When is a bargain not a bargain? "Buy cheap, buy twice" is the nugget of wisdom that guides all of my consumer-electronics purchases. A 2160p UHDTV is at the top of my must-have list, so inevitably I became curious about the 50" Seiki SE50UY04 UHDTV, which sells for a fraction of what other 2160p UHDTV sets cost. According to CNET's first-ever review of a UHDTV, there is a problem with the new 50" Seiki—it's not merely inexpensive, it is truly "cheap."
For the 50" Seiki, cheap translates to one quarter the cost of the next lowest-priced UHDTV, Sony's 55-inch XBR-55X900A—that's right, the price of admission to the 2160p club is approximately $1200. So, what is this TV good for?
Let's start with what it's not good for. Watching Blu-rays, TV, DVD, streaming video, and pretty much anything that is currently available in 1080p or lower resolution. Colors are inaccurate, because it cannot easily be properly calibrated. Evidently colors are not actually that bad, but there are issues with getting them to be accurate with the basic controls accessible through standard menus.
The 50" panel is not good at reproducing deep black levels or shadow details—so it's a bad choice for watching movies. The main reason for this is the use of non-dimming LED edge lighting. It's a 50" inch set, so it's too small to use in a home theater, or even for typical living-room use.
A much more reasonable and rational use for the Seiki is PC gaming—with the caveat that the maximum frame rate HDMI 1.4 will support is 30fps, which could present a problem with action games. SimCity fans should be in heaven.
The panel performed well with video games at 2160p; it's performance in this regard was clearly the high point of the CNET review. When next-generation video game consoles that output UHD signals hit the market later this year, the 50" Seiki could very well be a popular option for a dedicated gaming rig. I can also see it being popular for general computing, because the SE50UY04 really is a giant computer monitor that happens to have a built-in TV tuner.
CNET's review is a stern warning against considering the Seiki panel for anything but dedicated videogame play and perhaps general computing. I see it as a boon to stock traders, who typically have four or six monitors at their desks. The bargain panel simply does not perform as well as a modest 1080p HDTV when displaying 1080p content. It does not have the image quality of less expensive yet larger 1080p televisions. The 50" Seiki may be the least expensive UHDTV out there, and it may be the first 2160p TV CNET has ever reviewed, but it also is also the wrong choice for anyone looking to improve their overall viewing experience, especially when it comes to 1080p content.
As long as the prospective buyer understands the severe limitations of this panel—which is why it is so inexpensive compared to the competition—then perhaps "buy cheap, buy twice" is actually an appealing approach. Caveat emptor, folks.
Edited by imagic - 5/9/13 at 11:48am