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HolidayBuyer's Guide

Overview

Profile

Inputs

Roku Streaming Stick

Base

Plugged in

Notification

Roku menu

Insignia picture menu

Picture quality

When buying an in-house brand, customers have come to expect some compromises in return for a good price. You can't expect more than a big screen for your $800 when buying a Best Buy Insignia NS-55E480A13A, can you? Surprisingly, there is more to this TV than first meets the eye.

This is not a "feature" TV by any stretch, as there is no 3D playback or PC sharing as on some competitors. There isn't even smart TV onboard, and yet that is exactly its main attraction: you can add a Roku Streaming Stick to this television for a better smart-TV experience than is offered by any other budget TV by far.

The question is, is the extra $100 spent on a Roku stick worth it? If you take the Roku out of the equation, the TV performs better than similarly priced TVs with decent black levels and bright, if not entirely accurate, colors. Shadow detail is entirely acceptable for the price and backlight uniformity is impressive for an entry-level 55-inch TV.

There are plenty of TVs competing for your attention under $1,000, and despite lacking a "name" the Insignia performs well for the price -- but see if you can get the Best Buy salesperson to throw in the Roku Streaming Stick for free.

Caption by / Photo by Sarah Tew/CNET
The TV is edge-lit and is correspondingly thin. Our unit did show quite a lean forward despite how much we tightened the screws, though.
Caption by / Photo by Sarah Tew/CNET
Four HDMI ports, including an MHL port than can act as HDMI.
Caption by / Photo by Sarah Tew/CNET
The MHL port is color-coordinated with the Roku Streaming Stick.
Caption by / Photo by Sarah Tew/CNET
The Insignia doesn't swivel.
Caption by / Photo by Sarah Tew/CNET
It's a match made in a laboratory.
Caption by / Photo by Sarah Tew/CNET
Plug in the Roku stick and a message appears onscreen.
Caption by / Photo by Sarah Tew/CNET
Now you have access to smart-TV-style streaming content.
Caption by / Photo by Sarah Tew/CNET
The Insignia's picture settings are limited.
Caption by / Photo by Sarah Tew/CNET

Despite using different lighting systems, the Insignia NS-55E480 (LED) and the Samsung E550 (CCFL) that we compared it with performed similarly in terms of color balance and black levels. The Samsung was a competent TV but a disappointing downgrade from the D630 that preceded it, and the Insignia sits in a similar middling category in terms of picture quality.

The Insignia was able to deliver relatively deep black levels and lacked the distracting backlight intrusions of some of the other LED models. Color was another matter, for while colors were vibrant they weren't always the most accurate, with some skin tones looking a bit too rich and greens a bit too dark. As a result it's definitely an above-average performer for the money, but no threat to many LCDs in the $1,000-plus range, much less to equivalently priced plasmas.

Caption by / Photo by Sarah Tew/CNET
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