Haier is hardly a household name in the U.S. among TV manufacturers, although you might know the brand through its air conditioner business. Nonetheless, the HL47K isn't the first Haier HDTV we've reviewed. That distinction belongs to the otherwise less-than-distinct 42EP14S, a 42-inch plasma that sold for $2,300 in 2004--a steal at the time. The 47-inch LCD under review here, dubbed HL47K, is also among the least expensive models available at its size, and while it will outperform some of the worst models we've tested this year, it's still plagued by some picture quality problems. The worst revolve around its uniformity, which prevents this set from competing strongly against similarly priced models from other bargain brands.
The similarities between the Haier and another budget TV we happened to be reviewing around the same time, the Honeywell Altura MLX, are pretty striking. As far as we know the two brands have no relation, but you wouldn't know it by looking. Like the Honeywell, the Haier's external design is characterized by a glossy black finish, rounded corners and a swiveling pedestal stand. Below the screen stretches a swath of perforated panel hiding the speakers and the TV's one unusual design element: an indicator lamp below the Haier logo that glows blue when the TV's on and red when it's off. In all, we found the look attractive enough, especially for a TV in this price range.
Including stand the Haier HL47K measures 44.7 by 31.5 by 13 inches (WHD) and weighs 76.5 pounds. Pop off the stand and the dimensions of the panel become 44.7 by 28.8 by 4 inches.
Haier's remote won't win any awards for style, but it's better than some we've seen. The rubberized buttons emit a pronounced click when depressed, which we found annoying after the first couple of times. The main functions like Menu, Input, and Info ring the big cursor control in a relatively logical layout, although they do tend to blend together. We liked the dedicated picture and sound mode toggles, and the fact that the remote can control five other pieces of gear.
In lieu of backlighting or glow-in-the-dark buttons, the remote has one extra we've never seen before: hold down a button and an LED on the front illuminates, turning the clicker into a weak flashlight. It doesn't help find the remote's buttons in the dark, but it's still pretty cool.
The menu system looks very similar to the one found on Vizio TVs and the Honeywell, and it even shares some remote codes with the latter. Such "coincidences" like this are common among budget models that share off-the-shelf electronics and software. The menu design is clean enough however, and nothing serious was missing, although we'd like to see text explanations to accompany menu items.
As expected, the feature set on this budget TV is about as basic as it gets. Like most LCDs these days, however, the Haier does have a 1080p native resolution, although at this screen size it's nearly impossible to see any extra detail compared to 720p models.
Picture controls are sparse and start with four preset modes, one of which, called Custom, can be adjusted. The other three cannot, and when we tried adjusting one of them the Haier reverted to Custom, erasing our Custom settings. If you like your settings you should write them down. We appreciated that Custom was independent per input, but we really missed having a backlight control, the lack of which makes adjusting the display for optimum contrast in dark rooms a lot more difficult.
There are a few advanced controls on tap. The most important is a Custom color temperature setting that unfortunately behaves the same way as the Custom picture setting described above. We did appreciate having the ability to adjust color temp beyond the three presets, however. An Advanced picture menu is filled with options that, for the most part, are best left turned off.
Aspect ratio control on the Haier is also less comprehensive than we'd like to see. You can't change aspect ratios at all with HD sources. The one provided mode isn't a "dot-by-dot" setting that maps 1080i and 1080p sources to the TV's pixels with no scaling. That means the set can't perfectly resolve those sources, and that there's always some overscan. Standard-def sources allow four aspect ratio options. There's no picture-in-picture mode, and strangely the "Freeze" option only works with standard-def sources.
Haier made sure to equip the HL47K with plenty of inputs despite the lower price. There are three total HDMI jacks, two on the back panel and one on the side; a pair of component-video inputs; a VGA-style analog PC input; one composite and one S-Video input; an optical digital audio output and a composite AV output. In addition to that HDMI input, the side panel has another AV input with composite video and a headphone jack.
The picture quality of the Haier HL47K would be OK for an entry-level set if not for its lack of uniformity. Those issues, such as brighter areas in certain parts of the screen and discoloration in others, along with "banding," were most visible in dark areas but still bad enough to knock the Haier lower down the totem pole than many budget HDTVs.