Insignia NS-55E480 review:

Big picture, little money

Connectivity: The MHL port is the highlight here, and of course it also acts as a vanilla HDMI port, which brings the HDMI port complement to four. If you're looking to hook up an external sound source, then the analog-out won't work with the MHL port in use, but the optical digital audio output will. If you have further video needs you'll find a composite video, a component video, and a VGA input.

Picture quality
Despite using different lighting systems, the Insignia NS-55E480 (LED) and the Samsung E550 (CCFL) 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; although 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+ range, much less equivalently priced plasmas.

Click the image at the right to see the picture settings used in the review and to read more about how this TV's picture controls worked during calibration.

Comparison models (details)
Sony KDL-46EX640 46-inch LCD
Vizio M3D550KD 55-inch LCD
Panasonic TC-P50U50 50-inch plasma
Samsung LN46E550 46-inch LCD
Panasonic TC-P65VT50 (reference) 65-inch plasma

Black level: The Insignia had fairly good contrast, with shadow detail above the level of most budget TVs. While it did crush the top of the grayscale, or the "whites," the only place this was obvious was on test graphs -- it wasn't really detectable in real-world content.

Compared with the Panasonic TC-P50U50, the Insignia had significantly worse blacks, but it actually performed well against the other TVs arrayed against it. It was a toss-up between it and the Vizio M3D550KD in most of our tests. While the Vizio was able to get blacker on dark scenes because of its smart-dimming system, it couldn't compete on complex, highly contrasting ones.

During "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part II," Harry is pursued into a room lined with junk (57.32) and the camera tracks him from above as he moves through the magical detritus. The Vizio could make the scene "pop," but its heavy-handed dimming system meant that areas supposed to be black were sometimes grayer, whereas the Insignia had a similarly dynamic edge but kept the dark areas darker. The difference between the two TVs was essentially that the black level of the Vizio changed dynamically while the Insignia stayed the same regardless of content.

Color accuracy: Color saturation is the second-most-important picture component after black levels and here the Insignia does very well, with colors that are bright and bold, yet still quite natural in isolation. If you're watching an animated film or a colorful movie like "Hugo," it will look very good on this television -- though cartoons do tend to be flatter on most TVs.

Where the Insignia falls down slightly is in the next-most-important category: color accuracy. Skin tones and some greens could look overcooked, especially when compared with the other TVs in its price range. This was most apparent on "The Tree of Life" Blu-ray (chapter 5) with its suburban lawns and closeups of faces. Some of the greens could look a little too dark and blue-tinged, while faces could look a little ruddy. Additionally, some solarizing or "banding" could occasionally be visible on skin in shadow with the dark areas breaking up into green and red bands, but this was quite minor. Overall the color balance of the TV was slightly red and the secondary colors were fairly true, with only yellow tending more toward orange.

Video processing: It's always a pleasant surprise when a cheaper TV passes the video-processing tests, and so I'm happy to note this was the case with the Insignia. In the 24p film test, the Insignia was able to loop the flyby of the aircraft carrier from "I Am Legend" without stuttering, and hence demonstrates that it's capable of replaying Blu-rays in their native frame rate. The TV was also able to display the film resolution test without jerking or moire in the video of the stadium stands.

Though the Insignia's performance was quite similar to the Samsung's, it thankfully lacked the motion blurring I saw with the E550.

Uniformity: The Insignia demonstrated above-average uniformity for a budget TV, with only some minor discoloration in the top-right corner. This proved nowhere near as distracting as the spotlighting prevalent on some LED TVs, and even though the tested Sony EX640 is better than most, the Insignia was even better still.

When viewed off-axis, the TV was capable of displaying decent colors, though blacks were quite purple; with a completely black screen you could see a definite "oil slick" pattern appear.

Bright lighting: The Insignia features a semi-matte screen that was less reflective than the Vizio M3D550KD's, and proved to be fine to watch under lights. The picture retained its blacks without them turning blue or purple, and shadow detail was intact.

Geek box: Test Result Score
Black luminance (0%) 0.0111 Average
Avg. gamma 2.2322 Good
Near-black x/y (5%) 0.3008/0.2821 Average
Dark gray x/y (20%) 0.3134/0.3205 Poor
Bright gray x/y (70%) 0.3048/0.3264 Poor
Before avg. color temp. 10327.6171 Poor
After avg. color temp. 6941.3543 Poor
Red lum. error (de94_L) 7.7533 Poor
Green lum. error (de94_L) 4.0963 Poor
Blue lum. error (de94_L) 5.7789 Poor
Cyan hue x/y 0.217/0.2849 Poor
Magenta hue x/y 0.3457/0.1617 Poor
Yellow hue x/y 0.4546/0.4888 Poor
1080p/24 Cadence (IAL) Pass Good
1080i Deinterlacing (film) Pass Good
Motion resolution (max) 600 Average
Motion resolution (dejudder off) 320 Poor

Insignia NS-55E480A13A

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