This week, I got delivery of my 55″ Xiaomi 4A TV (China only). First impression: It’s probably great for Chinese users, but I wouldn’t recommend it for others.
Xiaomi makes some great products–especially for the price range–and they’re building a well-interconnected “environment” with their products. Everything works with everything else, and everything can be controlled from your Xiaomi smartphone. One of the significant downsides, however, is that they are designed specifically for the Chinese market. That not only means there’s language issues, but the way the average Chinese uses technology is very different from how westerners do.
The advertising for the 4A is a little deceptive. They list it as being extremely thin. That’s true for the screen. But the “guts” of the TV area a thicker block attached to the back. And, in a really stupid move, they positioned the ports (HDMI, RCA, USB) facing the rear. This adds a couple centimeters to the depth of the unit (because of the plugs on the cords), and makes it practically impossible to mount on the wall. And if you did manage to mount it, you couldn’t get to any of the ports.
So, it’s going to have to sit on a table or other piece of furniture. At 1.25m wide, it needs a big piece of furniture to sit on. And a stable one. The legs aren’t very sturdy, and the entire TV wobbles a bit–not much, but enough that I’m a little nervous when the cats start running around the room.
Okay… I’m going to praise Xiaomi for something very odd: The box. The TV comes in the standard (almost) cardboard box with the styrofoam blocks holding it in place. The ones that fit so snug that they form a vacuum seal when you try to slide the merchandise out of the box. Well, not this time. The sides of the box are velcroed together. Slice one piece of tape, pop a plastic latch, and the box neatly unfolds, making it a piece of cake to get to the unit. Want to save the box in case you move? No problem, the velcro will hold it together. Maybe this is something that’s common these days, but it’s the first time I’ve seen it. Color me impressed.
Once the unit is out of the box, it’s still a beast to move around. But that’s going to happen with any big TV. Putting the feet on requires a screwdriver (not included), and they don’t seem to attach very securely.
The first time you turn on the TV, you get to the “Chinese” aspects of the TV, and the ways in which Xiaomi approaches them. The only controls are via the remote1note: there’s a plastic film under the battery that’s easy to miss, be sure to pull it out before yelling at the remote for not working. Later, you’ll be able to use an app on your Xiaomi smartphone (if it’s IR equipped).
You need to connect to your WiFi. Let me repeat that: You must connect to your WiFi. That’s Step One, and there doesn’t appear to be any way around it. If you don’t connect, you can’t do anything else. You must also connect to your Xiaomi account. I’m assuming that this is only for sets sold in China, but can’t confirm it. The TV (which runs on a version of Android) has Xiaomi’s “PatchWall”, which is a way to stream TV shows, movies, and other entertainment. This is tied to your account, and costs money (the first 6 months is free with the TV). You also get some sort of screen-casting app to share between your phone and the TV. It’s all in Chinese, so I haven’t tried it out yet.
The first time you shutdown the TV, it will automatically download system updates. The second time you turn it on, it will install those updates. It took
over 3 almost 4 minutes for the TV to boot the 2nd time I turned it on. The 2nd time I turned it off, it downloaded updates again. I’ve been busy, so I haven’t turned it on for the 3rd time to see if it takes another 3 minutes. I certainly hope that this isn’t the case every time it powers up or down. (Edit: Yep, looks like it does). Because…
It doesn’t automatically turn off. Other high-end “smart” TVs I’ve dealt with will automatically power-down the screen if there’s no signal for a long time. I have mine plugged into a computer (media box), and previous units have powered down when the computer goes into power-save mode. Not this one. The morning after the first use, I found the screen blank (no signal from the computer), but the backlight was still on. The unit has to be physically powered down.
Once you get through all the annoying setup and figure out how to get to and navigate the menu, you can start watching stuff. Because I’m running the TV off a very old computer, the most resolution I can get is 1080p, but the 4A does have full 4K resolution.
The picture is quite good. I’ve been watching old TV shows that are in standard HD, and they still look good even on 55 inches. The blacks are very black, and the colors are vivid (but not overly so). The one quibble I would have is that the whites are a bit on the blue side, which is something of a personal annoyance. If they have to err to one side of the spectrum, I’d rather that they be a bit warm. Again, that’s just a personal preference2I also hate fluorescent lights and “daylight white” LED lights; I much prefer low-watt incandescent lamps.
The Final Word
As with most Chinese “smart” products, there’s a mess of (to me) useless crap built into the system and an insistence on an “Internet of Things” approach. If you can get past that (or actually like that approach), the actual TV seems to work fairly well. I’ve only had it for a couple days, so all of this is truly a “first impression”.
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|1.||↑||note: there’s a plastic film under the battery that’s easy to miss, be sure to pull it out before yelling at the remote for not working|
|2.||↑||I also hate fluorescent lights and “daylight white” LED lights; I much prefer low-watt incandescent lamps|