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Insignia Connected TV review: Insignia Connected TV

Insignia Connected TV

Ty Pendlebury Editor
Ty Pendlebury has worked at CNET since 2006. He lives in New York City where he writes about streaming and home audio.
Expertise Ty has worked for radio, print, and online publications, and has been writing about home entertainment since 2004. He is an avid record collector and streaming music enthusiast. Credentials
  • Ty was nominated for Best New Journalist at the Australian IT Journalism awards, but he has only ever won one thing. As a youth, he was awarded a free session for the photography studio at a local supermarket.
Ty Pendlebury
7 min read

5.9

Insignia Connected TV

The Good

The relatively inexpensive <b>Insignia Connected TV</b> has decent black levels for the price. Its RF remote control doesn't need line of sight, and it offers a worthwhile selection of streaming services and apps.

The Bad

The TiVo interface is essentially window dressing, using it can be annoying, and the search function only works for the Insignia On Demand service. The TV's picture quality is characterized by unnatural color, uneven screen uniformity, and issues with 1080p/24 sources. It also has fewer picture adjustments than competitors.

The Bottom Line

The Insignia Connected TV is a competent television for the money, but the TiVo interface detracts from rather than adds to the experience.

It's been 10 years since Sarah Jessica Parker gushed about TiVo on daytime TV, and since then the set-top box has steadily given ground to cable and satellite DVRs in the US and failed to catch on in other countries. TiVo is still well-known as a premium DVR with an iconic menu design. However, Best Buy tries to borrow some of that lustre with its Insignia Connected TVs that license the TiVo interface.

Notice the key word here is "interface" and not "functionality," and herein lie the Connected TV's problems. It doesn't operate like a TiVo--it just looks like one. There's no DVR inside and only a small number of TiVo's multitude of streaming services. Meanwhile the picture quality is mediocre, with decent black levels for the price tempered by poor color reproduction and backlight issues. If you're in the market for a smart TV, look around the floor of the electronics retailer, and for the same price or a bit more you'll find superior performance and features from the likes of LG and Samsung.

Series information: We performed a hands-on evaluation of the 42-inch Insignia Connected TV 42E859A11, but this review also applies to the other screen size in the series. Both have nearly identical specs and according to the manufacturer should provide very similar picture quality.

Design


Design highlights
Panel depth 2 inches Bezel width 1.5 inches
Single-plane face No Swivel stand Yes

The Insignia Connected TV has a plastic construction that mimics some of the cheaper LGs or Samsungs on the market--it's black and it's glossy. The TV is an edge-lit model but still reasonably chunky in profile. The Insignia's stand is also piano black and held on by a cylindrical pedestal that swivels for better viewing angles.

Remote control and menus
Remote size (LxW) 8.5 x 1.5 inches QWERTY keyboardNo
Illuminated keys Yes IR device control Yes
Menu item explanations Yes Onscreen manual Yes
Other: RF remote


The TV features a swivel stand.

The backlit remote is a unique element of this package. It's not only infrared but also RF, based on Z-wave technology, and it lets users control the TV without needing line of sight. The remote is ergonomic and, while not as friendly as the original "peanut," it should still be familiar to TiVo fans. Familiar but also tantalizingly inadequate. Though it features the patented "thumbs up/down" buttons, they don't work and the large DVR button does nothing.

However, the remote can also be programmed via the TV's onscreen user interface to control up to three other devices in the home via infra-red. The system includes what appears to be a comprehensive database of devices, and the remote was able to recognize and control our DirecTV box.


The remote may have RF control, but unfortunately the TiVo-specific buttons don't work.

The TiVo interface should be familiar to fans and non-fans alike. While similar at first glance, the menu system lacks the pizzazz of a true TiVo and can be frustrating to navigate at times, timing out too quickly and dumping you out of submenus. We were also annoyed that the famous TiVo program guide didn't work with broadcast TV.

Features

Key TV features
Display technology LCD LED backlight Edge-lit
3D technology N/A 3D glasses included N/A
Screen finish Matte Internet connection Built-in Wi-Fi
Refresh rate(s) 120Hz Dejudder (smooth) processing Yes
DLNA-compliant No USB Inactive

Interface aside, the Insignia is a pretty standard Internet-compatible TV. Although it's missing media access via DLNA and USB, the built-in Wi-Fi is an extra not found on all competitors' models.

Streaming and apps
Netflix Yes YouTube Yes
Amazon Instant No Hulu Plus No
Vudu No Pandora Yes
Web browser No Skype No
Facebook Yes Twitter Yes
Other: Chumby apps; Insignia on Demand

While the Insignia company touted the Tivo involvement quite heavily at the products' launch, Best Buy seems to have backed off a little and barely mentions it on the product page at bestbuy.com--instead opting for the fresher "Smart TV" moniker. The TiVo interface brings with it some "smart" streaming functionality and search capabilities, but the selection pales compared to a real TiVo DVR or competing connected TVs.

Search is tied to the Insignia on Demand service and really is designed to push its (expensive) downloads rather than to let customers search off-the-air programs, YouTube, or Netflix.

The TV uses apps adapted from the Chumby system with Facebook, Twitter, Reuters, Accuweather, and a decent array of further apps is available. Unfortunately the process to add new apps is labored and involves signing up and downloading them via a PC. TVs from other manufacturers make this process simpler with downloads available from the TV itself.


In addition to Netflix and YouTube, the TV includes the in-house offering, Insignia On Demand.

Picture settings
Adjustable picture modes 1 Fine dejudder control No
Color temperature presets 3 Fine color temperature control No
Gamma presets 0 Color management system No

If you're a tweaker, prepare to be frustrated by the TV's video settings menu. If you want to change brightness or color, you are given a limited one-line-at-a-time menu, which also times out too quickly. There's very little for the advanced user to tweak here, though, with tint and color temperature presets as technical as it gets. Annoyingly, if you attempt to change the settings of one mode--Theater, for example--it instantly supplants the Custom mode with the new settings, so in practice there's only one adjustable mode.

Connectivity
HDMI inputs 4 Component video inputs 1
Composite video input(s) 1 VGA-style PC input(s) 1
USB port 1 Ethernet (LAN) port Yes
Other:The USB port is currently unused

The Insignia features four HDMI ports, which is very respectable for a TV at this price, while the single component, composite and VGA ports are now standard practice. Internet connectivity is aided by both wireless and wired capabilities. The USB port is currently inactive and plugging in a USB device brings up a "visit our forums for your suggestions" dialog box.

The TV features a proprietary Rocket Boost port that lets you add one of Best Buy's wireless audio peripherals.


The Insignia boasts four HDMI ports and an unusable USB slot.

Performance

The Insignia performed worse than most of the edge-lit LEDs we've tested, but that's expected at this cheaper price. Its best characteristic is relatively deep black levels for the price, but its subpar color, uniformity, and video processing kept it solidly mediocre. Insignia performed on par with the recently reviewed and somewhat more expensive Toshiba 46SL417U, outdid the Philips 40PFL5706/F7, and failed to match the other reviewed TVs in our comparison, most of which cost more.

We were able to improve the picture over the default Theater setting somewhat during calibration, but the lack of settings kept us from doing much about the inaccurate color.

Comparison models (details)
Toshiba 46SL417U 46-inch edge-lit LED
Philips 40PFL5706/F7 40-inch LCD
Samsung UN46D6400 46-inch edge-lit LED
Sony KDL-46EX720 46-inch edge-lit LED
LG 47LW5600 47-inch edge-lit local-dimming LED
Panasonic TC-L42E30 42-inch edge-lit LED

Black level: Blacks are surprisingly deep, which helped deliver a relatively punchy picture, although the Insignia tended to crush shadow detail near black. The LG and Samsung were inkier and contrast levels more natural when replaying the murky "Prison Solitary" scene at the beginning of the "Batman Begins". That said, the Insignia is a lot cheaper and was respectable in this category given its price level.

Color accuracy: As you can see in the chart below the TV de-emphasised green compared to red and blue, which left which left some scenes looking unnatural. Either this resulted in too-pink faces as if the actors had the beginning stages of hypothermia, or "electric" blues (not to be confused with the 80's anthem). Blacks were also shot through with a higher than usual amount of blue.

Video processing: While the Connected TV has a specific 24p mode, switching it on had no effect and our tests of 1080p/24 Blu-rays looked identically too-choppy whether the mode was turned on or off.

The Insignia also did something strange we hadn't seen before: the TV took one of our test scenes of a sky and made it look like an Etch a Sketch by crushing the blue into white and then suddenly erasing it back to blue.

The TV was able to resolve tricky moire tests relatively unscathed and showed full support for deinterlacing 1080i content.

Uniformity: The Insignia is afflicted by one of the most common LCD problems--backlight clouding--with our review sample featuring a brighter, discolored area in the bottom right-hand corner. After calibrating, the spot was still visible in a dark room and it went on to inform poor results in color uniformity, particularly on screen-filling primary colors.

Bright lighting: The TV has a matte finish, and based on our viewing in normal lighting conditions, it didn't pose any problems with distracting reflections.

Power consumption: We did not test the power consumption of the 32-inch member of the Insignia Connected TV series, but we did test the 42-inch model. For more information, refer to the review of the Insignia Connected TV NS-42E859A11.

Test Result Score
Black luminance (0%) 0.0079 Good
Avg. gamma 2.2306 Good
Near-black x/y (5%) 0.2392/0.2011 Poor
Dark gray x/y (20%) 0.3131/0.3204 Poor
Bright gray x/y (70%) 0.3112/0.314 Poor
Before avg. color temp. 6629 Average
After avg. color temp. 6669 Average
Red lum. error (de94_L) 0.5409 Good
Green lum. error (de94_L) 2.5469 Average
Blue lum. error (de94_L) 3.6068 Poor
Cyan hue x/y 0.2389/0.3259 Average
Magenta hue x/y 0.298/0.298 Poor
Yellow hue x/y 0.4425/0.4959 Poor
1080p/24 Cadence (IAL) Fail Poor
1080i De-interlacing (film) Pass Good
Motion resolution (max) 500 Average
Motion resolution (dejudder off) 300 Poor

Insignia Connected TV NS-42E859A11 CNET review calibration results

(Read more about how we test TVs.)

5.9

Insignia Connected TV

Score Breakdown

Design 6Features 7Performance 5