As a relatively new brand to the UK, Chinese outfit Xiaomi appears to have figured out that it will help it establish itself as a household name (it’s pronounced shau-mee, lest you were wondering) if it brings to market something unusual, officially ‘endorsed’ by one of the most established brands in the western world, and eye-catchingly cheap. Ladies and gentlemen, say hello to the Xiaomi F2 Amazon Fire TV.
Having launched only a couple of months back at £399, the Xiaomi F2 is now available for a whole £100 less. Which is handy, actually, as it means this 43-inch TV is now down there scrapping it out with fancy OS-toting competitors such as Hisense and TCL’s Roku TVs.
Cutting its price to £299 potentially earns the F2 quite a bit more leeway on the picture quality front than it would have done at £399. Whether this is enough, though, remains to be seen.
The F2 is also available in 50- and 55-inch screen sizes, but only seemingly in the UK. There are apparently no equivalent models available in the US or Australia.
The Xiaomi F2 looks and feels mostly like what it is: a cheap television. The bodywork is extremely lightweight despite apparently being built around a metal frame, while its glossy black finish tries but fails to hide its innate plasticky-ness. The only thing its design has in its favour, really, is the way a plastic cover running over the screen and most of the screen frame creates the illusion that there’s barely any bezel at all.
Shipping with the F2 is a remote control that will look familiar to anyone who’s owned an Amazon Fire TV device before, from the Alexa mic button on the top to the glossy plastic navigation ‘ring’ below and smiling Fire TV logo at the bottom. There are more buttons than you’d get with most Amazon Fire TV remotes, though, thanks to the fact that the F2 also works as a regular television.
We’ve covered the big news already, but let’s sum it up again for the avoidance of doubt: the Xiaomi F2 is a 43-inch 4K LCD TV that costs just £299 despite running on the comprehensive, massively content-rich Amazon Fire TV smart platform.
The F2 adds HDR to its picture mix, in the basic HDR10 and HLG flavours, but there’s no support for HDR10+ or Dolby Vision. This is a pity, but hardly shocking at this price point.
It carries an impressive four HDMIs among its connections, though unfortunately these don’t support any cutting edge gaming features, be it VRR, 4K 120Hz or even, apparently, Auto Low Latency Mode switching. Interestingly, the TV does automatically switch to Game mode when using an Xbox Series X through it, even if ALLM doesn’t appear to be officially supported.
The HDMI ports don’t support the ‘e’ version of HDMI’s ARC functionality, meaning that the TV’s ARC-compatible HDMI can only pass on a compressed version of Dolby Atmos sound to ARC-compatible soundbars and AV receivers, though that’s unlikely to be an issue for the type of buyer considering it, particularly as streaming services use this compressed version of Dolby Atmos anyway.
Screen size 43 inches (also available in 50in, 55in)
Backlight Direct LED
HDR formats supported HDR10, HLG
Operating system Fire TV
HDMI inputs 4
Optical output Yes
Dimensions (hwd, without stand) 61 x 96 x 2.5cm
The impressive roster of HDMIs is joined, inevitably given the Amazon Fire TV connection, by built-in wi-fi support – as well as Bluetooth 5.0 and AirPlay wireless options for non-Amazon streaming sources – while other hard wired connections include an optical digital audio output, terrestrial and satellite tuners and two USB ports.
The whole Amazon Fire TV interface and content database is present and correct inside the F2, leaving people familiar with the Fire TV (OS 7) platform able to dive straight in and start using it as if they were using a standard Fire TV stick. The interface runs stably if a little sluggishly at times, suggesting a pretty solid integration with Xiaomi’s processing architecture.
All the major (and gazillions of minor) streaming services are covered by Fire TV, and the latest interface does a pretty decent job of including the content of those apps in its search results and shelves of recommended content. The system still favours Amazon content heavily, of course, but this is only to be expected.
The panel at the F2’s heart is, we’re pleased to say, a VA one illuminated directly from behind. This will hopefully yield better contrast than the IPS panels used in many budget TVs – even though, unsurprisingly for such a cheap TV, there’s no local dimming support.
The TV provides a decent set of picture and sound adjustments in some ways, and mercifully you can access them with a long press of the Home button on the remote rather than having to always go back to the home menu to reach them.
The Xiaomi F2’s picture performance is a frustrating combination of decent fundamentals and missing adjustment – but comes reasonably good in the end.
Starting with the positive stuff, the F2 is marginally brighter when showing HDR than many of its similarly cheap rivals. We’re not talking mammoth differences here, and we should make it clear right away that, as always at this level of the market, the F2 can’t deliver anything like a full portrayal of the sort of brightness and light range of which HDR is capable. It does deliver a palpable lift in dynamic range and peak brightness versus SDR, though – clearly more so, in fact, than 2021’s excellent Samsung UE43AU7100 does.
This slight extra brightness can be seen in both full screen bright content and the intensity of smaller bright HDR highlights. These highlights are delivered without excessive clipping, too, suggesting that Xiaomi is deploying at least some level of HDR tone mapping.
The F2’s native 4K pictures also look impressively sharp and detailed, again clearly outstripping the Samsung UE43AU7100 in this respect and creating a better sense of image depth in the process.
The F2’s basic contrast isn’t bad for its price either. In fact, its ability to deliver real brightness differences between the lightest and darkest parts of a shot is one of the reasons its pictures look so sharp and three dimensional.
The bad news starts with the set’s hit and miss colour performance. This finds pictures sporting a confusing mish-mash of hyper-extended colours (especially where reds are concerned) and rather muted ones (especially where blues and greens are concerned) that can leave some shots feeling unnatural and ‘off’. The tendency to push some tones can pull your attention to the wrong parts of the picture at times, too – though back in the plus column, Xiaomi’s set does better at resolving details in dark colour areas than some rival budget sets. The Film preset also reduces the colour inconsistency quite a bit compared with the default Standard preset.
The TV’s colours seem to have been calibrated – even in the Film preset – towards a rather cool (blue) tone that doesn’t always sit right with film sources. Especially during dark scenes. All of which makes the Xiaomi F2's failure to carry any significant colour and gamma calibration tools look all the more unfortunate.
Black level response isn’t as deep as that of the excellent Samsung UE43AU7100, but that’s not to say it’s bad. The fact that the mild grey wash that lies over dark scenes is infused with the screen’s fondness for blue doesn’t help, and nor does a tendency to bring out too much picture information in some dark corners while losing details in dark parts of mostly bright pictures.
None of these issues, though, make the F2 by any means a shocker with dark scenes. Especially when you compare it to the sort of washed out mess you get with the many IPS panels found in the budget TV world.
The F2’s motion smoothing system tends to look a bit uncomfortable and jarring – but fortunately neither judder nor motion blur are bad for such an affordable TV if you just turn the motion processing completely off.
HD sources upscaled to 4K by the F2 look pretty decent. Pixels are added without exaggerating noise or creating jagged edges or exaggerated lines. There is something a little coarse about some unevenly lit and highly textured surfaces, but it feels like this is more to do with the TV being a bit over-adventurous with its brightness and dynamic range when handling SDR content.
Gaming, finally, is a mixed bag on the F2. The latest 4K HDR titles look crisp, detailed, bright and colourful, but there’s a tendency for bright areas to flare out a little, and the screen only manages to get input lag down to around 32ms in its Game preset. That’s over 20ms longer than the fastest TVs, but not so slow as to be an issue for non-hardcore gamers.
The Xiaomi F2 sounds about average by the standards of the TV in general – but this can be considered pretty good by budget TV standards.
It’s able to go loud enough to keep even an action movie company without breaking down into distortions, and while it can start to sound a little uncomfortable – crowded and strained – during really peak soundtrack moments, it doesn’t actually fall away at such moments as some much more expensive TVs are prone to.
Dialogue sounds excellent; always clean and clear no matter how much pressure the speakers may be under, yet not so stark that voices sound decontextualised or over-dominant. It can’t be overstated how important this particular element of sound is to a TV, so the fact that Xiaomi has got it right here is a big win.
The soundstage doesn’t spread particularly far from the screen, and the decent mid-range and high frequency responses aren’t joined by much in the way of bass. The speakers have enough fidelity and range, though, to avoid harshness despite the lack of heavy bass.
Despite its frustrating colour issues, the Xiaomi F2 is still a surprisingly solid TV for its price – particularly its new price.
Contrast from the VA panel is decent, sharpness is excellent, sound is above par for a budget TV, particularly in terms of clarity, and brightness, while limited versus the TV world at large, is actually pretty solid for £299. So if the idea of having Fire TV built into your TV sounds irresistible to you, the Xiaomi backs up those Amazon smarts with better picture and sound than you really have a right to expect for so little money.
- Picture 4
- Sound 4
- Features 4
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