Not too long ago, a Smart TV was a high-end luxury item that only a few could afford. Cut to the present, and we have Smart TVs in almost every realistic budget imaginable. Today, let’s take a look at one of the most affordable options in the Indian market from a known brand – Thomson.
Thomson B9 40M4099: Design and connectivity options
Thomson B9 40M4099 is a 40-inch (102 cm) TV with a custom smart OS that’s built on top of Android. The display has a full HD resolution of 1920 x 1080 pixels with 60Hz refresh rate. The design is simple and elegant with thin side and top bezels, while the bottom bezel is a bit more chunky. The controls are smartly hidden on the right side out of your line of sight. Not that you are going to need them frequently, but if the bundled remote control runs out of battery, and you don’t have spare ones, that’s where you can find the controls.
Connectivity options are plenty with 3 HDMI ports, 2 USB ports, coaxial audio/video ports, a 3.5mm headphone jack and a LAN port. The ports may be a little difficult to reach if you wall mount the TV. There is no optical audio out but that’s a bit too much to expect at this price point. The TV also has built-in Wi-Fi that is very easy to configure with your home router. All you need to do is find your SSID (router name) in the network list and connect to it by typing in your Wi-Fi password.
The bundled remote control is fairly ordinary with stiff and springy keys that can lead to irritation after using it for a while. Most of the remote functions are listed in the user manual but not all. For instance, there is no mention of the key that brings up the smart menu and I had to do a bit of exploration to figure it out. It sits unassumingly at the bottom right of the remote along with other keys. There is also a key with an image of a mouse printed on it which brings up the mouse pointer while browsing or accessing the smart menu. Quite a handy option that, but a couple of lines in the instructions manual wouldn’t have hurt anybody.
Thomson B9 40M4099: User Interface (UI) and smart features
The Thomson B9 Smart TV has a very simple and minimalistic UI. You need to press the key with an upward facing arrow at the bottom of the remote to bring up the smart menu. All the options are represented by blocks of solid colours placed horizontally along the bottom edge of the TV that one can browse through and select. The salient options include File manager, Media centre, My Apps (installed apps), browser, download manager, application manager and Aptoide TV. More about the last two a little later. You can also mirror your smartphone or tablet screen on this TV courtesy of Miracast.
The TV comes with a bunch of preinstalled apps like YouTube, Netflix, Facebook, Gmail etc. Since the TV OS is Android based, you can always install more apps on roughly 5GB of free space that you get out of 8GB of internal storage. Installing new apps is not as straightforward as the way you do it on your smartphones. There are two ways of doing it here. You can either do it through the Aptoide TV option, which is a collection of curated content, games and apps. But not all apps available on Play Store are available here, which leads us to the next option – side-loading it through APK files.
For that you need to use use the internet browser on the TV to search and download the APK file of the app that you are looking to install. One observation I would like to share here – it’s very easy to miss the fact that you have successfully downloaded the file. The UI gives you no indication of that, and when you attempt again, you end up downloading another instance of the file without a warning. Like I accidentally ended up downloading the Hotstar APK thrice. You get to know about it when you exit the browser and go to the download manager. Don’t forget to delete the excess files to free up some space. Once the APK file is downloaded, you need to go to the Application Manager. From there you get to select the APK file and install the app which then appears in My Apps.
Yes, it’s a slightly twisted path but not as stressful as it sounds once you get the hang of it. One major irritation here being, not all apps you side-load may end up working on the TV, thus rendering the entire process above a waste of time. Case in point – Hotstar. I just couldn’t get it to work but a lot of other apps I managed to install using APK worked fine. Prime Videos worked fine too but I installed that from Aptoide TV. Long story short, you can install a wide variety of apps on this TV but Thomson needs to improve their apps compatibility with a software update. Also the process can be simplified significantly.
Thomson B9 40M4099: Performance
I will split the performance into three parts – picture quality, sound quality and file format support. But before we go there, I would like to point out that the TV takes about 25 to 30 seconds to boot. Welcome to the world of smart devices. Moving on, the picture quality on this Thomson TV is average at best. You can tweak the picture by adjusting colours, brightness, contrast, backlight and sharpness. There are three colour temperature presets that you can play with. You get presets for DNR (digital noise reduction) too but I would suggest you keep it off for best results. By tweaking some of the options above, I managed to make the picture and colours look noticeably better but the TV just couldn’t get the skin tones right, no matter what I did.
This TV has a 40-inch screen and the ideal viewing distance is anything between 8 to 12 feet. But for this particular TV, it would be better if you watch if from 10 to 12 feet away, if not more. The picture looks significantly better from that distance with a lot of its shortcomings in picture quality not so conspicuous as you go beyond the 10 feet mark. Having said all that, there’s one major factor that we need to keep in mind before passing a judgement – its price. This is a 40-inch Smart TV that retails for less than Rs 20,000. At that price point, it would be foolish to expect picture quality comparable to a Samsung, but there was still a scope for improvement given that it belongs to a reputed brand like Thomson with a fair amount of legacy.
Coming to sound, it is simply not up to the mark; no excuses here. It falters on sound clarity and loudness, both. The company claims a 20W RMS output but it is nowhere close to what my TV with similar specs delivers. When watching HD channels over a DTH set-top box plugged into its HDMI port, the sound output is just about acceptable. But when watching videos using an Amazon Fire TV Stick or through its USB ports, the sound output is simply not loud and clear for most parts even if you turn the TV volume to full. Just for comparison sake, those same files are perfectly audible on my current TV at 25% volume level. Thankfully, this Thomson Smart TV has multiple audio out ports that one must make use of to plug it into a good speaker system or sound bar.
The file format support here leaves very little room for complaint. It played almost everything I threw at it through a flash drive plugged into its USB port. It can easily play full HD MKV and MP4 files without a hiccup. It can handle anything with up to H264 encryption. It isn’t ready to crunch H265 codecs yet, at least via USB on the default player. Full HD content looks good and even HD content playback is fine, but anything lower looks a bit too shabby. Again, you will need to move 12 feet away from the screen to make it look acceptable. But then most 40-inch or larger LCD/LED TVs twice its cost cannot reproduce non-HD content well.
Thomson B9 40M4099: Price and verdict
The Thomson B9 40M4099 TV is available in India via Flipkart for Rs 19,499 with a one year warranty. For its asking price, it offers a decent sized screen along with a good bunch of smart features and connectivity options. The video file format support is good too. The picture quality is not top notch but par for the course for TVs in this budget. The sound quality though is a let down. So be prepared to invest a few thousand Rupees extra in a good speaker system if you plan to buy this TV. Last but not the least, make sure you place this TV at least 10 feet away from where you plan to watch it.
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