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Smart TV market in India is going through some exciting times. The product category registered a robust growth in 2017 and is projected to grow at a CAGR of 9.4% by 2024. As per a report by 6Wresearch, the growth is catapult by a number of driving factors. These include a sharp drop in the prices of smart TVs, new emerging smart TV vendors, substantial investment flows by video streaming media companies like Netflix, Amazon Prime and Hotstar and undeniably the increasing internet penetration in the country.
We have personally recorded a growth in smart TV-related queries over the last one year, where our readers constantly inquire about the best possible alternatives in multiple price segments. The audience wants to consume quality content in HD, Full HD and 4K HDR format on the large-screen format in their living room. While the high-end smart TV segment is mostly dominated by the likes of LG, Sony, and Samsung, a number of players are active in the budget price-point that promises to deliver quality entertainment to masses. These TV makers include- Intex, Xiaomi, Panasonic, Kodak, TCL, Micromax, etc.
CloudWalker, a Mumbai based startup has also joined the list of Smart TV makers to offer big-screen entertainment in the budget price-point. The start-up company first showcased its product line-up in March 2017 during a media meet-up in New Delhi. Termed as the smartest smart TVs, the company's Cloud TV range comprises of curved and flat models with 4K UHD, Full HD and HD resolution variants in screen sizes varying from 24-inches to 65-inches with a starting price of Rs. 11,987 that goes up to Rs. 1,35,988 for the top variant.
The company recently shared a 50-inch Full HD smart TV with us that can play 4K Content on Full HD panel. The CloudWalker smart TV runs on Android 7.0 Nougat and comes with its own 'Content Discovery Engine' to enhance your TV viewing experience. We used the TV for over two weeks and here's what we found out.
Design: Nothing fancy but a clean and minimal look
CloudWalker 50-inch smart TV comes with a very basic and straightforward design. The black colored surrounding bezels around the Full HD panel seamlessly blend with the display to give a wider screen view. The frame width is also kept in check. It's not the slimmest TV; however, it's also not ugly and will not spoil your living room's appearance in any which way. The TV has a good overall build quality and does not come out as a cheap alternative to high-end TVs. You can mount the 50-inch TV on a wall or just keep it on a table with the help of bundles TV stand in the box.
Display: Full HD (1080p) display that can play 4K content
While CloudWalker has a number of 4K UHD TV models in its product line-up, the 50-inch variant we are discussing sports a Full HD (1080p) screen. CloudWalker claims that the 50-inch Cloud TV X2 is India's first 4K Ready Full HD Smart TV. What company means by this is that the TV allows users to play 4K content on Full HD Smart panel. Technically, the TV cannot stream native 4K content and the resolution maxes out at 1080p on YouTube. To stream 4K content on this Full HD screen, you would need to first transfer the 4K content to a USB file. You can also use the HDMI cable to watch the 4K content. Talking about the video quality, the content on the 50-inch XLuminous display looks sharp and crisp. The TV offers you four different modes-Standard, Movie, Vivid and Energy saving. I recommend you keep it on Vivid as it offers the most vibrant colors and keeps the contrast ratio in check. Blacks also look deeper in Vivid mode.
And while the videos played in Full HD looked good, the 4K video viewing experience was not delightful. First, the TV does not support native 4K video playback. It can stream 4K files via USB drives, network storage or compatible apps. I downloaded and played some 4K videos but the TV was not able to process it smoothly. The TV is backed by Quad-core ARM cortex processor and Mali-450 GPU which seemed inefficient during such strenuous processing tasks. The TV couldn't play some MP4 files. It managed to play one file and the output was good and worth the efforts. The 4K video, which I believe is played by content upscaling looked really vibrant and full of life.
To stream 4K content via apps on this TV, you will have to wait for the time the developers make 4K streaming available to Full HD screens. So, overall, if your aim to buy an affordable smart TV that can give an effortless 4K video streaming experience, this particular model from CloudWalker does not seem like the best option. The company has some TV models from last year that offers native 4K resolution displays at somewhat similar price-point. You can definitely check them out on the company's official website.
User Interface: Minimal and less cluttered than the competition
Most of the smart TVs (especially in affordable price-point) out there are marred by half-baked and inconsistent softwares. The UIs are cluttered, tough to use and the content base is very restricted. Resultant, the end-user experience on such smart TVs is far from being smart and the overall output is largely a waste of time. The Mumbai-based startup company CloudWalker wants to change this notion with its smart Cloud TVs. The company has developed its own user interface powered by CDE (Content Discovery Engine), which curates digital content available on the internet on free, premium or freemium basis. The user interface also helps discover apps that can be viewed on big screen. The company's content discovery engine offers a dual experience of watching live TV, and streaming digital content on the screen (side-by-side) without having to switch between the ports.
The CDE's main-screen offers apps and content stacked in card formats. The entire menu is divided into different categories; Live TV content sourced from your dish network, trending videos, Hindi movies, internet shows, documentaries, apps, etc. The UI is easy-to-navigate and is largely free of clutter. What seems missing here is the UI's ability to offer content based on my choices of media. The UI is in its early stage and cannot give you a personalized media experience. You will find yourself shuffling the content library a lot to discover the right content to watch. Secondly, the navigation is easy but lacks smoothness. The UI is rigid and it feels sluggish. In short, the UI is not very responsive and needs refinements. But I can say that CloudWalker is going in a right direction with its Content Discovery Engine. I want the startup to make its UI fluid and smarter, may be add some AI algorithms so that it can better understand viewer's requirement and give personalized content experience. After all, that's what smart TV is all about.
Nevertheless, you can watch your favourite shows on Netflix, Hotstar, Movie Box app, etc. Amazon Prime Video is not yet supported on this TV, which is a big let-down. The company informed us that the team is working to make the app stable on the CloudWalket TVs. Besides, I installed MX Player and VLC player from company's built-in app store- Aptiode. Sadly, MX player couldn't run but VLC player ran without any issues. The TV also comes with CShare, an app to wirelessly stream content from smart devices. The wireless streaming worked fine for most of the part; however, the process needs some refinements to work smoothly.
Audio: Average sound delivery
I am not quite impressed with the sound abilities of this Smart TV. The audio can go loud; however the sound delivery is not very clear and is marred by distortion at high volume levels. The 20W front-firing speakers have the ability to generate ample audio but the output feels muffled while consuming media content. It's good for vocals but bass heavy music videos and action movies will suffer big time. Thankfully, the TV comes with in-built Bluetooth for wireless audio connect, so you can connect it to an external soundbar for better audio output.
CloudWalker TVs are feature-rich and offer crisp video playback. The particular model we have reviewed- the Cloud TV 50SFX2 is touted as India's first 4K ready Full HD Smart TV but the 4K video abilities are doubtful and mostly inconsistent. The TV did an amazing job in playing 1080p videos via USB, apps, and other streaming channels. The UI is undeniably the highlight of CloudWalker TVs and solves some major issues. The interface is intuitive and offers a good range of content to consume on a big screen. It is still far from being perfect and needs a lot of refinements; however, it is a step in the right is direction and can be the best UI in the coming days in the affordable Smart TV segment, provided that the startup manages to solve the current issues. The audio also needs some improvements. Overall, at a price point of Rs. 34,000, the CloudWalker 50SFX2 is a value for money deal for consumers who want an affordable Smart TV experience in their living-rooms.