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Haier HL47K review: Haier HL47K

Haier HL47K

David_Katzmaier.jpg
David Katzmaier
David_Katzmaier.jpg
David Katzmaier Editorial Director -- TVs and streaming

David runs CNET's home entertainment division, where he leads a team that covers TVs, streaming services, streaming devices and home audio. If he doesn't know something about the gear you use to keep yourself entertained at home, it's not worth knowing.

Expertise A 20-year CNET veteran, David has been reviewing TVs since the days of CRT, rear-projection and plasma. Prior to CNET he worked at Sound & Vision magazine and eTown.com. He is known to two people on Twitter as the Cormac McCarthy of consumer electronics. Credentials Although still awaiting his Oscar for Best Picture Reviewer, David does hold certifications from the Imaging Science Foundation and the National Institutes of Standards and Technology on display calibration and evaluation.
9 min read

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.

OVR
5.6

Haier HL47K

The Good

Inexpensive; relatively accurate primary colors; user-menu color temperature adjustment; fine connectivity with three HDMI and one PC input; remote doubles as flashlight.

The Bad

Significant uniformity issues include uneven backlight and discoloration across screen; produces a relatively light shade of black; less accurate color temperature; cannot change aspect ratio with HD sources.

The Bottom Line

Serious uniformity flaws make it difficult to recommend the Haier HL47K over other bargain LCD TVs.

Design
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.

Haier HL47K
Haier's main picture menu offers the usual array of options, including four nonadjustable picture modes.

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.

Features
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.

Haier HL47K
Adjustable color temperature is a nice plus on a budget set.

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.

Haier HL47K
An advanced picture menu includes a range of options best left off for critical viewing.

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 HL47K
This set's rear panel inputs include a pair of HDMI and one analog PC input.

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.

Haier HL47K
The side panel adds a third HDMI port along with an analog video input and a headphone jack.

Performance
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.

Setup during our standard calibration was somewhat frustrating. The set's initial color temperature before adjustment was quite blue, averaging about 9,000K even in the so-called Warm color temperature preset. Unfortunately, even adjusting the Custom color temperature controls as far as they could go didn't minimize the blue tinge enough; it still averaged around 6,800K, which was far enough from the 6,500K standard to be visible, but not terrible. We also missed having a backlight control, which could have helped improve contrast. For our full picture settings, check out the bottom of this blog post.

We compared the Haier HL47K to another budget set, the Honeywell Altura MLX, as well as to a few more expensive displays, including the Sharp LC-46D85U, the Sony KDL-46W4100 and the Samsung LN52A650, and as always, for reference, the Pioneer PRO-111FD plasma. Our Blu-ray of choice for image quality tests this time around was Get Smart played back via the Sony PlayStation 3.

Black level: We didn't expect the Haier to outperform the more expensive displays at delivering a deep shade of black, and it did not. In dark scenes, such as the nighttime shots of the Chechnyan warehouse in Chapter 2, shadows and black areas appeared lighter than any of the others by a good margin, with the exception of the Honeywell, which appeared even lighter. This scene also revealed some of the Haier's serious uniformity issues, especially the "spotlights" in the corners (see below). Shadow detail suffered somewhat on account of the lighter blacks, and many details appeared too dark and a bit obscured as a result, but it was still decent for an inexpensive LCD.

Color accuracy: As we mentioned at the top the Haier was somewhat blue overall, although color in general looked much better than on the Honeywell. Skin tones in bright areas, such as the sunlit face of Anne Hathaway on the plane in Chapter 7, were in the accuracy ballpark, but she did look paler than on the reference displays. Black areas and shadows were tinged blue--the darker the bluer--although the effect was more noticeable on the Sony and the Sharp, for example. Again the Haier's Achilles heel was uniformity; in dark areas of the shadowy warehouse we noticed the reddish tinge to the sides of the screen compared to the middle, for an overall unnatural look to shadows.

Primary colors measured well for the most part, which was visible in the relatively accurate looking red of the sports car in the Smithsonian lobby from the opening of the film, and the blue sky above the Lincoln memorial. We did notice a bit of yellow mixed into greens, such as the grass of the mall for example, compared to the reference display.

Video processing: We noticed occasional flicker with some sources on the Haier. It was obvious in test patterns and also showed up in program material. We didn't see any flicker during Get Smart at 1080p, but we did noticed some while watching Get Out on HD Net, for example, from our DirecTV receiver. We saw flicker in foreground objects such as plant frond of a plant as a zoom tightened, and later the hostess's ribbed pink shirt showed some flickering breakup. None of the other displays exhibited these issues.

The HL47K's motion resolution measured between 300 to 400 lines, which is about average for a standard 60Hz LCD. The Haier is the first HDTV we've tested in a long time that couldn't properly deinterlace film or video-based sources. We don't think this failure had anything to do with the flicker since we also saw flicker on 720p sources, but it may contribute to some visible artifacts, and we'd recommend sending it 720p or 1080p when possible (it scales 1080i anyway). The HL47K accepted 1080p/24 sources, for what it's worth, but as expected this 60Hz display didn't look any different when showing 1080p/24 or standard 1080p/60 material.

Uniformity: The screen of the Haier HL47K was the least-uniform we've seen this year. The sides appeared redder and significantly brighter than the middle, and the upper left and right corners had relatively bright "spotlights" that were brighter than the rest of the screen. The display also revealed uneven backlight structure, similar to but even worse than the "banding" we noticed on the Sharp, that was obvious in some program material, especially fast pans and other whole-screen movement as well as flat fields of color. We noticed both the banding and the brighter edges, for example, in footage of the Space Shuttle taking off and later as it orbited the planet. The Haier's screen also washed out and discolored more quickly than any of the others when seen from off-angle.

It's been a while since we noticed a dead or stuck pixel in a review sample, but our HL47K sample has a prominent one in the middle of the screen, which showed up in most obviously in dark program material. Of course, this issue will vary from sample to sample.

Bright lighting: Like most LCDs with matte screens, the HL47K performed well in a bright room, controlling ambient reflections nicely. Among the sets in our lineup, the shiny-screened Samsung was better at maintaining black levels in bright lighting.

Standard-definition: The Haier didn't fare all that well in this department. It was able to resolve every detail of DVD sources, but in the Detail test shot the stone bridge and grass looked softer than on the other displays. It also had a hard time with video-based sources, leaving plenty of jaggies behind in moving diagonal lines and a waving American flag. The set's noise reduction was effective enough, on the other hand, at removing snowy motes from shots of skies and sunsets. The Haier successfully engaged 2:3 pulldown detection to remove moiré from the grandstand behind the racecar.

PC: When we connected a PC to an HDMI input, the best resolution we could get was 1,144x900, which looked OK albeit a bit soft. Choosing any higher resolution, up to 1,920x1,080, caused the screen to flicker to an unwatchable degree. As the manual states, the highest resolution the TV's VGA input accept is a paltry 1,024x768, which again looked OK, but didn't come close to taking advantage of the Haier's native resolution. Even for an inexpensive display, the HL47K is not a very good PC monitor.

TEST RESULT SCORE
Before color temp (20/80) 8722/8344 Poor
After color temp 6461/6920 Average
Before grayscale variation +/- 1904 Poor
After grayscale variation +/- 293 Average
Color of red (x/y) 0.637/0.33 Good
Color of green 0.271/0.596 Average
Color of blue 0.145/0.063 Good
Overscan 3.0% Average
Defeatable edge enhancement No Poor
480i 2:3 pull-down, 24 fps Pass Good
1080i video resolution Fail Poor
1080i film resolution Fail Poor

Haier HL47K Picture settings
Default Calibrated Power Save
Picture on (watts) 237.3 231.73 N/A
Picture on (watts/sq. inch) 0.25 0.25 N/A
Standby (watts) 0 0 N/A
Cost per year $73.45 $71.73 N/A
Score (considering size) Good
Score (overall) Average
*Cost per year based on 2007 average U.S. residential electricity cost of 10.6 cents per kw/hr at 8 hours on/16 hours off per day.

How we test TVs

OVR
5.6

Haier HL47K

Score Breakdown

Design 6Features 6Performance 5
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