the Game mode. I absolutely loved the picture tuning on this mode. NFS Heat looked phenomenal and the lower latency also ensured that my gaming experience was enhanced. It actually made a difference. 

And, this is possibly the only difference between the U1 and the Q1. In the Q1, you get a more concentrated Local Dimming option, which is still edge-lit but a little more effective. On the U1, considering you don’t get Quantum Dots, you get only the Global Dimming option. Here the entire image gets dark in dark scenes and the entire stack of LED lights on the rear is qualified as one single light. Point is, it is not as effective as the Local Dimming option on the Q1. It creates very jarring tonal shifts when you move from a completely dark scene to one that has a few bright areas. 

Regardless, I didn’t notice any unbearable light blooming with Global Dimming on and generally enjoyed a cleaner image output during my test period. Plus the contrast ratio of 4000:1 is also better than most panels out there. For comparison, the Mi TV 4X has a contrast ratio of 1200:1. Better contrast ensures that your colours can pop even more. 

Overall, I loved watching HDR content on Netflix. I’ve been binging Dark on this TV and it looks particularly stunning especially with its unique colour grading. Daredevil and Our Planet looked equally attractive as well. However, the panel is very reflective and dark scenes look washed out as a result when you have a brighter room than normal. 

Furthermore, there is some uneven lighting around the edges in grey backgrounds like you can notice when Amazon Prime starts. The other problem is the viewing angle is not great. Even if you sit slightly off centre, you will notice that the screen is looking washed out around the edges. Furthermore, the low refresh rate of the TV is a bit of an issue because you are bound to face some ghosting in fast motion sequences.

However, OnePlus has added MEMC to solve that problem. MEMC or motion interpolation adds intermittent frames to improve the motion blur but it causes a distinctive soap opera look that I absolutely hate. So, I have switched it off, along with other software tweaks such as digital noise reduction. 

By the way, I also used my Apple TV and PlayStation 4 with the TV and the FHD image upscaling was pretty good. However, I do not have any SD playback device so I don’t know how the upscaling looks. But, I don’t suppose it looks very good.

Overall, for its price, the U1 still has an A-grade panel that does a fairly good job at HDR. And, that’s what matters. 

OnePlus TV – Speaker Quality

The U1 has four speakers on the rear – 2 full-range speakers and 2 downward-firing tweeters. The full range speakers are placed in such an angle that you are supposed to get better bass. But, to be honest, I found the bass response to be lacking. In fact, the sound was really not very refined with the vocals sounding very hollow. You will need to invest in a Soundbar or Home Theatre speakers to get better audio quality.

By the way, the TV also supports Dolby Atmos streams. So, if you have a set of Dolby Atmos speakers, you could possibly benefit from the support. I don’t so I can’t really tell if the in-built decoding is good enough for complex surround audio streams. 

OnePlus TV – Performance and software

One of the best things about the OnePlus 55U1 is that it has the same powerful internals as the Q1. It is powered by the Mediatek MT5670 chipset. There’s 3 gigs of RAM and 8 gigs of internal storage. You can play games on this TV if you want to but it’s better to just pick up a dedicated console instead. I found that navigating through the UI was generally smooth with a few hiccups here and there. 

The TV runs on the latest Android 9 Pie version with a few OnePlus tweaks. You get Oxygen Play, which is the separate content aggregation page where OnePlus has partnered with over 15+ content providers. You have to get a subscription for most of these services if not all. To be honest, I prefer using the standalone apps from the Android TV page. Netflix and Prime video have shows in glorious 4K and HDR, so no worries there. Apart from this you also get Spotify pre-installed.  

I really like the bundled File Manager app that is easy to navigate with big menus as well. Plus there is this new app that lets you use the TV as a Bluetooth stereo and another app called Pictorial for screensavers.

Obviously, you also get your usual suspects such as Google Assistant, Alexa, and Chromecast support for seamless voice command control or streaming content from your phone. Additionally, I really like the fact that you can use the Menu button to access the TV’s Settings from any input source. These are tiny touches that make a whole world of difference. 

There’s also the OnePlus Connect app which has improved from its previous iterations. For Apple users, the app is now available on iOS’ App Store. That said, the most important addition is the fact that you get a new keyboard to type on your smartphone’s display. Plus, I still love the Smart Volume Control feature where the TV automatically reduces the volume when you get a call. 

There are two new additions to the software that are pretty useful. There is a Content Calendar feature that lets you schedule your TV shows from your set-top box according to your will. I don’t use one, so I can’t really showcase the feature unfortunately.

What I can showcase, however, is the new Data Saver Plus feature. You get granular control over which apps can consume how much data, limit network speed, set alerts for data usage, and more. This is particularly useful for people using hotspot to connect to the internet. I would’ve liked a slightly more attractive UI with Pie Charts and Graphs for information. But, this is good enough too. 

OnePlus TV – Remote control

For all the premium build quality of the TV, OnePlus has skimped on the materials for the remote. I mean, it works. It has everything you need including dedicated mute, Netflix, and Prime Video buttons but it is decidedly plasticky. 

I was possibly one of the very few people who liked the original OnePlus TV Q1 remote. Granted it had its issues but I felt OnePlus had something going right with the minimalistic approach. This remote design – that lands in no man’s land – is baffling if you ask me. The ergonomics are great and so is the layout but it doesn’t have the gumption I have come to expect from OnePlus’ industrial design chops.

Should you buy the OnePlus 55U1?

Going back to the drawing board has worked wonders for the OnePlus U1. The stand is sturdier now, Netflix doesn’t force-feed motion interpolation in Dolby Vision videos, and it is just a whole lot of cutting the losses. The issues I have with the remote’s uninspired design or the average audio quality of the TV are pet peeves more than anything else. Most folks are going to be okay with the remote. They will also like the fact that the speakers can get really loud. So yeah, you are not going to find any glaring fault with the OnePlus 55U1. 

Sure you get a plethora of alternatives from Samsung, LG, and TCL, but not many are as feature-rich or as attractive as the OnePlus 55U1. And, the picture quality on the OnePlus 55U1 is almost as good too, if not better. And for those wondering, I sincerely don’t think any Mi TV’s picture quality is a match for this one and that’s something for Xiaomi to work on. Build a more desirable LED panel for a slight premium. 

What do you guys think? Do let me know in the comments section below. Until next time, this is Ershad from Mr. Phone signing off. Goodbye and godspeed my friends.

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Ershad Kaleebullah
ershad.kaleebullah@u2opiamobile.com

When Ershad isn't writing, he spends time killing virtual zombies on his PS4. Having worked with a slew of renowned publications like PCWorld, Channelworld, CIO, NDTV Gadgets (now Gadgets360), MySmartPrice, The Inquistr, and 91Mobiles, Ershad brings a whole world of experience to Mr. Phone. He is trying hard to convert all the team members into Apple fans but is facing a lot of resistance. Is anyone willing to help?