Customer Review

1,719 of 1,826 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Far from perfect, but still a great value for a 4K UHD TV, June 27, 2013
This review is from: Seiki SE50UY04 50-Inch 4K Ultra HD 120Hz LED TV (Discontinued) (Electronics)
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The Seiki 4K TV's are relatively new and have recently made some headlines with being one of the first manufacturers to build a 4K TV for a fraction of the price of the competition. There are many questions that I have such as what, if any, sacrifices were made to get such a low price, how does it work as a PC monitor, gaming possibilities, blu-ray, low-def content, etc. So let's jump in and see how it does!

DESIGN & INPUTS:

First thing to note is how the TV is being used. It's in a medium sized Media/Game room that measures about 14' x 13', give or take a few inches. There are 2 windows with blackout curtains. And I'm normally sitting anywhere from 4 ft (at my desk) to 11 ft (couch) away. This room has a couple of computers, so it's used as an office / game & media room (aka "man cave").

The TV is only about 2" deep and has thin ¾" border around the screen. However, there is a larger "base" at the bottom where the included stand mounts. This protrudes towards the back another 1". It also only weighs about 50lbs.

The TV is currently sitting on a mobile TV cart with it's included stand so I can roll it around as I compare it to my Toshiba 50L2200U 50-Inch 60Hz LED-LCD HDTV that is mounted on the wall. I wanted time to review before making a commitment to replace the already pretty darn awesome Toshiba. :) It's only about a foot lower and is using the same sources. The stand is a bit wobbly if you bump it, but I shouldn't need it for long.

There is also a 2" wide LED "bar" on the front of the TV that changes from blue (on) to red (off). Even though it's larger than necessary and can't be turned off, it's dim enough so I never even notice it when I'm watching TV, even at night. The buttons are on the right side towards the outer edge, facing back. If you mount on a wall, you'll need to feel around for the buttons if you can't find the remote.

You can check out the specs to see what inputs it has. The main inputs I'm focusing on are the 2 downward facing HDMI inputs and 1 side HDMI input. It lacks Optical Out, but does have Coaxial Out (RCA type of cable for S/PDIF). Just a note as some may want to have a way to route high quality audio to an external source. In particular, if you don't have a 4K compatible receiver (more on that later). Otherwise it has all of the other inputs and outputs most folks are looking for.

PICTURE QUALITY:

So how does it look? After its calibrated, most content looks excellent. As with most TV's the default profiles leave much to be desired. My sources are OTA (Over-The-Air) HDTV, Blu-Ray, DVD, a Media Center PC, and a gaming PC. I don't currently have cable or satellite. There have been some mixed results though.

As with all high resolution displays, lower res content will suffer a bit without up-conversion. This is exaggerated even more when you are up-scaling from "normal HD" (720/1080p) up to Ultra HD (4K2K or 3840x2160). As with virtually all high def TV's this is already done for you, on some level. Although the quality of that will most certainly vary depending on the TV (or external scaler) involved and source material. There are considerably more pixels that have to be filled in on a 4K TV so the quality can vary.

I'm going to have separate sections for the various sources as there was quite a bit to cover. So I'm focusing on overall picture quality of the TV itself. And well, overall, it looks very nice; once calibrated of course (see section below). This is very important. Out of the box this TV had one of the worse picture quality I've seen in quite a while, almost entirely due to Noise Reduction being turned on by default for every input.

The TV does have local dimming where it tries to improve overall contrast ratio by limiting the back-light to only what needs light. You're really only going to notice this on a specific scenes where there isn't much content on the screen. Such as a small opening logo on the screen. It does a good job of limited this so it's not annoying. For example, the first fight scene in Star Wars III is a good test, as it's entirely filmed in space. Black levels looks great, no obvious signs of local dimming, colors were vibrant, no blurring, etc. It's also more than bright enough for daytime viewing with minimal glare. I even had to turn down the brightness at night time.

Side viewing angles are pretty darn good. If you want to get picky, the magenta test pattern does indicate a slight red tint when viewing off angle. In my case, that's standing about 8 ft back, and moving to the sides at least 4-5 ft off center. However, when watching "normal" content at this distance, there was no obvious change in picture quality or tint. When sitting off center at my desk, 4 ft away, you will notice the image start to dim a bit. That's expected and perfectly acceptable for me.

Overall image uniformity is equally impressive and one of the best I've seen, if not quite "perfect." Displaying bright solid color test patterns on the TV, in a dark room, does reveal some spots that are ever so slightly darker (or brighter depending on the pattern) than the rest. We're talking about getting overly critical here folks. This isn't even something I can notice with normal viewing, but I'm throwing it out there regardless.

OTA TV (720p / 1080i @ 60hz):

We'll start with OTA (Over-The-Air) HDTV first. This basically involved a Coax cable connected directly to the TV via an HD Antenna and allowing the internal TV tuner do the work. Keep in mind that OTA will vary depending on the channel, but they are normally either 720p or 1080i. And this is also where I ran into my first issues.

At this time I'm not able to turn off Noise Reduction in the menu. This is available with most TV's and is meant to help clean up lower quality signals (i.e. non-HD content). I can toggle it off and to other levels, but when I go back into the menu, it turns itself back to Medium. This doesn't happen with HDMI inputs.

Unfortunately this has a noticeably negative effect on picture quality. At it's worst it has a very pixelated and almost ghosting effect to the image, especially skin-tones. In addition, I'm seeing A/V sync issues, where the audio isn't quite in sync with the video. I suspect the two are related.

I've already updated the Firmware, but didn't have any effect. I'm waiting to hear back from Seiki technical support and will update as needed (see update at bottom).

MEDIA CENTER & BLU-RAY (PC/1080p @ 60Hz):

I have a dedicated Media Center PC that I normally use for OTA TV, Blu-Ray, and playing hundreds of TV Shows and Movies from various local and internet sources. I've "digitized" most of my DVD/Blu-ray library in high quality 1080p. Unfortunately the older Nvidia GT430 video card in this system isn't capable of outputting to 4K, so we're limited to 1080p.

Which is just fine as I've found everything here to look excellent. And I wanted to test a good "Normal HD" source since that's what most are going to be using right now anyways. It's only when you sit close to the TV (around 4-5 ft) that you start to notice some minor pixelation from the TV up-scaling lower res content. Also, since the TV Tuner in the PC has the liberty of going through HDMI, I don't have Noise Reduction to contend with! Blu-Ray movies are playing with PowerDVD 12 and they also look excellent. I've been watching stuff on here non-stop as I evaluate the TV and adjust settings.

So far, so good. Everything look comparably crisp and clear compared to my Toshiba at normal viewing distances. Even though the colors on the Seiki are definitively a bit more vibrant.

PC MONITOR (4K @ 30hz):

At this resolution, who wouldn't want to at least consider the idea of using the TV as a PC monitor? For this task I have to move to my main gaming rig (more on that below) as the Nvidia GTX 680 graphics card has HDMI 1.4 and can actually output a resolution of 3840x2160, albeit at 30 Hz. I've also had to bypass my Onkyo receiver as it doesn't have 4K pass-through. This is something to keep in mind because if your source is connected to the receiver before the TV, it's not going to be aware that you have a 4K TV connected at the other end.

As you've probably already read, one of the biggest complaints folks have is the limitation of the current (and latest) HDMI 1.4 spec being used with video cards, in that this is as good as it gets. No 60 or 120 Hz at any 4K resolution until you jump back down to 1080p or lower.

However, if you just want to use this as a normal PC Monitor, surf the web, or just multi-task like crazy, there are no issues with the lower refresh rate. The scaling is perfect at it's default settings and everything is very crisp & clear. Just don't expect to read anything from the couch unless you increase the DPI scaling and/or font/text size within your OS. The text is quite small!

There is a very slight amount input/refresh lag with the mouse. It's minor, and probably won't bother you with basic apps on the desktop, but still noticeable to my sensitive gaming self.

Since the PC is the only true 4K source I have in the house, I fired up several 4K videos from YouTube as well some nice looking 4K images I have. Put simply, they looked excellent. However, depending on the videos, some did have choppiness due to only being 30 Hz, while others seemingly ran perfectly smooth. I suspect this will be one of the biggest complaints when relying on your PC for 4K goodness.

GAMING (4K @ 30 Hz):

I'm using a 20' HDMI 1.4 cable to connect my nearby gaming PC directly to the TV. There is no "game mode" on the TV, so what you see is what you get. And that is basically 4K resolution at 30 FPS (Frames Per Second). Most PC gamers are used to being much closer 60 FPS as it does result in smoother game-play.

Console gamers or perhaps less hard-core PC gamers who are probably either used to the 30 Hz they've been playing with on the TV for years may simply not notice and/or care. For my test I fired up Battlefield 3 and Starcraft II, set them to the max resolution, turned on vertical sync, and lowered the details enough to ensure a consistent frame rate. That was usually around low to medium settings, by the way.

Vertical sync will keep the frames capped at the max the display can handle, which in this case is of course 30 FPS. In addition to preventing screen tearing, this limits widely varying frame rates which can also result in a more negatively perceived gaming experience. Being an RTS (Real-Time Strategy) game, SC2 is actually playable, although input lag was more noticeable here than at the desktop. In BF3, being the FPS (First Person Shooter) that it is, was a bit worse; basically unplayable for me.

While the graphics looked awesome on this TV, I won't be playing any serious games at this resolution. 60 Hz would definitely improve the overall experience, but that won't help input/refresh lag on it's own, and may not even be available for PC's until future revisions of DisplayPort (which the TV doesn't have).

GAMING (1080p @ 120 Hz):

At first I didn't bother with this as the input lag noted above was an issue. However, it would appear after the recent Firmware update I applied, it has drastically improved input lag and delay at 1080p. Unfortunately there was no change at 4K resolution. After selecting "Customize..." within the NVIDIA Control Panel (under Resolution) I was able to select 1920x1080 @ 120 Hz, Progressive.

This simple change from 60 to 120 Hz is even noticeable at the desktop where text is suddenly much sharper and clearer. I could actually use this as a gaming monitor sitting perhaps 3 ft away. Of course this isn't anywhere near the crispness of 4K due to scaling, as some smaller text is still blurry this close; but not bad. So I tried out SC2 and BF3 again and they are indeed very playable, running right up there at 120 FPS. The Nvidia GTX 680 has no problem keeping up. Although to maintain 100+ FPS, I have had to bump down the resolution on games just a bit from their maxed out settings.

TV MENU & 120 Hz:

Before I get into calibration, I should first mention that there are very few settings to adjust on this TV. What I list below is all you get for HDMI picture quality adjustment. Also note that you can't adjust any of the preset modes (Movie, Normal, & Dynamic). Once you make a change, you're into the 4th "User" Picture Mode. Each input also has it's own memory for settings.

In fact, the menu in general is very basic. You've got Picture, Audio, Time, Setup, Lock, and Channel settings. In each menu, there are only a couple of settings. And none of these let you control 120 Hz or enable some form of "motion smoothing," as it's often called (and often assumed to be present with 120 Hz TV's). It's just something the TV does automatically in certain display modes, such as when it's requested by the source.

When watching movies, I'm rather sensitive to 120 Hz (or higher) motion smoothing as I often find this feature quite bothersome and always turn it off. I find it kills the cinematic feel of the film. Just person preference of course. The good news is that in my testing I really haven't seen it's effects anywhere.

The menu also annoyingly goes away if you don't push a button after about 10 seconds. I don't expect a lot for a non-smart TV, but a bit more adjustments would be nice. Although it's still a relatively minor issue as I was able to get a nice picture with it's limited menu.

CALIBRATION:

This is a combination of adjusting on the fly and a bit of help from the Disney World of Wonder calibration disc. Which I should add, is a must-have for HD TV's. Since some of this is indeed personal preference, you may just want to use this as a starting point and go from there. Also see "Menu" section above regarding lack of options.

*** Note: If there's one setting you do adjust, make sure you turn off Noise Reduction. I noted this previously, but feel it deserves mention again. It has such a negative effect on HD picture quality I can easily see why somebody would want to return the TV if they didn't check that menu setting. ***

Disclaimer: I'm not an "A/V expert" by any means and I'm still playing with these few settings. Although these are so basic, it's hard to mess it up. :)

Picture Settings:

Contrast: 61
Brightness: 46
Color: 48
Tint: Can't adjust with HDMI
Sharpness: 0
Color Temperature: Normal
Noise Reduction:Off (In Setup Menu)
DLC (Dynamic Luminance Control): Off

Advanced: Can't use, only for VGA input

SOUND & REMOTE:

There really isn't a nice way to put this, but the built-in "speakers" are pretty bad - even for a flat panel TV. They are down-firing speakers and are located on the bottom of the TV. They have a very "tiny" and weak sound to them. Changing the mode from Stereo to Surround helps as it at least gives the impression the sound is coming from the front, versus somewhere on the sides. Quite unusual. Although in my case, I'll be running to a surround sound system, so I won't bash them too much.

The remote is very basic and almost as bad the speakers. Which may be partially due to the IR receiver on the TV, which is located right next to the LED bar on the front. It has all of the right buttons, but it's not universal, and is very picky as to how you're pointing it at the TV. Just the wrong angle or not directly at the IR sensor, and it'll ignore your input. Or it will register additional button pushes 1-2 seconds after you've stopped pressing them.

One nice feature is a Picture Mode toggle button. So it's got that going for it. I'll have to keep that in mind as I program my Harmony Remote to take over. :)

PROS:

+ Thin design
+ Great value for a 4K TV
+ Contrast ratio
+ Vibrant colors and accuracy
+ Viewing angles
+ Picture quality
+ LED Backlit
+ 1080p Gaming @ 120 Hz
+ Good scaling of "Normal HD" content to 4k
+ Ultra HD 4K Resolution!
+ 3 HDMI Inputs

CONS:

- OTA TV Issues (Noise Reduction & A/V Sync)
- Limited Menu Options (i.e. Picture Adjustments)
- Can't adjust 120 Hz setting
- HDMI 1.4 limited to 30 Hz @ 4k.
- Input/Refresh Lag @ 4K/30Hz
- Cheap Remote
- Low quality speakers
- No DisplayPort Input
- No Optical Out (It does have Coaxial for S/PDIF)
- Wobbly Stand

CONCLUSION:

Well, this review ended up being way longer than expected. But hopefully I was able to give you enough organized information so you can find what you're looking for out of this TV. At least from my personal experiences and opinions. The big question is probably whether or not you should even buy a 4K TV right now with such limited content available.

I think if you're in the market for a new TV and you can find one in your budget, there's no harm in going a little future proof. And with 4K I think it's safe to say you're good for the next couple years. :) And just remember, new 4K hardware and content is already rolling out.

At this time, I'm going to give this 4.5 stars with a reserved recommendation depending on what you're expectations are for this TV. And of course, pending feedback from Seiki with regards to the OTA TV issues. That's mostly based on the pure "4K TV value factor" going on here. The TV Tuner is not something I'm personally going to use, and most of the negatives aren't relevant to my needs; but do want to follow up for those interested. I'll be updating the review as I get more info.

Feel free to comment with any questions and I'll respond as soon as I can. Thanks!

*** UPDATE 7/02/13: ***

I spoke with a Seiki Technician regarding not being able to disable the Noise Reduction feature with OTA TV. Apparently, that's "working as designed." I explained the negative effect it has on the picture, but it doesn't look like there is anything they can do about it as they believe it should be on. Perhaps if enough folks complain they'll "fix" that menu option and even keep it Off by default for all inputs.

I've also decided to use this TV as my main PC monitor (via HDMI 1.4a). It's been a few days since I made room for this huge "monitor" on my desk and it's been pretty darn awesome. I just run at 4K/30 Hz for desktop tasks and then switch over to 1080p/120Hz for Gaming. So far the only issue I've had is when Windows turned off the display (i.e. power management), it would intermittently cause the TV to go into it's power-off state (red LED) and not respond until I pulled the power cable.

Disabling this feature in the OS has so far resolved that issue. Going in and out of stand-by or hibernate hasn't caused any issues. The technician did suggest removing power for 3 hours to allow everything to fully reset, should issues persist. Otherwise everything is working well.

*** UPDATE 2/21/14: ***

I just wanted to hopefully have a final update to address a few FAQ's in the comments. First, the TV is still working great as a PC monitor/TV. The input/refresh lag is something you just either get used to, or not. I personally wont use it for games @ 4K. But as a large 4K desktop monitor or gaming @ 1080p/120hz, it's still impressive even months later. It's actually hard going back to a "normal" size monitor.

The other most common question is whether or not this TV will get an upgrade to HDMI 2.0, which supports 4K @ 60Hz. Unfortunately, at this time I haven't heard anything from Seiki regarding the possibility of a Firmware update, or if it's something the TV is even capable of handling. They still haven't released a firmware to address the previous issues I noted in the review, and that was back in May 2013. So it's likely this will be something made available with future models. Some more expensive brands, such as Sony, can be upgraded. But we're at a much lower price point here.

Also keep in mind that even if you have a TV that supports HDMI 2.0, the source, and cable must also support the same HDMI spec (or newer). Otherwise you may run into issues. My suggestion is to simply buy it for what it is right now. Which is, as the title says, a great value for a 4K TV. Enjoy! :)
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Comments

Tracked by 22 customers

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Showing 1-10 of 147 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Jun 27, 2013 3:05:45 PM PDT
GoldenBoyTX says:
Awesome review!

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 28, 2013 10:43:12 AM PDT
I want one for sure! I hope it goes on sale agian!

Posted on Jun 28, 2013 12:26:48 PM PDT
V. Jamali says:
At 30hz 4k res for a pc monitor do you notice any flickering in dark greys or in general when you look at the monitor? Also what video card do you use with the seiki? Trying to figure out if there's a way to fix the flicker issue or if it's just the 30hz. I have no flickering issue at 108p 120hz, just at 30hz 4k resolution.

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 28, 2013 1:31:50 PM PDT
Wayne says:
Hey V., the system running at 4K is my gaming PC and has a GTX 680 graphics card and looks just fine. Never saw any flickering.

Have you checked for a F/W update? I have mine updated, although I never had any flickering before the update at 4K.

http://seikidigital.com/support/downloads.php#firmware

I'd also make sure you have Noise Reduction turned off and that you're using the included HDMI 1.4 cable.

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 28, 2013 2:11:42 PM PDT
V. Jamali says:
thanks.. did those already. Might just be my panel then.

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 28, 2013 3:36:55 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Jun 28, 2013 3:38:01 PM PDT
Nick says:
I'm surprised you haven't been able to get 120hz vertical refresh rate at 1080P on your gtx 680. I have a GTX570 and I can get 120hz at 1080P. Try updating your video drivers. You will notice a massive difference when gaming at 1080p at 120hz. Its awesome. Open up your nvidia control panel and select 120hz for the refresh rate and you are good to go. Also hire a professional video calibrator and it makes a world of difference.

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 28, 2013 7:02:45 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Jun 28, 2013 8:02:40 PM PDT
Wayne says:
Actually, I never tried 120 Hz with 1080p on the gaming PC. I just meant that there wasn't a setting for it in the Seiki's menu for normal TV viewing, like motion smoothing. I guess after noticing the input lag and 30 Hz at 4K I sort of dropped the PC gaming aspect of it. But since you mentioned it I'll have to give it a try and see how it looks! :)

EDIT: I had to select a custom resolution, but it worked. And yes, it's actually kind of cool. Too bad you can't get this at 4K. Well, the video card would probably explode, but damn would it look awesome. Thanks for the tip!

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 28, 2013 10:14:28 PM PDT
Nick says:
Wow weird, my beta drivers picked up the 120hz instantly in the options menu. I had no need for a custom rez. If you use powerstrip you can get 144 hz at 1080p. But theres no real difference. Oh and trust me on this, if you want picture quality equivalent to the Samsung 6580 led from 2012 hire a video calibrator. Also I heavily modified my power supply on the tv and put in industrial grade capacitors and it made a very significant difference. I noticed slight flickering at 30hz at the 4k rez when I first got it. After beefing up the PSU it stopped. Not only that but the color profiles were more accurate, black levels improved, color quality, sharpness, shadowing, etc.... When my video calibrator buddy ran his spectrometer thingy majiggy before and after he noticed that the color profiles were more accurate with the industrial grade caps. It made a significant difference in calibrating it. Before the caps, with the calibration it came to 90% of my samsung 40" 6580 screen. After the industrial caps were put in and the calibration, it exceeded samsung 6580 quality. I don't have the 7500 to compare so I can't give a comparison to that but hopefully this should give you an idea. Take care.

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 28, 2013 10:16:46 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Jun 28, 2013 10:20:25 PM PDT
Nick says:
Oh and do me a favor, find a TV online that can do 120hz vertical refresh rate at 1080P. Other than the 4k tv's and projector on the market. You won't find one. Thats what makes your TV so unique and worth buying and using for gaming. There is no monitor/tv/projector on the market at a reasonable price like this that can do 1080p at 120hz on a PC especially at 50". So its not just a cool thing its the ultimate thing. NO ONE HAS THAT RIGHT NOW AND EVERYONE WANTS IT. What you have is MAJOR BLING and MAJOR BRAGGING RIGHTS.

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 28, 2013 10:59:10 PM PDT
V. Jamali says:
Do you have a how to guide on how to upgrade the power supply unit on these guys? The flickering is quite honestly murder for me, as I note that stuff. Also Nick, what graphics card are you using?

Thanks
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