Your average upper middle-class kid toting a branded mobile phone invariably tends to scoff at Indian brands offering the same experience and features as his expensive smartphone at dirt cheap prices—with a little help from our Chinese neighbours, of course. As a gadget reviewer trained to appreciate quality of workmanship/materials and fine engineering, I should be inclined to concur. However, I beg to differ in this case. In a nation where wealth is greatly concentrated in the metros, these affordable mobile and tablet manufacturers reach out to a much wider demographic beyond these few cities and provide access to an experience that would otherwise be out of their reach.
If you draw parallels with the pharmaceutical industry, this is akin to Indian manufacturers' reverse engineering, say, a $70,000-a-year cancer drug and making it affordable enough for developing countries. While the idea of cheaper smartphones and tablets may not be as profound, it's good to know that these Indian brands truly enable modern technology to be the great social leveller it's touted to be. Micromax is one such brand empowering the working class and broke college kids across India to consume technology in the same way as the more fortunate ones do.
The understated angular design looks inoffensive
One can only assume this has been a profitable business model for the manufacturer, especially considering its rapid expansion. After successfully taking on the behemoths in the mobile and tablet world, the company has now set its sights on the consumer entertainment market with a brand new range of LCD television sets. Within a product portfolio starting from Rs 15,990 for a 24" LED TV to Rs 1,29,990 for a 55" 3D LED (edge lit) Smart TV, we have chosen the middle-of-the-rung 42" LED42K316 model for review.
Surprisingly, its Rs 47,990 sticker price puts it in direct competition with alternatives from big TV players such as Samsung, Sony, LG, and Panasonic, which cost just a couple of thousand more. The television's premium price tag drastically changes the equation and the consumer's expectation from it. Unlike its smartphone cousins that could get away with poor engineering, the Micromax TV must match the performance and quality levels of the existing LCD players to prove its worth.
Design and build quality
While the 42" Micromax LED42K316 LED TV may not charm your pants off with its looks, the TV's sharp silhouette harbours an inoffensive shape devoid of any rounded edges or elaborate accents. Unfortunately, any pretence of understated subtlety is dashed by the visibly and palpably cheap plastics. The matte finish of the rear half and the glossy piano black plastics on the front fascia look cheaper than what you'd expect from a display costing almost half a lakh. However, I must admit that the transparent plastic extension to bezel at the bottom gives it a fair bit of character.
All I/O ports are perpendicular to the rear panel for wall-mount friendliness
The large rectangular stand stays true to the general geometric theme and bears a pivot mount that can handle the panel's 18kg heft with ease. A wee bit of wobble is evident, but that's usually par for the course at this price range. The TV seems much thicker than average thanks to a pair of large speakers that jut out at the rear. It supports the ubiquitous VESA mounting standard, and all I/O ports are thoughtfully oriented downwards and to the sides. This should keep the cables clear for hassle-free wall mounting.
The important Power, Source, Menu, Volume, and Channel buttons are tucked away neatly out of sight behind the panel on the right-hand side. Unfortunately, this will prove problematic if you opt for a wall mount configuration. Speaking of improper button placement, the master power switch is hidden a tad too well for comfort. The annoyingly inconspicuous little toggle switch is set in the bottom edge, which will leave most users dumbfounded. On the bright side though, the panel is neither overly glossy, nor annoyingly matte—it strikes a good balance between an anti-glare roughness and glare-inducing smoothness.
The remote control looks and feels cheap and generally seems like an afterthought, with no real sense of purpose or logic behind its button placement and overall ergonomics. A cluttered design, lack of illumination, and a confusing array of uniformly shaped buttons makes the remote control quite challenging to operate in the dark.
Three HDMI ports and a two USB inputs should be enough for most users
Features and UI
Despite a premium pricing, it's a pity that Micromax doesn't deem it fit to include a VESA mount. Fortunately, the LED42K316 makes up for that in the connectivity department with inputs for three HDMI, two USB, one component, one composite, one VGA (D-Sub), one 75ohm RF, and one 3.5mm audio jack. It also packs in digital coaxial (S/PDIF) audio and composite video outputs. The only interconnect missing here is DVI. Then again it's not usually obligatory, so no points deducted for that.
The UI is simple and easy to use, but looks decidedly downmarket and pales in terms of presentation when compared to its contemporaries. While Micromax offers the standard brightness, contrast, colour, sharpness, and colour temperature controls, none of that is enough to fix the panel's colour inaccuracy. An advanced picture menu with separate RGB adjustment would have been a godsend in this case. It does, however, pack in a noise-reducing comb filter that's best left switched off—that is, unless you're still on the archaic 75ohm cable connection.
The manual controls at the rear will be difficult to use when the TV is wall mounted
I particularly appreciate its backlight adjustment option, which lets the display retain correct gamma values without having to endure a bright backlight under darker viewing conditions. Even if you are too lazy to adjust it yourself, this TV can automatically set the backlight intensity based on ambient lighting conditions with the DCR function. I personally didn't like the accuracy of the adaptive backlight control system and preferred to keep it switched off instead.
The audio section is well appointed with an inclusion of the AVC feature, which compresses the dynamic audio range for night-time viewing. This way you can listen to dialogues clearly, without waking up your family when the explosions cue in. Since most movie rips feature 5.1 channel audio, the TV provides a coaxial (S/PDIF) output, along with a convenient option in the sound menu to feed an external amplifier/receiver with either a bitstream or linear PCM audio feed. The addition of a 5-band graphic equaliser and SRS audio enhancements is a great idea that lets you fix the built-in speakers' limitations to a great extent.