TCL X4 review: why it’s the ideal TV if you aspire to live like the other half

TCL X4 review: why it’s the ideal TV if you aspire to live like the other half

We spend a lot of time here in the Digital Life Laboratories, wondering how the other half live.

The half that can actually afford to buy the stuff we review, that is.

Take the OLED LG TV we reviewed a couple of weeks ago, for instance. Or the Samsung QLED TV from a few weeks before that. Those TVs weren’t for people in our half of the population. They were for people in the other half, hopefully your half of the population.

So this week we thought we would review a TV that is more in keeping with our own status in the socio-economic hierarchy, a relatively low-cost but nevertheless fairly full-featured TV from the Chinese manufacturer TCL, known as the X4.

For people in our half, we thought the X4 might turn out to be a good way to enjoy some of the recent advances in TV technology, without all the costs normally associated with them.

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Advances such as Utra-High-Definition quantum-enhanced “QLED” panel technology – technology that’s in the same vein (though, as you will see, not in the same ballpark) as the aforementioned Samsung QLED TVs, which can cost three times as much as the TCL.

Advances such as very thin bezels, which gives you maximum viewing pleasure for minimum surface area on your wall or table.

And advances such as Google’s Android TV operating system, which levels the playing field between the haves and the have-nots by providing even cheap TVs with a large suite of excellent apps that easily outnumbers and outperforms the apps available on Samsung and LG TVs, even if the Android TV operating system itself isn’t nearly as nice to use as LG’s webOS and Samsung’s Tizen.

And for you people in the other half? Well the TCL X4 still might be a nice option for the maid’s quarters.

TCL's X4 QLED TV features an (almost) edge-to-edge UHD display enhanced with quantum technology.
TCL’s X4 QLED TV features an (almost) edge-to-edge UHD display enhanced with quantum technology.

Though I’ll point out from the outset, the X4 is not priced like the TCLs you might be used to. It’s not a $600 TV, not by a long shot. No, we’re talking an RRP of $2199 for the 55″ X4 model, and $3299 for the 65″ model. So maybe I should qualify this review by saying it’s for people in the top half of our half of the world.

And for you people in the actual top half? Well I guess you must like your maid an awful lot to be putting a $2199 TV on her wall.

Made for the maid

Though, just an aside, you could save yourself some space by doing that. As I said, the X4 has a UHD display, four times the resolution of a regular HD display. One of the many advantages of that higher resolution is you can watch it from much closer, meaning you could shrink the maid’s quarters, perhaps by using part of it for that 10th bathroom you’ve always wanted.

The X4 has edge lighting, which allows it to be very slim at the top, but means the blacks aren't all that black.
The X4 has edge lighting, which allows it to be very slim at the top, but means the blacks aren’t all that black.

I’ll also point out early on that the TCL X4 is not as good as the Samsung and LG TVs mentioned above.

TCL advertises that the X4 has a QLED display, meaning it uses some sort of quantum effect (they didn’t really go into details) to increase the colour saturation of images on the screen, and to improve the viewing angles of the LCD panel.

While the viewing angles on the X4 are significantly better than they were on the last TCL we reviewed a couple of years back, they’re still not quite what we were hoping for.

Colours remain true as you move away directly in front of the TV (as opposed to non-QLED LCD displays, where colour tends to distort or wash out quite quickly when you move off axis), but blacks still wash out on the X4 even when you’re just a little bit off axis: something we complained about with the TCL C1, too.

Viewed from above, the whole profile is very neat.
Viewed from above, the whole profile is very neat.

And while the colours aren’t bad on the X4, they’re nowhere near as deep and luscious as the colours that both Samsung and LG are getting out of their latest generation quantum-enhanced LCD displays, which are now almost as good as LG’s OLED displays when it comes to colour.

The difference between the X4’s quantum colours and the competition’s quantum colours is so stark, it had us wondering whether TCL might not be using some older version of the technology, more like Samsung, LG and others were using two or three years ago.

And speaking of older versions, we also have a number of concerns with the image processor on the X4, which is from 2015 and doesn’t always appear to be up to the rigors of processing a modern video image.

Our biggest concern is with image tearing and blocking.

In high-action sequences videos from a number of different sources including 4K Netflix, HD Netflix, HD Stan and locally stored 4K, HD and SD files, we frequently saw the picture break apart slightly in the areas of most movement, suggesting the processor wasn’t quite keeping up with the data throughput.

A matter of perception

It’s not the sort of thing everyone sees – we showed the same action sequences to some friends, trying to get them to see the problem, but they couldn’t see it – and, strangely, it wasn’t even something we could see all the time.

Watching the exact same action sequences from the exact same sources using the exact same settings, the tearing and the blocking artefacts were no longer present a couple of days later when we went looking for them again, and then a couple of hours later, when we had stopped actively looking, they mysteriously reappeared.

It might be a memory-related resource problem, where the image processor runs out of resources under certain circumstances that you may never encounter, but we think it’s worth mentioning because when the issue was present we found it distracting.

Indeed, there are a number of things about modern TVs that bug the hell out of some people and don’t bother others.

One of them is the so-called “soap-opera effect”, where too high a frame rate, often coupled with other settings such as motion control, blur control and judder control, can make a scripted drama feel more like a reality TV show, or (depending on the viewer) more like a documentary about the making of the show rather than the show itself.

If you’re in the section of the population that suffers from this effect, you’ll know what I’m talking about. It can be quite unsettling.

Now, fancy TVs that people in the other half buy have a loads of settings you can play with, to figure out a combination of settings that doesn’t trigger the soap-opera effect. But, as far as we were able to tell, the TCL X4 has only one motion-related setting you can play with, the “judder reduction” setting, which may not be enough for all sufferers of the affliction.

(I noticed the soap-opera effect quite markedly, and the best I could do to eliminate it on the TCL X4 was to set judder reduction to 0. I’d say it was 80 per cent of what I needed. If there were more settings I would have fiddled with them, too.)

No minor matter

These aren’t minor quibbles. They could be enough to affect your enjoyment of this TV, which otherwise does have quite a lot going for it. The range of apps you can get on its Android TV operating system is, as I said, second to none, and for those of you who care more about the content and less about the technicalities, the X4 could be a good choice.

Its Harman Kardon speakers sound very good, though TV speakers aren’t something we tend to pay a lot of attention to, given the way you’re meant to attach a surround-sound system to TVs like this.

Though of course, if you are getting the X4 so you can squeeze your walk-in sneaker closet into the maid’s quarters, then I guess the Harman Kardon speaker will matter a great deal. She won’t have room for a surround sound system, what with the TV, the bed and all the mops.

Unless I have it all wrong about how the other half lives. One day I’d like to find out for real.

TCL X4 TELEVISION

  • Likes Android TV is flexible and has plenty of excellent apps. Good sound
  • Dislikes Image processor appears underpowered
  • Price $2199 and $3299 for 55″ and 65″ models respectively

Big Review TV placed into voluntary administration

Big Review TV placed into voluntary administration

Big Review TV, the subsidiary of ASX listed online video company Big Un Ltd, has been placed into voluntary administration just days after its financier FC Capital offloaded its exposure to an insolvency expert. 

In a statement to the ASX, the company said the move was to allow the restructure of the business and to preserve value for shareholders in “Big Un Limited”. 

It follows reports in The Australian Financial Review, that FC Capital had offloaded its debt while staff were chasing outstanding wages and commission payments.  

Big Review TV said it had received notice that FC Capital,  which had provided funding to the company via a controversial sponsorship arrangement, had assigned its claims in the company to AS Capital Venture, an entity set up two weeks ago that is controlled by insolvency expert Adam Shepard of Farnsworth Shepard. 

“FC Capital has advised the Board of BIG that it has agreed to assist AS Capital in its efforts to work with the Board of BIG to help the group to restructure and preserve value for shareholders of BIG.”

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The board of Big are negotiating with AS Capital to release all it from all claims, with the aim of allowing the company to continue as an ongoing Australian concern.  AS Capital will continue to fund Big Review TV during the administration, the statement said. 

Big Un Limited will operate the BHA Media Pty Ltd and Food and Beverage Media Pty Ltd businesses, “which will continue to be run by existing management, from existing premises”. 

Meanwhile, staff at Big Review TV were told this morning, for the second consecutive day, to take leave without pay as the board sought the resolve the situation. 

More to come 

Huawei P20 Pro review: look out Apple and Samsung, is this the best phone of 2018?

Huawei P20 Pro review: look out Apple and Samsung, is this the best phone of 2018?

It’s surely no exaggeration to say that the P20 Pro is the most interesting new phone to come to market in six months.

Hell, it qualifies for the title of Most Interesting Phone of 2018 (So Far) even if you:

a) Ignore the controversy swirling around its manufacturer, the world’s third-biggest phone maker, Huawei, which has been accused by US government spy agencies of … well, it’s actually unclear what Huawei is supposed to have done to its latest phones, though it’s worth noting that the accusations, whatever they are, coincide with heated trade negotiations between the US and Huawei’s home country, China;

b) Ignore its price, at least a few hundred dollars cheaper than the Apple iPhone X, Samsung Galaxy S9+ and Samsung Galaxy Note8, the phones this 6.1-inch Android phone most closely rivals, and;

The AI-powered triple Leica camera on the back is no mere gimmick.
The AI-powered triple Leica camera on the back is no mere gimmick.

c) Ignore the fact that Samsung is having an Apple-like “off-year” with its Galaxy S9 and S9+. Even if the S9+ wasn’t just an incremental improvement on the S8+, the P20 Pro would still be more interesting. It is, as you will see, one hell of a phone, and serious competition for the incumbents.

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Of course, it’s difficult to ignore all of those things, especially (a), and I must say that when we were setting up our P20 Pro for this review, it was impossible to not to wonder whether Huawei wasn’t somehow watching us, perhaps through its cloud service …

But then we were reminded that, even if Huawei were watching, it would never be any worse than Facebook, which isn’t just the subject of vague, unspecified security concerns but actually is guilty of numerous, monumental breaches of user privacy, and which people willingly use in spite of that fact.

So, to hell with it. Have at it, China!

What you most definitely can’t ignore about the Huawei P20 Pro, though, are its strengths, which cover off most if not all of the areas that people most care about it a mobile phone: battery life, camera, looks, screen and price.

The P20 Pro lasts at least two working days between charges.
The P20 Pro lasts at least two working days between charges.

Marlene Awaad

I’ll start with the battery life, which could be reason enough to buy this phone.

In our testing, which we would characterise as moderate to heavy usage, the P20 Pro lasts at least two working days between charges. By that I mean, you could take it off the charger on Monday morning, and not put it back on the charger till Tuesday night, and there’s every chance the phone still wouldn’t have dropped into its low-power mode.

The longest we got on a single charge was 49 hours – off the charger on a Monday morning, back on the charger on the Wednesday morning – but I admit we were sort of willing that across the line, lowering our usage late on the Tuesday night just so we could be sure it made it till the next morning.

That shouldn’t be amazing. All mobile phones should be like this, for those inevitable circumstances where, by accident or design, you wind up skipping a night on the charger.

Keep on running

But, sadly, most phones aren’t like this. In spite of being no bigger than its closest rival, the Galaxy S9+, the P20 Pro has a battery that lasts and lasts, and we hope it sets the benchmark for other makers to follow.

The battery also charges extremely quickly, going from 0 per cent (not that you’re likely to hit 0 per cent) to 100 per cent in under 90 minutes.

The only downside is, there’s no wireless charging. But when we consider how many times we’ve put a phone on a wireless charger only to come back to find it got bumped a centimetre or two and didn’t charge at all, when we consider how slow wireless charging is when it does work, we can’t say we really miss it.

Arguably you’re better off without wireless charging, at least until it’s not so slow and so position-sensitive.

And, anyway, what do you expect from a phone that’s only $1099, and yet looks and acts like a $1400 + phone, better than a $1400 + phone in some respects? If something had to give to keep the price down, wireless charging is absolutely the right choice.

Speaking of good design choices, we also love that Huawei kept a fingerprint scanner on the front of the phone, allowing you to unlock it without picking it up from your desk. The phone does have face unlocking, which actually works very well and very quickly even in low light, even with glasses on or off, but with the fingerprint scanner on the front you don’t need it.

The face unlocking on the P20 Pro feels a little too good to be true, and we suspect it’s more about convenience and less about security than it perhaps should be.

(Then again … Facebook! Who cares about security!)

Top-notch camera

What’s not too good to be true is the camera. It’s just too good, fullstop.

As you may be aware, the P20 Pro has not one, not two but three Leica-branded cameras on the back: a 40-megapixel main camera; a 20-megapixel monochromatic camera that takes incredible black-and-white photos but more importantly helps the main camera with things like dynamic range; and (here’s the new bit, compared to the camera on Huawei’s Mate 10 Pro) an 8-megapixel telephoto camera with a three-times-longer focal length.

In a sense, those details don’t matter, and other than the big bump sticking out the back of the phone, you’re not really aware of there being three cameras when you use the P20 Pro.

What you’re aware of is this: it takes photos that, at worst, are on par with the best phone cameras on the market, and at best are simply the best of any phone camera, ever.

The P20 Pro is at its best in extremely low light, where it can be put into a mode in which it shoots what seems like a five-second exposure, which come out with detail and dynamic range you’ve never seen from a phone before.

And, in spite of the seemingly five-second exposure, the low-light photos are usually rock-solid, too, with no sign of camera blur even when you’re drunk and hand-holding the phone (as we may have been in one of our tests).

It’s not actually shooting one long exposure, you see, but rather a series of short exposures at different light levels, that Huawei combines into one photo using what is clearly some extremely sophisticated image processing.

Lots to love

It’s incredibly impressive, and leaves even the top-tier brands for dead.

(We’ve read that Huawei has hired camera engineers who worked at Nokia, back when Nokia was leading the world with bleeding-edge camera technology, which could help explain how it got so good at making phone cameras. That, and its close tie-in with Leica.)

Between the camera, the battery life, the looks, the screen and the price, there is little not to love about this phone. We even love the notch in the display, though for those of you who don’t love it, it can be turned off.

The only question is whether it spies on you.

Imagining the US accusations are true and aren’t simply part of the simmering trade dispute, the most likely vector for spying would have to be the Huawei cloud service, which does things like backing up your photos to Huawei servers, and which, like the notch, can simply be turned off.

Given Google backs up your photos, there’s not a lot of reason to have the Huawei service turned on, anyway.

I guess if you’re really worried about it, you could always just play it safe and buy a Google phone instead. Because that’s a company you can trust will never stick its nose into your business, isn’t it?

Big Review TV financier offloads exposure to insolvency expert, staff chase pay

Big Review TV financier offloads exposure to insolvency expert, staff chase pay

The key financier to suspended company Big Un Limited has offloaded its exposure to the controversial online video company in a deal with an insolvency expert as staff in the United States were informed operations would cease.

Sydney based FC Capital’s Brad Prout said a two week old entity AS Capital Ventures had acquired the “interest in the sponsored contracts and shares” in Big Un, although the terms remained confidential.

Big Un Limited is the ASX listed parent of Big Review TV. Its shares have been suspended for over three months as the exchange and the corporate regulators investigate the company after The Australian Financial Review revealed that the finance company had a claim over all of the company’s assets.  

AS Capital Ventures was created on May 7 and is 100 per cent owned by FS Ventures, according to regulatory filings. FS Ventures was created on March 21.

The sole shareholder of that entity is Adam Shepard, a principal of Sydney based insolvency practice Farnsworth Shepard. Mr Shepard confirmed he had acquired the debt but declined to comment further. 

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The sale comes as anxious shareholders in Big Un Limited await further information about their holdings in the troubled company.

At the same time staff members in Australia who came to work on Monday were told to pick up their belongings and return home. Some had not been paid for two weeks, according to one source.

In the United States staff told the Financial Review they had been informed via a conference call that operations would cease, and they were unlikely to be paid.

It is understood staff in the United Kingdom are also anxiously awaiting news about their future and whether they will be paid funds owed to them.

Big Un Limited was yet to respond to requests for comment.

Shares in Big Un Limited have not traded since February 16 when the company was forced to respond to a query from the Australian Securities Exchange relating to its relationship with FC Capital. Macquarie chairman Peter Warne is a small shareholder in FC Capital.

Big Un Limited has since missed the deadline to file its half year accounts, making it more difficult to raise additional capital. The Financial Review has also reported further details about Big Review TV’s controversial business model, and previous misdemeanours of its chief executive. 

Live export review calls for wide-reaching reforms to sheep shipments

Live export review calls for wide-reaching reforms to sheep shipments

Updated

May 17, 2018 09:43:36

A Federal Government-ordered review into live sheep exports has recommended a major reduction in animals on ships bound for the Middle East during the dangerous hot months in the middle of the year.

Key points:

  • Major recommendation from review is to increase space for sheep and reduce number of animals on ships during hot months
  • Independent regulator will also investigate ships with mortality rate of 1 per cent of sheep or more
  • Government also toughening penalties for companies that breach these rules

Federal Agriculture Minister David Littleproud initiated the review after footage emerged showing almost 2,500 sheep dying from heat stress during a trip to the Middle East last year.

Amid other reviews into live sheep exports, Mr Littleproud asked livestock veterinarian Michael McCarthy to review the standards for the sheep trade during the Middle Eastern summer.

Mr Littleproud said one of Dr McCarthy’s major recommendations, which will be adopted for this year’s summer trade, would be the “stocking density model”, which would increase space for sheep by up to 39 per cent.

“In a sweeping change, Dr McCarthy recommended a seismic shift from stocking density based on animal mortality to one based on animal welfare,” Mr Littleproud said.

“The greater mortality is heat stress. Dr McCarthy has created a new model which goes towards addressing this deducing the probability of sheep with heat stress and ventilation and airflow on boats.

“This model could have the potential merit of giving exporters incentive to improve ventilation and airflow to increase their carrying capacity.”

The new formula means sheep numbers will have to drop by almost 30 per cent in the hottest months.

The stocking density will vary depending on the month, meaning that as the heat increases, sheep numbers must decrease.

Those who profit from breaching rules face 10 years’ jail

Under another key recommendation, the number of sheep deaths that would trigger a review from the independent regulator would also change, from the current 2 per cent threshold to 1 per cent.

Mr Littleproud said the Government would introduce legislation to punish exporters who break export rules including those around stocking densities:

Companies would face fines of $4.2 million, three times the benefit gained or 10 per cent of the company’s annual turnover, and directors could face 10 years’ prison or a fine of $2.1 million.

Other individuals convicted under the same offence would face 10 years in jail and a $420,000 fine.

“I intend to hold them to account, and I don’t think we have held them to account properly as a government,” Mr Littleproud said.

“I want to make sure there is a legacy that no matter who comes in after me, that this cannot be broken down.”

Mandatory independent observers, automated watering

The report also recommended automated watering systems and that all ships planning to go to Kuwait should stop there first.

By the 2019 Middle Eastern summer, ships must have automated environment monitoring equipment fitted in the pens.

Independent observers will become mandatory on all live export ships of sheep and cattle, a change that the Agriculture Minister said would be phased in over the coming months.

“We will be able to get underneath the bonnet of it and by actually having observers on the boats, we will get better proof and truth about what is happening,” he said.

Mr Littleproud said the Government had accepted all 23 recommendations from the report, and would implement most of these changes by the next northern summer.

Topics:

sheep-production,

agricultural-policy,

federal-government,

government-and-politics,

agribusiness,

livestock-welfare,

animal-welfare,

livestock,

australia

First posted

May 17, 2018 09:04:59

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