Sunbrite SB4660HD Outdoor TV Review
Come rain or come shine
The Sunbrite SB4660HD (MSRP $2,795–$2,995 depending on color) is a very bizarre TV. It's weather-resistant, airtight, waterproof, and—you guessed it—meant for the outdoors. This unique display is definitely a niche product, and a 46-inch TV for almost $3,000 is pretty steep pricing, so the question is: Is it worth it?
That really depends on how badly you need to watch TV outside.
Granted, the picture quality here is fairly sub-standard, but outdoor TVs are tough to come by, and hot tub audiences probably aren't looking for theater-grade viewing anyway. Our biggest qualm with the Sunbrite is its motion performance. This TV is doubtless going to be drooled over by outdoorsy sports lovers—lovers who'll be grumbling and griping when the game looks blurry.
While the Sunbrite SB4660HD offers up a palatable image in rain, sleet, or shine, between the flawed motion and huge price tag (almost $3,000 for a 46-inch TV is nuts in 2013), we can't wholly recommend it.
As brite as the sun
The Sunbrite SB4660HD has one job to do: play a movie or a TV show outside without breaking. That's really what you're paying for, because—from a pure performance standpoint—this TV's 1080p image is really nothing special.
Is it suited for the great outdoors? You bet. A super bright peak luminance combats everything besides direct sunlight, and the thick, durable frame houses some of the loudest TV speakers we've ever heard. Seriously, you might get complaints from the neighbors.
One big caveat that shoppers should make note of, though, is the SB4660HD's motion performance. Handling fast-moving content simply isn't this TV's forté—things start to get blurry and "interlacing" occurs, meaning edges tear and lag behind. However, this is only during the fastest of motion—movie lovers need not fear.
Another area of concern is the TV's viewing angle, which is too narrow to properly broadcast to a whole backyard. Our advice is to make sure you're watching something on the TV while you pick out where to install it—watching too far from center results in serious picture degradation.
Out of the box, the SB4660HD is set up to operate in brighter lighting, such as one might get outdoors.
The software allows adjustment of brightness and contrast settings, though, meaning it can be optimized for nighttime viewing with too. Unfortunately, the TV gives the user no clue as to how to do this.
After using this TV to play a video game outside on a rainy day, I'm convinced its picture quality flaws are not nearly as important as they'd be on a traditional display. While the image was definitely imperfect, we didn't care: We were outside, the wind was blowing, and raindrops were pattering around us while the cloud-covered sun lit the pavement. That said, purists may want to keep in mind that—at the end of the day—this is a sub-par image.
Design & Features
More like SunBRICK
You wouldn't normally put a $3,000 TV outside—unless it was heavily padded, insulated against the weather, and prepared to take a potential buffeting from an angry wind god or a frisbee-happy child. Well, the Sunbrite SB-4660HD is built just so: like a tank.
Our 46-inch test model is almost seven inches thick, so it's not going to win any design awards. Yet for the trade-off in aesthetic appeal, you're investing in protection against stray soccer balls, delicious barbecue smoke, and homeless insects looking for an upscale winter condo.
To be clear, though, this TV is very ugly. Almost all of my co-workers made it a point to stop by and ask, "What is with that chunky TV? It's hideous."
Of course, the aesthetic concerns dissolved once the weatherproofing factors were made known—you tend to forget about the bulky, clunky design with the knowledge that your investment is safe from most weather patterns.
To test this claim, we did what came naturally and played outdated video games on the SB4660 in a rainstorm. The TV ended up nestled near a puddle in a parking lot, under steady rain. We bagged up a Nintendo GameCube and hooked it up to the TV's hidden ports. After a few rounds of Super Smash Bros. Melee, fellow TV expert Josh Fields and I had all but forgotten the dreary weather.
According to Josh, "Playing video games outside in the rain is a luxury few people will get to experience. I feel honored." While the droplet-covered screen did get a little blurry—sub-pixel pitch became easier to see for sure—it wasn't enough to deter us from enjoying a game that's almost 15 years old.
Despite the downpour, the SB4660 functioned beautifully, was loud enough to drown out passing cars, and shrugged off glare from the overcast sun. Short of being submerged, the SB4660HD is essentially waterproof.
All of the SB4660HD's ports are contained in a large, open area that's sealed by three thumbscrews on the back of the TV. To access the ports, you have to unscrew and open the cover first. Here, Sunbrite includes a decent amount of video connections: two HDMI, component, composite, S-Video, RF, VGA (D-Sub), analog and digital audio out, and RS-232. Once you're all hooked up, the pliable cover can be screwed back into place, and melds tightly around the cables, keeping whatever's inside quite safe.
Use & Durability
Built to last
Rather than detail this TV's software, it seems much more prudent to discuss its durability. Suffice it to say that this Sunbrite's software (menu/interface) is a standard, run-of-the-mill sort of job—there's nothing particularly interesting about it.
Sunbrite makes more than a few claims about the TV's overall durability. The first claim seems honest enough: The SB4660HD is "built and engineered to resist rain, dust, humidity, insects," and even the rust-ready air that drifts off of nearby saltwater.
After a good douse, our TV is still functioning just fine. It's truly well-insulated, and makes smart use of an exhaust system to both cool its inner circuitry while providing a barrier of air to stem the flow of dust.
Whether you live on the outskirts of the scorching Mojave or in a tundra-side igloo, the SB4660HD should be able to function optimally, though we weren't able to test the full extent of its survivability in more extreme climates. This TV operates between -24°F and 122°F—which is all but the most extreme weather.
Last but not least, the SB4660HD can take a beating. A resin interior and heavily padded casing ensure that, even if it tips over or falls, the panel and inner components should be well-shielded.
I'm not saying it'll survive a fall off the edge of your infinity pool, but you can pretty much let it fall right on its face without worrying much about it. Any scuffs or dings to the screen can be buffed out with rubbing alcohol, too. Only the most extreme of unruly conditions will deter this TV from its task of providing digital scenery side-by-side with the analog world.
The Finish Line
A high price for an unheard of pastime
The applications of an outdoors TV are almost limitless. Whether watching your favorite football team from poolside, engaging in fierce competition with the weather channel ("I'm already outside and it's not even remotely partly cloudy!"), or playing your favorite game in the shade of your favorite oak, the number of unique experiences an outdoor TV provides are long-winded.
Obviously, this TV is for a particular type of person: Someone with a yard. At this price, you're not going to buy this unless you A) really love TV, B) really love your garden, or C) have money to burn, preferably in your beautiful TV garden. However, reasons for ownership need not be justified. All that matters is the question: Am I about to spend $3,000 on something that's going to break in a week?
Rest easy—the SB4660HD from Sunbrite is a high-quality product. Why the low score? Well, it simply doesn't hold a candle to the amazing, immersive some TVs are capable of—nor did we expect it to. Engineering things like gamma and black level to operate outdoors goes directly against the rubric of our testing process, which is sculpted primarily around home theater-quality televisions.
Yet for its overly bright image and ugly design, the SB4660HD can battle the fierce elements of your backyard—it may be expensive at $2,795, but the SB4660HD is no fair-weather friend: It does what it claims to, and you really can't put a price on a job well done.
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