Splitting focus from smartphones to smart TVs, OnePlus has succumbed to the next wave of consumer electronics fever. But, there is a Pro in the name…promising?
As has become the tradition with OnePlus, drip-feeding information on upcoming products lets them enjoy a sustained period of hype but it also raises expectations. Does it live up to them is a question OnePlus has spent two years in answering. Not one, but two models have debuted under this new vertical, the Q1 and the Q1 Pro, both in screen sizes of 55 inches. The only real difference is in the audio output and speaker set-up between the two, the Q1 Pro featuring a slide-down soundbar like unit with 50watts of power and 8 drivers that aim to bring Dolby Atmos to life.
Sonic prowess apart (although we’ll get to that part again in a bit), OnePlus claims to have refined the overall aesthetic and picture quality to make its TV debut stand out from the crowd. It is unique with a smart-looking spine running down the centre of the TV at the back, minimising assembly and the number of screws required to assemble the table stand. There is also a magnetic hatch at the back that hides all the connection ports, keeping all of the dangling HDMI or optical cables neatly tucked in. Worth mentioning is also the carbon fibre finish for the entire back of the TV that not only makes it look different to anything else out there, but also ensure durability throughout the life of the telly. The stand itself is a hollow oval, finished in glossy chrome that frankly looks out of place with the rest of the blacked-out aesthetic. It also causes more wobble than usual if you press down on either side of the panel, not that it would be an issue if you wall-mount it but you might have to keep toddlers a safe distance away if rested on a table or shelf. As advertised though, the bezels are vanishingly slim and this TV would do well as a wall-mounted unit, looking sharp and lending a bit of futuristic vibe to the host wall too.
First things first, the specs read great – 4K HDR QLED Android TV. All the terms that would make any binge-watchers eyes widen with glee. For the deep divers, it also supports 96% of the DCI-P3 colour space, more than any of its competitors and it does exhibit extremely rich colours. Of course, the picture quality was benchmarked against the current market leaders and OnePlus had gone to the lengths of even comparing it with Samsung and Sony in the demo zones during launch. The differences were apparent but the Q1 Pro held its own with the 4K demo material being playing across the board. Especially when it comes to sharpness and colour reproduction. With a wide colour gamut that covers 120% of the NTSC colour space, it scores well compared to the competition. There’s all sorts of HDR implementations, including Dolby Vision and HDR10+ so you’re covered no matter what your poison is as the source.
Using a QLED panel coupled with Dolby Vision and HDR10+, the Q1 Pro has the requisite brightness and colour saturation but has to be tamed a bit to avoid looking artificial. We prefer keeping the Ultra Smooth Motion processing off, Smooth Gradation to low and Local Dimming to high for a realistic looking picture without the “soap opera” effect. Local dimming is well implemented with negligible blooming in darker scenes but motion control isn’t handled well on streaming content. Play a proper UHD disc via a UHD player and the results are stunning. Colours are rich, black levels that approach that of an OLED and enough contrast not to crush the shadow details. But strangely, we could not access the Ultra Smooth Motion controls when using the HDMI inputs so there was limited control over the processing applied. Streaming content via the Q1 Pro’s built-in apps didn’t look as smooth and detailed, with HDR playing havoc at random times, robbing the picture of all hues and overlaying it with a green tinge
But OnePlus is quick to admit that this is an early production sample and the software glitches will be fixed by the time the Q1/Q1 Pro reaches store shelves.
A new way to emote
Clearly inspired by the Apple TV remote, this USB-C charged device aims to one-up Cupertino at its own game. Finished in smooth aluminium, it gets a D-pad on the top half instead of the touch surface that the Apple TV remote gets. Dedicated buttons for the Google Assistant and Amazon Prime Video are joined by a back, option and OnePlus command buttons. Navigation isn’t the most intuitive and it does have a learning curve but once you get used to it, you’ll be zipping through options and menus. One quirk you’ll have to get used to is the volume control buttons which are on the right edge and I can understand why OnePlus designers would think that this is the thumbs natural resting place and hence it’s more useable. But in practice, on such a slim device, it is just a pain and the fact that there is no volume mute button only aggravates the problem. The UI itself is slick and packed with recommendations but Netflix is sorely missed for now, but again OnePlus promises that it is coming soon. Based on Android TV 9.0 with an Oxygen Play overlay, you get smart recommendations from services like YouTube, Prime Video, Eros Now, Hungama, Jio Cinema and Zee 5. Local tie-ups are its key strength and voice search works really well too. In terms of app support, the big one here is OnePlus Connect which works across Android devices (iOS version may come later). It uses your phone screen intelligently to bring up a keyboard every time you try to search for something, drops the volume automatically when it senses an incoming phone call, shows up app icons right on your phone screen for quicker access to your favourite channels. Of course, the expected functionality like being able to use your phone screen as a touch-pad surface, screen shots and Wi-Fi sharing to set-up your Google Account details via your phone are all there, making it a breeze to get the Q1 Pro up and running. The fact that you never have to worry about changing batteries on your remote again is a welcome bonus!
While the Q1 gets a 4-speaker system, the Q1 Pro doubles that count to 8-speakers which include built-in subwoofers, mids and tweeters. With a healthy 50watts on tap, the Pro does get loud and creates an illusion of wider space with Dolby Atmos, but there is no real bass to speak of. You get controls like EQ and voice enhancer and you can increase the intelligibility of the dialogues with these controls, but you won’t be able to shake the floorboards with the sound. The Q1 Pro has a sliding soundbar-like design that is motorised and slowly descends from the back of the TV upon start-up, lending a very Bang & Olufsen kind of drama to the proceedings and is sure to be a conversation starter.
If your content viewing pattern is limited to talk shows or movies at late-night listening levels, you’ll be perfectly fine with the Q1 Pro’s sonic performance. But if you like watching Ready Player One at cinema-sound levels, it won’t serve as a replacement for a full-blown 5.1 (or more) home-theatre speaker system. Or even a soundbar with a wireless subwoofer.
Not without its quirks but the 55Q1 Pro has lots to like too. Solid picture, decent sound and a fresh take on Android TV OS. OnePlus has tried to pack in a lot here and some of it works while some of it is a work-in-progress. The absence of Netflix does sting, as does the lack of a mute button on the remote. What they got right is the balance of colour saturation and deep blacks. HDR and other minor issues are slated to be fixed OTA via an update soon so while the OnePlus TV holds a lot of promise, in its opening act, it is a bit of a mixed bag and something that I’d like to revisit in a couple of months.