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Decent "cheap" 40-45" UHD TVs

Discussion in 'Displays' started by JohnRice, Jun 24, 2019.

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  1. JohnRice

    JohnRice Executive Producer

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    I'm on a binge of sprucing up my second system, which is in the living room. I currently have a bottom-of-the-line Samsung 40" 1080 LED, but I'm in the middle of upgrading the whole system. It wasn't planned, it's just working out that way. I have my premium system in the basement, but this is the one that gets used every single day. The Samsung that's in there has a dark spot in the image. I've been living with it, but have been considering getting a decent but reasonably priced UHD model. A QLED or equivalent would be great, I'm sure, but I'm just not in the mood to spend that much for this system. That room does have a LOT of windows.

    I see a lot of 43" UHD LEDs that sell in the $300-$350 range. Pretty much all brands. I'm out of the loop on TVs. Is there much of a difference in this price range? Something I can walk in and get at Best Buy is probably preferable. No interest in streaming capability, since I have a 4K AppleTV in that system.

    Suggestions?
     
  2. Josh Steinberg

    Josh Steinberg Executive Producer
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    I'm curious what you find here, as I'll likely be tasked to help my mom and stepdad pick out a TV in that size range within the next year or so.

    For my living room, I have a TCL 55" Series 6 display - which is their top of the line model and cost $500. I'm extremely happy with the performance I'm getting out of this budget model television. They don't make a Series 6 smaller than 55", but given my positive experience with this set, one of the first places I plan to investigate is the TCL Series 5 models, which do come in that smaller size range. I'm wondering how much of a step down it is from the Series 6, or if the differences in quality aren't noticeable on smaller sizes.
     
  3. JohnRice

    JohnRice Executive Producer

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    The 43" 5 Series is $250 right now at Best Buy. Hard to beat that. Too bad they don't have a 6 Series in a 43". That would most likely still be in the price range I'm looking for.

    The 49" is only $300, but I just don't think I want to go that big.
     
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  4. Josh Steinberg

    Josh Steinberg Executive Producer
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    I feel like that's the model I may end up trying to get for my parents - the price is right and the specs aren't bad. It looks like a five year extended warranty from Best Buy would only add $50 to the cost for that model, which to me is probably worth it - they'll come and service it in your home and replace it if there are any dead pixel issues over the years. So for $300, you're guaranteed to have a working, above average budget TV for the next five years. I think Best Buy also offers either a 7, 14 or 30 day return with no questions asked if you're unsatisfied - you may want to double check that but I believe that was the case when I got my TCL last year.
     
  5. JohnRice

    JohnRice Executive Producer

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    In a moment of weakness I kind of went "All In" on sprucing up the second system. I got some momentum, and kept going. Except for the TV, so far. Now I'm feeling guilty and hesitating on the TV. I don't know. Are there often Independence Day deals?
     
  6. DaveF

    DaveF Moderator
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    Following along. I’ll want a new 40” TV for the bedroom. I think 43” is too large. It depends on the bezels and just how tight a squeeze in the hutch I’m willing to accept.
     
  7. JohnRice

    JohnRice Executive Producer

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    The 43" TCL Series 5 is the winner. I decided to wait for The Evil A to have their absurd summer sale, and see what happened. There it was for $210, so...

    I was tempted by the 49" for only $250. After all, $40 doesn't make any difference. I just don't think I want that big a TV in the living room. Ultimately I'll have to put this on a wall mount, which I already have, since TVs all seem to have those absurd double foot thing. I suppose it's a liability thing, plus probably cheaper. For the moment, I have a shelf I'll put on top of the stand, just so I can hook it up and use it a while before dealing with the wall mount.
     
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  8. Josh Steinberg

    Josh Steinberg Executive Producer
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    I think Amazon gives you 30 days on returns, so worst case, if you set it up and wish you went bigger, they probably wouldn’t make that exchange as hassle.

    Congratulations on your new purchase! Looking forward to getting your impressions on it.
     
  9. DaveF

    DaveF Moderator
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    Hadn't thought about looking for the 43" TCL for the bedroom. But I've not made the measurements to know if it would fit.

    The 65" wasn't cheap enough to be an impulse upgrade 3-6 mo early.
     
  10. Message #10 of 24 Jul 17, 2019
    Last edited: Jul 18, 2019
    JohnRice

    JohnRice Executive Producer

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    I got the TCL 43S517 all set up, well, mostly set up. Not wall mounted yet.

    I can say, the picture is pretty fabulous, especially compared to the 7 year old bottom-of-the-line Samsung it replaced, and especially for the price.

    There are three significant things to know.

    [EDIT]What follows is an issue with how the AppleTV 4K enables HDR by default, though the TV can't truly reproduce HDR, though it can process it. that's all figured out in the following posts.[/EDIT]
    It might technically process HDR and identify itself that way, but based on performance with my AppleTV 4K, it is NOT really HDR. That is, unless HDR sucks. I don't think that's the case. Just don't buy this TV planning on playing back HDR content. I haven't done a real calibration yet. I just eyeballed it (I've done it so many times, I can get acceptably close) until it's burned in a little and I do a real calibration. I had broadcast TV tuned in quickly, and spent about 90 minutes trying to get HDR from the ATV 4K not to look awful, until I finally just turned off HDR in the ATV. Then I had it reasonably calibrated in a couple minutes. Considering the low price of the TV, expecting real HDR is unrealistic. I wouldn't even try. The HDR picture is just bad, regardless of how I tried to fix it.

    The remote only has a few buttons on it, and no numbers for direct broadcast TV channel access. I just assumed I would get that with my Harmony. It has a number keypad for the TV, but nothing happens. So, you can't tune directly to a channel. You can't use your favorite channels with the Harmony remote. I confirmed this with the full online manual. That's just stupid. You have to change channels from the channel guide on the TV. It does have an outstanding channel guide, which I think is part of the Roku aspect of the TV, but still...

    Finally, it appears you can't even set up the TV without registering a (free) Roku account, with a credit card on file. There might be a way to do it, but I couldn't find it. I tried to skip that step, but it would not let me continue, no matter what I did. Maybe I could if I hadn't already connected it to WiFi. I don't know.


    The picture is far too good to be a $250 or less TV. The channel thing really pisses me off. Who would have ever thought it would work that way, but I suppose so few people use terrestrial broadcast. At least is has a tuner.
     
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  11. Josh Steinberg

    Josh Steinberg Executive Producer
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    The AppleTV has a strange implementation of HDR and Dolby Vision which can cause some weirdness on display devices. By default, the AppleTV wants to force everything into Dolby Vision HDR whether or not the actual material was created with HDR and whether or not it carries that signal. When you allow the AppleTV to do that, it does indeed make everything look crappy. The setting on the AppleTV is worded weirdly.

    But when you actually have the AppleTV sending something that's actually in HDR to the TV, it should look fine.

    The thing is, HDR isn't the end-all, be-all to home entertainment. It can make certain things look better. But especially on a screen of that size, and especially if you're not sitting right on top of it, it's not going to be like the difference between pan and scan VHS going to DVD.


    It seems that the overwhelming majority of people who watch TV these days tend to use a cable box or something other than a direct connection, and then younger generations care even less about traditional broadcast. I'm afraid this is probably an area where things aren't going to get more user friendly in the future.


    And that's probably why you need to register and why Roku is partnering with them and all that. I'm sure they're not losing money on the TVs, but for TCL, I wouldn't be surprised if the real money was in their partnership with Roku and that branding. For Roku, there might be value to subsidizing the TVs because customers with a Roku will use that Roku to view content, and Roku will get a piece of that. I'd love to actually know what the behind the scenes deal is.

    Another reason why it's so cheap is that TCL was a company that used to (maybe still does?) provide panels to other major manufacturers. Now they're making the TV themselves and their costs are lower because they're already making the parts instead of outsourcing them. So I assume it's sort of like the discount you'd get from buying the store brand generic instead of the name brand.
     
  12. JohnRice

    JohnRice Executive Producer

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    @Josh Steinberg , it occurred to me later that the ATV might be doing some sort of "auto" HDR thing with non-HDR material. I don't really have a simple or free way to check it with true HDR content at the moment.

    As far as the TV channel thing, it wouldn't cost them anything to simply have the availability to change channels the old fashioned way, using a programmable remote. Why they would choose to completely eliminate the option is beyond me.
     
  13. Josh Steinberg

    Josh Steinberg Executive Producer
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    Probably your best bet to do that cheap, if not exactly free, is to keep an eye out on iTunes sales, and when they have a movie listed that's in 4K with HDR and on sale for $4.99, go ahead and buy it and check it out. Or, even cheaper, check out their 99 cent rentals and look for one that's in 4K/HDR.

    (You could also check the digital copy codes for sale section on HTF and purchase a 4K code for a few bucks.)

    I think Netflix offers content in 4K HDR - you could sign up for the free trial, play around for a little bit, and then cancel before the trial ends.



    Welcome to my world, where electronics manufacturers eliminate features that cost very little or nothing once it's been decided that a majority of consumers don't use them. It doesn't seem to matter that there might be a minority that's still hundreds of thousands or millions of people who still do. I find that very frustrating but that seems to be the way things go these days.
     
  14. JohnRice

    JohnRice Executive Producer

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    Now I see Amazon has some stuff with HDR. I can check out one of those.
     
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  15. Josh Steinberg

    Josh Steinberg Executive Producer
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    Cool!

    For what it's worth, I've noticed the technical video quality of streaming from Amazon is by far inferior to every other service I have access to. So, if you try HDR on Amazon and it doesn't look great - my advice is to not let that be your final verdict.
     
  16. JohnRice

    JohnRice Executive Producer

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    The thing is, even the menu on the ATV 4K looks like crap when I turn on HDR. I'd think the everything would, but I'll give something on Prime a try sometime. I do also find Prime image quality is lower than other things. I find it always starts very low quality, but quickly improves. It's not surprising that image quality might not be their #1 priority.
     
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  17. Josh Steinberg

    Josh Steinberg Executive Producer
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    Yeah. It’s really a terrible setting. What you want to select (it memory serves) is “match content” rather than “HDR” or whatever they list it as. It’s counter intuitive because you’d think you’d want HDR on, but that setting merely forces everything into that color space whether or not it belongs.

    When the Apple TV plays content actually encoded with HDR or Dolby Vision and you have “match content” selected, then it’ll work as it should.

    On the TCL side of things, there are several different preset HDR modes and I believe “HDR - Darker” is the one that’s most accurate out of the box.
     
  18. JohnRice

    JohnRice Executive Producer

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    Yeah, Dark HDR was definitely the least bad of the options. Regarding the ATV 4K, now that I think about it, the setting I was adjusting, I think, was "Video Output" which you could see as forcing HDR with everything when you select "4K HDR". The "Match Content" setting must be somewhere else. I'll have to look around.
     
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  19. JohnRice

    JohnRice Executive Producer

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    OK, I found the right settings in the AppleTV 4K, and yeah, it’s stupid. I can’t get anything on Prime to play in HDR, though. However, there are some streamed DV clips, and they really look good. I’ll have to edit my first post about this.
     
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  20. Josh Steinberg

    Josh Steinberg Executive Producer
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    You and I are not novices or idiots when it comes to home theater gear and yet that setting threw both of us off. I feel for the average consumer who has to try to figure it all out.
     

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