Ameya DalviDec 10, 2021 09:53:33 IST
Last year, we saw popular phone manufacturer Nokia get into the smart TV segment in India and now it’s time for Acer-branded smart TVs. The Taiwanese IT brand recently launched a handful of TV models under a brand licensing agreement with Indkal Technologies. We got a 50-inch unit from the Boundless series for review that runs official Android TV 9, and with a promise of an Android TV 11 update that is yet to be fulfilled. Time to figure out if it measures up to the competition.
Acer Boundless AR50AP2851UDFL Smart TV – Design and connectivity: 7/10
This Acer TV has extremely thin bezels on three sides, and a thick-ish bottom bezel with a small chin that hosts an IR receiver and a power LED. Despite the near bezel-less design, the TV doesn’t look that appealing and feels a tad plasticky. All the connectivity ports are side facing and placed closer to the centre of the TV rather than near the edge, making them hard to reach if you wall-mount it. Speaking of wall-mounting the TV, the bracket isn’t present in the package. However, the bundled plastic stands hold the TV firmly in place if you place it on a desk.
There is a good spread of connectivity ports here. You get three HDMI ports (one of which supports ARC), two USB 2.0 ports, optical audio out, 3.5 mm headphone jack, A/V input and a LAN port. Wireless connectivity options include Bluetooth 5.0 and Wi-Fi with support for 2.4 GHz networks only. This TV does not support 5 GHz Wi-Fi networks; something I cannot let slide at the end of 2021.
Like most Android TVs, you get a voice-enabled remote control and a pair of AAA batteries to power it. The remote is reasonably light and compact, and the build quality is passable. It has just the right number of keys that you need these days. The placement of keys could have been smarter though. Case in point, the Home button is placed towards the top of the remote while the Back button is near the centre; ideally, they should be close to each other. A couple of keys on the remote don’t do anything at the moment, and are expected to be functional only after the TV receives the Android TV 11 update.
Acer Boundless AR50AP2851UDFL Smart TV – Features and specifications: 7/10
The Acer Boundless TV has a 50-inch VA panel with an Ultra HD (4K) resolution of 3840 x 2160 pixels and a 60 Hz refresh rate. The panel has a rated brightness of 420 nits, and HDR support is limited to HDR10/10+ and HLG. It does not support Dolby Vision. The TV does claim to support a wide colour gamut and display over a billion shades. Sound output is rated at 24 Watts RMS with support for Dolby Audio and Pure Sound 2.0.
At its heart is a Mediatek chip with four Cortex-A55 cores and a Mali-470MP GPU. You get 2 GB RAM and 16 GB internal storage, a sizable chunk of which is taken up by the Android TV 9 OS and certain preinstalled apps. You are left with a little over 8 GB of space for more apps and data. Like all certified Android TVs, it has Chromecast built-in and lets you cast content from compatible apps on your phone or tablet.
The bundled remote control doesn’t miss out on any important keys. It operates over IR and Bluetooth both. The power button on the remote communicates with the TV using IR when switching it on or off, while the rest of the functions operate over Bluetooth once you pair the remote with the TV. It is voice enabled, and you can bring up the Google Assistant by pressing the corresponding key to issue voice commands. The remote has hotkeys for Prime Video, Netflix and YouTube, along with Home and Back keys, input selection, volume control, mute button, settings, D-pad and a couple more.
Acer Boundless AR50AP2851UDFL Smart TV – OS and User interface: 6/10
This is the part that’s generally smooth sailing with Android TVs, but not here. While most TVs released this quarter launched with Android TV 10, if not 11, this TV runs the older Android TV 9 OS. At the time of launch, we were told that it would be receiving an Android TV 11 update in November 2021, but that hasn’t happened a week into December either. While Android TV 9 is still perfectly usable, they seem to have messed it up here somehow.
I happened to mention Nokia TV in the intro, and it seems like the software for this Acer TV has been handled by the same company who did it for Nokia. Not only is the interface the same, but some of the bugs I had spotted on that TV a year ago, can also be found on this one now, and a few more. On the surface, this Acer TV has a stock user interface but some of the menus have been modified, but not too hard to get a hang of.
The UI stutters a bit and apps take a lot longer to load. This is not a hardware issue as the TV has ample RAM and a more than decent processor, but more about poor software optimisation. The preinstalled Netflix app takes half a minute to load, and the Prime Video app on this TV is probably the first-generation app from a year or two ago. To make matters worse, you cannot even update it from the Play Store. You also have to put up with apps crashing and the TV randomly restarting at times. Acer better step on the gas for the Android TV 11 update; this TV needs it badly.
But not everything is doom and gloom here. You do get sound and picture adjustments on the fly while viewing content from any source or app. The modified sound and picture menus are the same as on Nokia TV. More importantly, they are accessible everywhere except on the Android home page. You can bring them up by pressing the Settings button on the remote and make the necessary adjustments. However, you cannot view the video while you make the changes to the picture, as the settings occupy the entire screen.
Acer Boundless AR50AP2851UDFL Smart TV – Picture quality: 7/10
The overall picture quality of this TV is quite decent for its asking price, but after a few tweaks. The default colours look a little dull, but things can easily be fixed by pushing the saturation level up a bit. Post that, colours look lively and close to natural. The picture looks a touch soft, and while increasing the sharpness and setting noise reduction to low helped a bit, it still wasn’t sharp enough. I have seen budget TVs in this price range do better than that in terms of detail.
The panel on this Acer Boundless TV is bright and the contrast is pretty good once you switch off automatic contrast settings from the picture menu. Details in dark areas in high contrast scenes in our test videos were generally visible, and even better, there wasn’t much flickering either. Among the three options available here, Normal colour temperature works best, though the perfect colour temperature on this TV would have been somewhere between Normal and Warm.
You do not get too many advanced options to tweak the picture, but you do have the standard lot like brightness, contrast, saturation, sharpness, white balance and some more. You also have picture pre-sets if you do not want to get your hands dirty with manual adjustments, and ‘Standard’ and ‘Movie’ pre-sets provide good results. You get the same pre-sets in HDR content too, nor does the TV display a popup or logo when you play HDR content.
4K HDR videos look quite good on this TV with good colours and contrast. Dolby Vision content on Netflix plays in HDR10 mode here, and the quality is acceptable. 4K SDR content looks as sharp and with a similar level of detail. The TV does a more than decent job of upscaling 1080p videos, especially the colour reproduction. 720p videos are also watchable, but noticeably soft. Anything with lower resolution looks washed out like in case of most 4K TVs. The viewing angles are manageable, but one can notice some colour shift from sharp angles.
Acer Boundless AR50AP2851UDFL Smart TV – Audio quality: 6.5/10
There were several similarities between the Acer and Nokia TVs in the software and picture department, but the sound quality here is not even close to what the Onkyo setup delivers on the Nokia. A pair of bottom firing speakers rated at 24 Watts RMS provide average sound output. Yes, the output is loud enough, but better suited for watching news, sports or vocal heavy content, and not so great for action movies, web series or music. The speakers have good voice clarity but very little bass, and the overall sound output lacks a punch.
You do get a five-band equaliser and sound pre-sets to tweak the audio further. There’s an interesting UI element here. The TV supports Pure Sound 2.0 and you get a slightly modified volume bar along with the sound pre-sets, which is pretty neat. But there were times when the TV displayed the standard Android volume slider without the pre-sets. Not a sound job with the software, is it? You do get a nice spread of audio outputs from digital to analogue to wireless to connect a soundbar or a speaker system for a better audio experience.
Acer Boundless AR50AP2851UDFL Smart TV – Overall performance: 6/10
The TV takes a good 50 seconds to boot when you switch on the power from the mains, which is quite slow even for Android TVs. Post that, it comes back on in a couple of seconds from standby mode; that’s good. The default media player is decent and managed to play all our test videos with different codecs including 4K videos via USB. But this is never an issue with Android TVs as you can always install VLC player and get the job done.
Voice commands generally work well here, but you can notice a slight delay in response. All in all, this is a decent TV in terms of hardware, but the erratic and unoptimised software cannot get the best out of it yet. Hopefully, things will be better after the Android TV 11 update. I did give it a full month to show up, but eventually have to judge it on the basis of what is and not what can be, if at all.
Acer Boundless AR50AP2851UDFL Smart TV – Price and verdict
The Acer Boundless AR50AP2851UDFL smart TV is priced at Rs. 34,999 with a one-year warranty, and is available on several popular e-commerce platforms in India. At times it can even be spotted for as low as Rs 29,999. The pricing is at par with other budget 50-inch smart TVs, and you get decent picture quality, along with a wide array of connectivity ports. Of course, you do not get the newer HDMI 2.1 ports or even 5 GHz Wi-Fi that some TVs in this price bracket offer, especially the latter. But it is the software that drags it down and stops it from earning our recommendation at the moment.
Let’s see if things get better after the Android TV 11 update, if it actually shows up sooner than later, and if we have the TV around when it happens. Till then there are ample good options to choose from around the 35K mark. Couple that I can recommend straight away are the Redmi X50 and Hisense 50A71F. The former has slightly better picture and sound quality, HDMI 2.1 ports, Dolby Vision support and much better software with Android TV 10. The latter boasts of Dolby Vision and Dolby Atmos support, noticeably better picture and sound quality, and though it runs Android TV 9 platform, the software is far better optimised and polished.
Overall Rating: 3.3/5
Price: Rs 34,999