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Seiki SE50UY04 UHD LED TV Review$1,499.99
4K you can afford—but do you want it?
Do you pine for peerless piles of extra pixels? Does the term "4K" make your nerdy little heart race? That's what manufacturers would like. If you're on the hunt for affordable 4K, you may have stumbled across an unfamiliar name: Seiki. Pronounced "say-key," the self-owned company is headquartered in Diamond Bar, California. But everyone knows TVs aren't manufactured in America anymore. Where does Seiki get its goodies? From parent company and Chinese giant Tongfang Global, Inc.—the same entity that powers Element Electronics. With one of the largest TV manufacturing plants in Northern China, the company is all too capable of producing its own, affordable panels.
In fact, Seiki claims to deliver great TVs "without the add-ons that bring the higher price." We decided to test that promise using the 50-inch SE50UY04. If you want a TV that recognizes your face, listens to your voice, and zooms around the web, try again. Seiki promises quality UHD panels for weary wallets—nothing more.
Sold in 39- and 50-inch sizes, these UHD TVs reside online with asking-prices of $699 and $1499.99, respectively. With competing companies like Sony demanding almost five times that price for the coveted technology, prices like these easily catch the eye.
Plain rectangles cause deep-set ennui
A terrible sense of tedium set in as I stared at this TV. Ordinary. Quotidian. Two dark rectangles of glossy plastic constitute the unremarkable design scheme. Nothing sparkles; nothing twinkles; nothing ventures from the rectangular mold.
The remote control putters along in just the same manner. You paid $1500 for this TV. You think that awards you glow-in-the-dark buttons? A shiny controller? Think again. The SE50UY04's remote is impossible to see in the dark, tiny, and poorly labeled. Live with it!
Connectivity, at least, is generous; users will find composite/component ports, a headphone jack, three HDMI hookups, two USB connectors, coaxial in, audio in, audio out, an antenna port, a pc audio hook, and a VGA port—all on the back lefthand side. If you happen to lose your boring remote, there are on set controls on the opposite end.
A ghost of a feature set
If you think $1500 will have you brandishing a magical, gesture-controlled wand, yelling commands, and Tweeting about Real Housewives from your TV, think again. Remember, Seiki promises UHD for less—in exchange for the fancy stuff.
The real feature is the plethora of pixels. UHD televisions have a resolution of 3840x2160, as opposed to the usual high definition 1920x1080p. Talk about detail. But the complaint ringing in manufacturer ears' right now is that 4K content is all but missing right now. Early adopters are stuck with upscaling technology—which stretches and prods and maneuvers an HD signal into a much-larger UHD format.
The Picture Quality
Poor motion brings down otherwise great performance
It's too bad that third-rate motion processing plagues this TV, because honestly, everything else about the SE50UY04's performance really impressed us. The most important aspect we weigh, black level, proved excellent with comparison to many televisions that come through our labs. This Seiki gets really dark, and that means that it can powerfully and effectively portray moody, shadowy scenes. This display can look great in a sunny room too, since it can combat the ambient light with a very bright peak white level.
Next, color performance proved top-notch; although blues are far too saturated, the colors that human eyes are most sensitive to, namely green and red, are spot on.
The Long & the Short
You can't have your pixels and eat them, too.
The crummy motion and tin-can audio really seal the SE50UY04's fate. Any way you slice it, $1500 isn't chump change, and the competitors aren't chumps, either. UHD is an exciting frontier, but putting the cart before the horse is always inadvisable. Why buy a 4K television without readily available 4K content?
Even if you come up with an answer to that, you still need to answer the followup: Why buy a mediocre $1500 display when you could have an outstanding TV with more features for the same price? The Seiki SE50UY04 delivers on color and contrast, but 8,294,400 pixels or not, its motion, audio, and feature set just don't fly for this price range.