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First Look: Seiki's cheap 4K TV: More pixels don't make a better picture

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First Look: Seiki's cheap 4K TV: More pixels don't make a better picture

4:18 /

The Seiki SE50UY04 breaks new ground in pricing for a TV with 4K resolution. That's the good news. But all those extra pixels don't mean its picture is better than that of a standard 1080p TV.

Hi, there. I'm David Katzmaier from CNET and this is the Seiki SE50UY04. This model number denotes the first 4K TV we've tested at CNET. Yes, this little 50-incher is a 4K resolution TV. That means it has 4 times the pixel resolution of a standard 1080p television. Of course you'd expect that to give a tremendously better picture, but at this screen size it really doesn't. I'll talk about that in a little bit but first let's look at the external design of the Seiki. The set is very minimalist around the edges. It really has a pretty thin bezel here. There's really not much to the design except for this unfamiliar nameplate and a little LED along the bottom here. It's a glass stand. It doesn't swivel, a very basic external design. Of course you look at it from the side, it has that characteristic LED thinness so that's something in a plus column. The set's features are extremely minimal. The really only thing to talk about besides 4K is the 120-hertz refresh rate that doesn't mean that this TV has smoothing however. Unlike most 120-hertz sets you cannot turn on or off that smoothing or soap opera effect. The set does have minimal picture adjustments. You can play around with a couple of picture modes but as soon as you change any of the settings, it'll default to a user mode. From there you can really only play with the most basic settings such as contrast, brightness, etc. Your mode itself is similarly basic. I was a little confused by the many number of buttons here especially for a TV with this simple of a features set. It turns out, a lot of those buttons are devoted to navigating USB photos and music if you decide to use that feature. There's also a bunch for the built-in tuner. Yes. This TV does have a tuner like every other television on the market, so it's not quite fully a monitor but it does sort of behave like a computer monitor. Right now the only 4K content you can really get in your home is computer-based, so I think people hooking a computer up to this TV will get the best benefit for that extra high resolution. On the flipside this regular television's performance wasn't that great. We'll go through those too right now. First off with 4K content the company did supply me with a little server filled with a couple of 4K clips. The content wasn't really spectacular though it wasn't the highest quality 4K content I've seen, looked a little bit soft. Yes, you could tell there was more detail than with standard 1080p material, but as with all 4K I've seen you have to be very close to appreciate that detail in a 50-inch set. Math tells us you have to be about 3 feet, 8 inches to about 7-1/2 feet that range in sitting distance from this 50-inch TV to actually appreciate the difference. Of course the further away, the more difficult that is to appreciate and of course with lower quality content, you can't see that difference that much. So all told, the 4K benefit on this TV really depends on how close you're sitting. Of course when I did sit very close I played a video game on this TV. I played a little bit of BioShock Infinite, looked great on the computer with that really high resolution and an extremely high-end graphics card connected to this TV and that really allowed the game to pop. Of course if you have a lower end computer pushing that many pixels is gonna be extremely difficult so this is reserved for the hardest core gamers on PC. Of course other 4K content is pretty much nonexistent. You're not gonna be able to find any 4K Blu-rays, 4K broadcast or any other content right now. That's all a couple years down the road. Of course with no 4K content that means you're gonna be mostly watching normal high def on this TV, and it's really not very good for its price point. The black levels are relatively light, the TV crushes shadow detail is also relatively inaccurate color although it is the brightest spot on this TV. Video processing is very important because of course TV has to scale 1080p and other high-def content to fit the 4K pixels. That scaling was good but not great. It actually looked a little bit softer than a comparable 1080p TV right next to it. So all told not the greatest picture quality and again for this price point you do expect pretty good picture qualities from 1080p because that's mainly what you're gonna be watching. Despite that barebone's feature set, there are plenty of inputs. You get 3 HDMI, all of which can take 4K up to 30 hertz. There's also a VGA input for computers; again, that can go up to 4K resolution as well as component video input and a pair of USB slots. All told, I can't really recommend the Seiki to a lot of people unless you really, really want a 4K TV. Of course it is the cheapest 4K TV on the market so it has that going for it. I'm David Katzmaier from CNET and that's a quick look at Seiki's inexpensive 4K TV, the SE50UY04.

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