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A good budget Android TV alternative- Technology News, FP

Overall Rating: 3.8/5 

Price: Rs 23,999

The budget smart TV market in India is currently largely dominated by Android TVs. Tizen and WebOS are limited to Samsung and LG TVs respectively, and we rarely get a 43-inch model from them for under Rs 25,000. Amazon’s Fire OS – that powers their Fire TV Sticks – remains one of the best platforms for consuming over-the-top (OTT) content, and although there are just a few of them here, we have had a good experience with TVs based on that platform. Onida and AmazonBasics are the only brands I was aware of that had models running this OS. Now, the old Japanese brand Akai has joined the bandwagon. We got its 43-inch variant (model no. TVAKLT43S-DFS6T) for review. Let’s see what it has to offer and how it performs.

Akai 43-inch Fire TV

Akai 43-inch Fire TV

Akai 43-inch Fire TV Edition Smart TV – Design and Connectivity: 7/10

This Akai TV has a standard design typical of budget TVs, with narrow bezels around the 43-inch screen on three sides, and a slightly thicker bottom bezel. It has a tiny chin at the centre that hosts a power LED and IR receiver. The TV isn’t the slimmest around but can be wall-mounted or placed on a desk using the bundled plastic stands, with the screws and mounts required for it provided in the package. One unusual thing I would like to point out is the branding sticker pasted on the bezels and screen leaves massive residue on the screen when you peel it off. The company urgently needs to find a better adhesive.

Image: Tech2/ Ameya Dalvi

One unusual thing I would like to point out is the branding sticker pasted on the bezels and screen leaves massive residue on the screen when you peel it off. Image: Tech2/ Ameya Dalvi

A USB port, three HDMI ports, SPDIF out, coaxial A/V inputs, IR port and a LAN port are placed on the right side of the TV. The side ports are reasonably easy to reach if you place the TV on the table-top stand, but they may be a little hard to access if you wall-mount the TV, as the ports are placed closer to the centre than to the edge of the TV. Even though the company does not specify it (and there’s no mention of it in the port description), one of the HDMI ports supports the ARC feature. I incidentally had a soundbar at hand to confirm that. However, an important thing missing here is an analogue audio output – no headphone jack or A/V output on this TV.

Image: Tech2/Ameya Dalvi

A USB port, three HDMI ports, SPDIF out, coaxial A/V inputs, IR port and a LAN port are placed on the right side of the TV. Image: Tech2/Ameya Dalvi

Akai 43-inch Fire TV Edition Smart TV – Features and specifications: 8/10

The 43-inch Akai Fire TV Edition has a Full HD panel with a resolution of 1920 x 1080 pixels. The panel type isn’t specified, but it seems like a VA panel. It has a 60 Hz refresh rate with DLED backlighting. On the specifications front, this TV is powered by a quad-core processor with 1 GB RAM and 8 GB of internal storage, a chunk of which is taken up by the Fire OS. The TV supports Bluetooth (version not specified) and dual band Wi-Fi. Audio output is rated at 20 Watts RMS, with support for Dolby Audio and DTS TruSurround.

Since this isn’t an official Android TV, it does not have Chromecast, but lets you mirror content from your phone or tablet using Miracast. You get a wireless remote control that resembles the one you get with a Fire TV Stick, but with a few extra buttons. Other than the buttons found on a Fire TV Stick remote, here, you have keys for input selection and quick settings, along with hotkeys for Netflix, Prime Video, Amazon Music and Apps. Yes, there’s a mute button as well. This remote is voice-enabled, and you can summon Alexa by keeping the microphone button pressed and issue voice commands. It works smoothly.

Image: Tech2/ Ameya Dalvi

You get a wireless remote control that resembles the one you get with a Fire TV Stick, but with a few extra buttons. Image: Tech2/ Ameya Dalvi

Build quality is decent, but not in the same league as that of the Fire TV Stick remote. A pair of AAA batteries are bundled in the package. The remote comes pre-paired with the TV and you don’t have to bother setting it up. The power button on the remote communicates with the TV using IR, while the rest of the functions operate over Bluetooth. You need to point it towards the TV to switch it on or off; for the rest of the functions, you can point it anywhere. Incidentally, you can wake it from standby by pressing the Alexa/mic button and ask Alexa to switch it off, if you are too lazy to point the remote towards the TV.

Akai 43-inch Fire TV Edition Smart TV – User Interface: 9/10

The user interface here is quite like the one you get on a Fire TV Stick, with a few additions such as input sources, media player and some extra settings. You need to log in with your Amazon ID to access all the features. If you don’t have one, you will need to register and create one. You get apps for all major streaming services such as Netflix, Prime Video, Hotstar, Apple TV, Sony LIV etc. All the apps and content are neatly organised, and you have settings for sound and picture adjustments, among others.

This Akai TV lets you tweak the sound and picture settings on the fly while viewing any content, be it through an app or an HDMI source like DTH, or even from a USB drive. Unlike the Onida TV, where one needed to keep the Home button on the remote pressed for a couple of seconds to bring up the quick settings menu, you have a dedicated settings button on the remote to take care of that, which makes life a lot simpler.

Akai 43-inch Fire TV Edition Smart TV – Picture quality: 8/10

The picture quality of the Akai Smart TV is rather good for a budget TV, especially for one with no HDR support. The panel is reasonably bright and has good contrast. Details in dark areas in high contrast scenes were visible for most parts on this Akai TV. Colour reproduction is impressive, too, and colours feel vibrant without appearing overdone, most of the time. There is a light reddish tinge to the picture out of the box, but the TV lets you fix it by adjusting the red levels. Skin tones look quite natural on this screen, and the TV viewing experience via DTH was good, especially on HD channels.

1080p Full HD videos look excellent on this TV, and 720p videos look quite sharp as well. The upscaling engine on this TV does a decent job of making lower-resolution videos watchable on this screen. You also have more than a handful of picture adjustment options such as brightness, colour, contrast, sharpness etc. And if those aren’t enough, you also get advanced options for adjusting white balance, noise reduction and more. As I mentioned earlier, you can access them by simply pressing the settings button across all video sources and apps, which is a big plus.

Akai 43-inch Fire TV Edition Smart TV – Audio quality: 6.5/10

Just like the Onida 43-inch Fire TV, the biggest drawback of the Akai Smart TV is its audio quality. It has a pair of stereo speakers that deliver a total output of 20 Watts RMS. Alhough it’s sufficiently loud around the 40 percent mark, the sound lacks warmth. There’s hardly any bass. There are bass and treble adjustments in the sound settings, but they do little to turn things around. The output is a little better than the aforementioned Onida TV, but it still leaves a lot to be desired.

Incidentally, the TV supports Dolby Audio and DTS TruSurround, but they don’t conjure up any magic, so keep your expectations in check. Sound output is more than decent for general TV viewing such as news, sports, soaps or any vocal-heavy content, but not for movies or music, where it feels a bit too flat. It would be a good idea to connect a soundbar or 2.1 channel speakers if you are looking for a much better audio experience. You do get HDMI ARC, SPDIF and Bluetooth options here. Make sure the speakers/soundbar are compatible with either of them.

Akai 43-inch Fire TV Edition Smart TV – Overall performance: 7.5/10

The Akai Smart TV takes over 50 seconds to boot up and get to the home screen when you switch it on from the mains, which makes it a slow starter by today’s standards. But post that, if you switch it off and on from the remote control, the TV comes back on in a couple of seconds from standby mode. It’s always good to see the quick resume feature on budget TVs.

Video file format support through USB is a bit of an issue on the default player. It doesn’t support all popular codecs and could not play some of our test videos, but the good part is you do get VLC Player for Fire OS in the app store. That managed to play almost every file with various codecs I threw at it smoothly, except 4K videos. I noticed that issue on the Onida Fire TV Edition unit, too. It is not a deal-breaker given it’s a 1080p TV, but it would have been nice to have that option. Other than that, there were no real issues with this TV.

Akai 43-inch Fire TV Edition Smart TV – Price and verdict

The Akai 43-inch Fire TV Edition Smart TV is available on Amazon India for Rs 23,999 with a one-year warranty. For that price, you get a 43-inch Full HD smart TV with good picture quality, scope for lots of picture adjustments, a neat UI and the Fire OS platform, which remains one of the best for media consumption. Audio quality is not that great, and you may want to spend extra for better sound.

Everything else is pretty much on the money for a budget smart TV, and this Akai TV is a good option to consider in the under-Rs 25,000 bracket. Fire OS remains a great alternative to certified Android TVs. Speaking of alternatives, there are quite a few, given the crowded nature of this segment. You have one from Onida based on the same platform that sells for a similar price. Its picture quality is marginally better courtesy of an IPS panel. On the Android TV side, there are several options from the likes of Realme, Xiaomi, Vu, Hisense and TCL that can give it tough competition.

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