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Xiaomi F2 Fire TV review: A smart TV that fails to bring the HDR heat

Stephen Withers
21 Jul 2022
Our Rating 
Price when reviewed 
449
inc VAT

The Fire TV platform is comprehensive, but the Xiaomi F2 TV is let down by mediocre pictures, sluggish responsiveness and high input lag

Pros 
Comprehensive smart system
Easy to set up
Alexa built-in
Cons 
Mediocre picture performance
High input lag
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The Xiaomi F2 is an LED LCD 4K TV based around the Fire operating system, which means it benefits from a comprehensive and well-designed smart platform. However, the overall picture quality is mediocre, especially with HDR, the sound is fairly basic, the responsiveness can be sluggish, and the input lag is too high.

Those issues would be easier to forgive if the F2 Fire TV significantly undercut the competition, but there are plenty of other more impressive options available for similar or less money.

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Xiaomi F2 Fire TV: Key specifications

Screen sizes available:43in
50in
55in
Panel type:VA-type LEC LCD
Resolution:4K/UHD (3,840 X 2,160)
Refresh rate:60Hz
HDR formats:HDR10, HLG
Audio enhancement:Dolby Audio, DTS-HD, DTS Virtual:X
HDMI inputs:4 x HDMI 2.0
Freeview Play compatibility:Yes
Tuners:Terrestrial, satellite
Gaming features:Game Mode
Wireless connectivity:Wi-Fi 5 (2.4 and 5Gz), Bluetooth 5.0, AirPlay
Smart assistants:Amazon Alexa
Smart platform:Fire OS 7

Xiaomi F2 Fire TV review: What you need to know

The Xiaomi F2 is a 4K (3,840 x 2,160) HDR smart TV that uses a 60Hz LCD panel with an LED backlight. The Chinese manufacturer has built the F2 around the Fire operating system, which basically means you get all of the same benefits of an Amazon Fire TV streaming stick plus an actual TV.

The F2 range includes 43in, 50in, and 55in screen sizes, making this TV an option for anyone looking for a smaller screen size with a comprehensive smart platform. All the major content streaming services are present and correct, including Freeview Play.

The F2 supports HDR10 and HLG, but is limited to HDMI 2.0 inputs and has no support for next-gen gaming features like ALLM, VRR or 4K/120Hz. On the sonic side of things there’s Dolby Audio, DTS-HD, and DTS Virtual:X, with the latter two being unusual these days.

READ NEXT: The best smart TVs on the market

Xiaomi F2 Fire TV review: Price and competition

Xiaomi might not be a familiar name in the world of TVs, but the Chinese manufacturer’s reputation for making well-specced and affordable smartphones has been steadily growing internationally over the past few years.

The F2 sits towards the top of its burgeoning TV range, and isn’t as cheap as you might expect from a brand that’s yet to make a televisual splash in the UK. The prices of the various models of the F2 are similar to more established manufacturers, with the 43in option retailing for £399, the 50in model reviewed here costing £449, and the 55in F2 priced at £499. While these prices won’t break the bank, they’re actually not as competitive as some alternatives.

For example, the LG UQ8100 (2022) is a 4K LED LCD TV that comes in a range of sizes, including the 43in (£329), 50in (£379), and 55in (£429) screen sizes. It supports HDR10 and HLG, both with dynamic tone mapping, a Filmmaker Mode for improved accuracy, and eARC on one of the HDMI inputs. The webOS smart platform uses the Magic Remote, has a comprehensive choice of streaming services, and includes Alexa and Google Assistant, while gamers can benefit from ALLM, and an input lag below 10ms.

There are also appealing options from 2021 in the form of the Hisense Roku TV and TCL RP620K, both of which are a fair bit cheaper, and the Samsung AU9000 - our favourite budget TV of last year, which can be picked up in the same sizes as the Xiaomi F2 for the same money.

Xiaomi F2 Fire TV review: Design, connections and control

The Xiaomi F2 looks well-made, with a simple design based around a metal frame and a black finish. The TV sits on a pair of feet, although these are widely spaced apart, so bear that in mind when planning which surface to place the TV on. There’s also the option to wall mount using a 300x300 VESA bracket.

The connections are all located down the right-hand-side as you face the screen, where you’ll find four HDMI 2.0 inputs that support 4K at 60Hz, HDR10, HLG, and ARC (audio return channel) in the case of input number four. There are also terrestrial and satellite tuners, an AV input, an optical digital output, a headphone socket, an Ethernet port, and two USB-A ports. In terms of wireless connectivity, there’s built-in dual-band Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and support for Apple AirPlay.

The Bluetooth controller is fairly simple in terms of its layout, although the reliance on icons rather than written names for many of the buttons may confuse some, especially older people. There’s a circular navigation control towards the top, along with a power button and a microphone for voice interaction with Alexa. There are also all the other regular TV controls, along with play/pause and skip buttons, plus direct access keys for Prime, Netflix, Disney+, and Freeview Play.

Xiaomi F2 Fire TV review: Smart TV platform

The big selling-point of the Xiaomi F2 is the inclusion of the Fire OS 7 smart platform, and if you’ve ever used a Fire device before, the interface should look immediately familiar. There are a few differences to accommodate the built-in tuners and Freeview Play, but otherwise the F2 uses the standard Fire home page, with its layers of streaming apps and recommendations.

The interaction is fairly intuitive, with a single bar along the middle of the page that provides access to inputs, live TV, settings and the various loaded apps. There’s an extensive choice, with a full complement of UK catch-up apps, Freeview Play, and every streaming service imaginable, including YouTube, Netflix, Prime Video, Disney+, Apple TV, Now and Rakuten TV.

Setting everything up is pleasingly straightforward, thanks to an effective wizard and a settings page that lays out all the options in a clear and concise fashion. Unsurprisingly, Amazon-related features are prioritised, and there’s Alexa for those who prefer voice control. Otherwise it’s a fairly standard smart TV experience, even when compared to proprietary systems from competitors like Samsung and LG.

Despite including a quad-core A55 CPU, 2GB of RAM and 16GB of ROM, the responsiveness was at times sluggish, suggesting the TV could use more power to fully run the Fire operating system. This is often the case when an OS originally developed for another device is ported over into a TV, with Android TVs proving equally slow and buggy in the early days.

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Xiaomi F2 Fire TV review: Image quality

The Xiaomi F2 is a mediocre performer when it comes to picture quality, with a number of errors even in its most accurate picture mode, and no calibration controls to correct them.

The default Standard picture mode delivers greyscale errors with an average DeltaE of over 11, and a heavily manipulated gamma. The colours are also wildly over-saturated, resulting in average errors in excess of 13, and a skew towards blue due to too much of this colour in the greyscale.

The situation is improved when you select the Film picture preset, with the average greyscale errors dropping to three, which is the visible threshold. There remains a slight excess of red, and the gamma is still being manipulated, but it’s definitely better. The same is true of the colour performance, where the average errors are now just over three, and the tracking is more accurate.

While not perfect, the Film picture preset gets you in the ballpark, which is just as well given there are no calibration controls. In most other respects the F2 performs as you’d expect when dealing with a TV using an VA LCD panel and a direct LED backlight. The contrast ratio is acceptable at 4,600:1, and the screen and backlight uniformity are both fairly good.

However, the optimal viewing angles are narrow, so bear that in mind when installing the F2. In addition, there are no local dimming zones, so bright objects can reveal occasional haloing, especially when viewed off-angle. This is less of an issue than you might imagine, mainly because the F2 isn’t that bright, as we’ll see when we discuss the HDR performance.

The upscaling and image processing are both average, with the F2 handling good sources like 4K well but struggling with lower resolution content. This is especially true when it comes to live TV broadcasts, with even the high-definition channels looking a bit ropey. This suggests the internal tuner might not be the best.

In general the motion handling is acceptable for a 60Hz panel, with 24p content delivered without excessive judder or other artefacts. The F2 also handled fast-paced sports like tennis fairly well, ensuring the ball remained visible. Xiaomi includes its MEMC (Motion Estimation and Motion Compensation) technology, which applies frame interpolation if you feel the motion needs help.

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Xiaomi F2 Fire TV review: HDR performance

The Xiaomi F2 is really only an HDR-capable display in the sense that it can accept an HDR signal, but anyone expecting this TV to wow them in this area will be disappointed. Regardless of which picture preset you choose, the F2 tops out at 285cd/m2, and is only able to cover up to 92% of the DCI-P3 colour gamut used for HDR.

The default Standard picture introduces average errors with a DeltaE of 23 due to a large excess of blue in the greyscale, but this is corrected by selecting the Film mode instead. This reduces the average error to a more acceptable seven, with only a slight excess of blue, and in addition the tracking of different saturation points within the DCI-P3 colour gamut is much improved.

The F2 also tracks the PQ EOTF accurately, which means the tone mapping is being applied correctly. As a result, using the Film mode you will get a decent HDR image with blacks that aren’t crushed, well-defined colours and correctly mapped highlights that are free of clipping. But, this is all delivered within the brightness and gamut limitations of the F2 itself.

A film like The Revenant in HDR10 is perfectly watchable, with a detailed image and nicely balanced contrast and colours, but there’s none of the pop you expect from the format. The same is true of a colourful film like Guardians of the Galaxy Vol.2, which doesn’t really look any different when compared to the regular SDR images seen on the film’s Blu-ray.

Ultimately, the F2 can give you an approximation of HDR, but if this feature is important to you there are definitely better and cheaper alternatives available.

READ NEXT: Our favourite TVs for gaming

Xiaomi F2 Fire TV review: Gaming

The Xiaomi F2 isn’t a great choice for serious gamers either. The 60Hz panel and HDMI 2.0 inputs mean this TV obviously can’t support next-gen gaming features like 4K/120Hz and VRR, but there’s also no support for ALLM. If you’re rocking an older console, and you’re not particularly competitive, then the F2 will suit you just fine, but if you’re a bit more hardcore, you’ll probably find the 36.2ms input lag in the Game mode very frustrating.

Xiaomi F2 Fire TV review: Sound quality

The Xiaomi F2 is fairly standard when it comes to audio, with a pair of speakers built into the bottom, each of which has 12W of amplification. The sound quality is passable, and certainly sufficient for general TV watching, but put on a blockbuster movie and you’ll quickly discover the F2’s sonic delivery becomes thin and strained, with no real depth or headroom.

The support for both Dolby Audio and DTS-HD is welcome, with the latter being something of a rarity these days with many manufacturers dropping DTS altogether. There’s also DTS Virtual:X to give the audio greater dimensionality, but there’s only so much you can do with two speakers and 24W, so don’t expect any miracles.

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Xiaomi F2 Fire TV review: Verdict

The Xiaomi F2 is a reasonable performer overall, but the picture, sound and gaming features all seem secondary to the Fire operating system at the heart of this TV. There’s no denying the smart platform is well-designed, easy to set up, and comprehensive in terms of choice, but it also feels slightly sluggish in terms of its responsiveness. If you really want this particular smart system, you could just buy a Fire TV stick and plug it into one of the HDMI inputs on your existing TV.

So, if we’re solely judging the F2 on its merits as a TV, the overall performance is decidedly mediocre. In terms of SDR content, the Film mode is reasonably accurate and the motion handling is acceptable, but the upscaling and image processing could be better. When it comes to HDR content this TV is severely limited in terms of peak brightness and colour gamut coverage, so while the tone mapping is good, the results are unlikely to impress.

The sound quality is passable, and if you’re looking for DTS support the F2 has you covered, but this isn’t a great TV for gamers, with limited features and an input lag that’s too high. Finally, the F2 isn’t even particularly cheap for a TV from a relative unknown like Xiaomi. The reality is that there are plenty of alternatives from more established brands that not only offer better picture performance and extensive gaming features, but are also competitively priced in comparison.

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