Mitchell & Brown 49-inch 4K LED LCD TV Review
That Mitchell & Brown Look
What is the 49-inch Mitchell & Brown?Mitchell & Brown, not to be confused with the similarly monikered comedy duo, is a new British TV manufacturer who now offer a range of Ultra HD 4K LED LCD TVs in a number of screen sizes. We should probably clarify that when we say British TV manufacturer we don't necessarily mean that the TVs are made here in the UK, just that Mitchell & Brown is a British company. The TV's themselves are actually made in Turkey by Vestel, who are one of the largest TV OEMs ( original equipment manufacturers) in the world. If you're wondering why, given that Vestel are so big, you've never heard of them that's because they often make TVs for other companies rather than under their own name, especially here in the UK. However you probably have heard of Toshiba, Finlux, Linsar, Hitachi and Bush, all of which had TVs made by Vestel, they've even made entry-level models for Panasonic in the past.
So it's fair to say that Vestel know a thing or two about putting a TV together and the way these OEM companies work is that they essentially order a specific design based upon a series of off-the-shelf options. If you've reviewed as many TVs as we have you can quickly spot a Vestel made TV – the remote controls, menus, design, connections and smart platforms are all a dead giveaway, although the model numbers are normally a clue as well. Mitchell & Brown are a good example and the 49-inch 4K LED LCD TV that we're reviewing is called the JB-491811FSM4K, which hardly rolls of the tongue. In terms of its features this TV uses an Ultra HD panel but doesn't support High Dynamic Range (HDR) or Wide Colour Gamut (WCG), which makes it quite expensive for a budget TV given an asking price of £649. So let's see if Mitchell & Brown deliver the goods .
DesignIn terms of its design, this 49-inch model from Mitchell & Brown certainly isn't going to win any awards and at best it can be described as utilitarian. In fact it's classic Vestel but it gets the job done and the more traditional look is actually quite appealing in a strange way. So the chassis is a lot deeper than many TV designs these days at 64mm but that does mean it has room for a direct LED backlight and larger speakers both of which might help to enhance the performance. Otherwise you've got a black bezel around the screen that's 5mm wide at the top and sides and 30mm along the bottom, a black rear panel and an all-plastic construction. The connections are at the rear left of the panel, as you face the screen, and the 1.5m long hard-wired power cable is over on the right. The TV sits on an old-school stand that actually swivels, which makes a nice change, measures 440 x 220mm and provides 70mm of clearance under the screen. The stand is made of metal, so it provides solid support, and the silver and brushed metal finish adds a bit of pizzazz to what would otherwise be a rather boring design. The TV measures 1100 x 697 x 220mm (WxHxD) with the stand attached but If you'd rather wall mount there are 200 x 200 VESA mounts at the rear.
The design is fairly basic but it's nice to see an old-school swivel stand again
Connections & ControlAs is typical for this kind of TV you get a fairly basic set of connections, although everything you'll need should be covered and for those hipsters trying to bring back VHS there's even a SCART connector, which is something of a rarity these days. The connections are split into three sections, with some facing downwards, some facing sideways and some facing rearwards. In terms of the downwards facing inputs there's an HDMI input, the antenna connector for the built-in Freeview HD tuner, a VGA connector, an optical digital output and an Ethernet port, although the TV also supports WiFi.
The sideways connections are 16cm from the edge and include a second HDMI input, a headphone jack, a USB port and a CI (Custom Interface) slot. The two HDMI inputs can support 4K/60p and HDCP 2.2 but don't support High Dynamic Range. Finally the rearwards facing connections include the aforementioned SCART, along with composite and component video inputs, analogue stereo inputs, a subwoofer output and a second USB port. The inclusion of only two HDMI inputs seems a bit stingy, it's fairly easy to exceed that number once you consider set-top boxes, games consoles, media streamers and Blu-ray players, but otherwise it's a fairly comprehensive choice of connections.Like the TV itself, the provided remote is also classic Vestel but that's not necessarily a bad thing as they tend to make quite well designed and effective controllers. They're always rather large but they do fit comfortably in your hand, unless you have tiny hands like Donald Trump, and they can be easily used with one thumb. The black plastic remote is reasonably well made, has a brushed metal finish that compliments the stand and all the buttons you'll need to control the TV are present and correct. Our only real complaint would be that some of the buttons use icons to denote their purpose, so it will take a while to familiarise yourself with all the controls. We understand why Vestel do this, the more icons you use and the less actual words, the more generic the controller, which is obviously handy when you make remotes for territories all over the world. And besides once you know what each icon means, using the remote is fairly intuitive.
Features & SpecsCompared to much of the competition the Mitchell & Brown isn't exactly feature packed but as with all Vestel made TVs it includes a number of key services and offers enough to keep most people happy. In fact we actually prefer these simplified generic smart platforms offered by OEMs because they're often easier to navigate than the more sophisticated but overly complex operating systems used by the more established brands. As a result when you hit the Home button on the remote you get a PIP (picture-in-picture) of whatever your current source is, along with the weather and a series of apps. The smart platform includes an app store, although it's hardly overflowing with apps and in fact pretty much everything is already loaded on to the Home page.
However the smart platform does include almost all the main video apps, so you get Netflix and YouTube, along with all the TV catch-up services. There's also Freeview Play, so you can go back through the TV guide to access programmes you missed via the catch-up services. In fact the only major video streaming services that's missing is Amazon Prime but otherwise the Mitchell & Brown should keep most users happy. There's also social media apps like Facebook and Twitter and you can connect a USB drive to the TV and use it as a media player but there's no support for streaming content from your home network. Finally, although not strictly a feature, Mitchel & Brown TVs come with a 7-year warranty which might come in handy and suggests a degree of faint in their reliability.
The smart platform is simple but effective and has most of the main services
Picture Settings – Out-of-the-BoxIt's probably common sense but the cheaper a TV is, the less likely it is to be professionally calibrated, because no one is going to buy a £650 TV and spend almost half that again on a calibration. So paradoxically it's more important for a cheaper TV to be accurate out of the box than it is for an expensive model where there's a greater likelihood of the owner getting in a professional calibrator. As always we evaluated the greyscale, gamma and colour gamut of the Mitchell & Brown using our calibration equipment, which includes the Klein K-10A colour meter, a Murideo Fresco Six-G pattern generator and CalMAN Ultimate calibration software.
We specifically measured against the established industry standards for standard dynamic range (SDR) content, which means we used the D65 colour temperature for white, a peak brightness of 120nits, a gamma of 2.4 and the Rec. 709 colour gamut. All SDR content that we watch is created using these standards and thus any TV, regardless of its price, should be able to get close to these basic benchmarks of performance. That's why the standards exist, in order to create repeatable and quantifiable measurements that ensure consistency from display to display.We actually found that of all the available picture modes the Natural Mode was closest to these established industry standards, although still far from accurate. It's not uncommon for manufacturers to deliberately ship their TVs in a mode with too much blue in the image because it gives the impression that the whites are whiter. They aren't of course, they're just bluer but its an optical illusion that has been exploited for years by TV manufacturers and detergent makers for that matter. However it's unusual for the Warm Colour Temperature setting to be as blue as the graph above, usually the Warm setting will be redder and closer to the target of D65. The gamma is also saggy, failing to even track 2.0 let alone 2.4 and dipping down to 1.8 at 10 and 80IRE. So overall a rather disappointing performance greyscale and gamma performance out of the box with noticeable errors across the entire scale.Since the greyscale forms the backbone of any image there was no chance of the colour gamut being accurate and unsurprisingly the excess blue had skewed all the colours towards that primary. As you can see above, white is measuring nearer blue rather in its target square of D65 which is in the middle of the triangle. That triangle is the industry standard of Rec. 709, whilst the horseshoe shape represents all the colours a normal human eye can see. The Mitchell & Brown would actually track Rec. 709 fairly well if the colours weren't being skewed by the greyscale. So things might improve if we can correct the greyscale but as it stands it's a poor colour performance out of the box.
Picture Settings – CalibratedThese days we expect even cheaper TVs to have a basic set of calibration controls, with at least a two-point white balance setting. The major manufacturers are normally quite effective in this area but it's common for Vestel TVs to be somewhat lacking when it comes to calibration controls. So it proved with the Mitchell & Brown, which had limited options when it came to correcting the errors in the greyscale.
In the Picture Settings we used the Natural mode as a starting point and set the Contrast, Brightness, Sharpness and Colour controls accordingly. We also set the backlight, although to do this you'll need to select the Custom Energy Saving setting. Under the Advanced Picture Settings you'll find the Colour Temperature control, which is a single point setting that allows you to increase red or blue across the scale – so we essentially moved red up and blue down. You can see our suggested settings above but if you'd rather set your new TV up yourself then you can follow the simple steps in our PicturePerfect Guide.
Although using the Colour Temperature control helps the greyscale accuracy to a degree, as you can see above there are still visible errors. After adjusting the greyscale there was still a small excess of blue, red was tracking quite accurately and there was a deficit of green. As a result, there is a shift towards magenta because that secondary colour is composed of the red and blue primary colours. The gamma is also still below our target and there's no way to actually address this, as such the errors remained well above the visible threshold of three.The errors in the colour gamut are still present but they are less extensive than before, although the tracking is still off, in part due to the magenta shift but also a general lack of accuracy. There's nothing much that can be done about the colour accuracy given the limited greyscale controls and the lack of a colour management system. So although it's unlikely that a TV at this price would be calibrated, even if that was an option there's little that a calibrator could actually do.
The out-of-the-box accuracy was poor and the calibration controls are limited
PerformanceThe Mitchell & Brown didn't deliver a particularly good black level, measuring 0.12nits, but it could easily hit our Standard Dynamic Range (SDR) target of 120nits and it had a peak brightness of 300nits, so there were no problems creating an effective daytime setting. The on/off contrast ratio was 1000:1 and the ANSI contrast ratio was 847:1, neither of which are particularly impressive. However the TV uses a direct LED backlight, so the uniformity was excellent and the lack of issues like banding made the Mitchell & Brown very well suited to watching football where the black level isn't particularly important. The motion handling was reasonably good for an LCD as well, hitting around 300 lines, although the TV lacked any additional motion enhancement features.
The poor black level, even for an LCD panel, is due to the use of an IPS panel but on the plus side the viewing angles were much wider than a TV using a VA panel, which will benefit those who can't sit central to the screen. Despite the greyscale, gamma and colour performance not being particularly accurate, after setup the picture produced by the Mitchell & Brown still managed to look quite good. The colours retained a reasonably accurate appearance, although flesh tones did have a slight magenta push. However the gamma curve combined with the weaker black levels of the IPS panel meant that the image lacked the depth that better TVs can deliver and the Mitchell & Brown struggled to define detail just above black.
The effective video processing and the smaller screen size meant that standard definition content could look surprisingly detailed, with minimal artefacts. When watching high definition broadcasts the TV's video processing deinterlaced and upscaled content to match the 4K panel and high quality material like BBC documentaries could appear very good. The picture quality with streaming content like Sense8 and Better Call Saul was also very watchable, with the TV rendering the desert scenes in the latter quite effectively. The same was true of a bright and colourful film like Moana, where the Mitchell & Brown reproduced the detailed computer animated images, although the letterbox bars could have been blacker. However at night darker scenes would begin to suffer and a film like Gravity lacked the dynamic range of deep blacks and bright whites that we associate with this title when it is being delivered in the best possible way.
These days it's rare to review an Ultra HD TV that doesn't also support High Dynamic Range (HDR) but it does allow for an opportunity to see whether 4K resolution is enough. The emphasis has very much been on better pixels rather than just more pixels, so the main thrust of Ultra HD has been the higher dynamic range and wider colour gamut of HDR. Since the Mitchell & Brown doesn't support HDR any connected Ultra HD Blu-ray player will output a 4K signal in SDR and Rec. 709 rather than HDR and Rec. 2020. Despite this, the 4K images looked very impressive, with the increased detail being apparent even on the smaller 49-inch screen, although that will also depend on how far you sit from the screen.
The Ultra HD Blu-ray of Passengers uses a 4K Digital Intermediate (DI) and that looked very impressive, even without HDR, whilst the superb 4K photography of Planet Earth II certainly gave the TV a chance to shine. However watching a film like La La Land, which uses a 2K DI, revealed minimal improvements over the regular Blu-ray and the Mitchell and Brown is unable to take full advantage of the deliberately exaggerated colours in the film. The weaker black levels and elevated gamma curve did meant that darker 4K Blu-rays also suffered, especially a film like Patriots Day where a large portion of the film takes place at night.
Sound QualityThe sound quality of the Mitchell & Brown was reasonable for a TV at this price point, thanks primarily to the deeper chassis. This allows for larger speakers to be installed and thus a superior level of sound quality when compared to slimmer TVs. That's not to say that the TV could in any way compare to even a cheap soundbar but it was certainly good enough for general TV watching. The 49-inch screen size did limit the amount of stereo separation but dialogue was clear and focused on the screen, which is the most important aspect of any TV's audio performance. The sound was generally clear but once you started to drive the volume louder the 2 x 10W of amplification did begin to break up but for the most part the audio was acceptable. The mid-range was good, the higher end reasonable and although the bass performance was minimal, the overall sound quality was certainly adequate for watching the news, documentaries, sports and the less epic TV dramas. Of course if you're looking for a bigger sound with a greater sense of surround and deeper bass, you'll need to look at an outboard audio solution like a soundbar.
The low input lag is good news for gamers but there's no HDR support
Input LagThere's good news for gamers, with the Mitchell & Brown delivering a low input lag, even without engaging the Game mode. Using our Leo Bodnar tester we measured the input lag at a decent 33ms in the Natural mode and this dropped to an even better 29ms in the Game mode. Those lag times were regardless of whether the signal was 1080p or 4K, so if you're gaming in either resolution the Mitchell & Brown has you covered. Unfortunately the lack of HDR support means you can't take advantage of the latest HDR games but for general gaming the TV delivered a decent image with bright and colourful reproduction. Overall it was a responsive gaming experience that certainly made favourites like Star Wars Battlefront suitably enjoyable, even with our ageing reflexes.
How future-proof is this TV?
4K Ultra HD Resolution HDR Support Colour Space (percentage of Rec.2020 - 100% best) 50% 10-bit Panel HDMI 2.0a Inputs HDCP 2.2 Support HEVC Decoding 4K Streaming Services Smart TV Platform Picture Accuracy Out-of-the-Box (score out of 10) 6 What do these mean?
- Decent 4K performance
- Effective smart features
- Good build quality
- Simple to set up and use
- Low input lag
- Poor out-of-the-box accuracy
- Limited black levels
- Restricted colour gamut
- No HDR support
Mitchell & Brown 49-inch 4K LED LCD TV ReviewThe Mitchell & Brown JB-491811FSM4K is a solidly made and decent enough 49-inch Ultra HD 4K LED LCD TV. The Vestel produced model has a reasonable level of build quality, an effective remote control and a good set of connections despite only having two HDMI inputs. The smart platform is basic but does include almost all the major video services with the exception of Amazon Prime, the sound quality was adequate and the input lag was excellent at 29ms.
The picture quality was actually quite good in part thanks to the direct LED backlight which produced an even backlight. The IPS panel also had a wide viewing angle, although the blacks were limited and there's no local dimming. The out-of-the-box accuracy was poor and there's little room to improve this with the available controls. However the video processing upscaled lower resolution content well, the motion handling was good and 4K content could look very nice despite the absence of any HDR support.
The simple fact is that for £649 there are higher specified and better performing TVs available. For example the Philips 49PUS6501 is an absolute bargain that can currently be picked up for less than £600. For that you get Android TV, Ambilight and HDR support, as well as an attractive design, a direct LED backlight, four HDMI inputs and great out-of-the-box accuracy. The input lag on the 6501 was slightly higher but in all other respects it's the superior TV that delivered an excellent performance with both SDR and HDR content.
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Suggested retail price when reviewed: £649.00
Contrast/Dynamic Range/Black Level7
Picture Quality Out-Of-The-Box6
Picture Quality Calibrated7
Ease Of Use8
Value for Money7
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