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Review: Seiki 4K LED TV

A relative newcomer in the LCD television space has started shipping a new edge-lit model that features 3840-by-2160 pixels (aka 4K resolution) spread across a 50-inch display. The Seiki SE50UY04 LED TV packs four-times as many pixels into its picture compared to a regular 1080p resolution TV, and all of those 8-million pixels can be fed via a single HDMI connection. Perhaps the most impressive thing about the SE50UY04 is its sub-$500 online price - a fraction of the price of the other 4K screens that are now trickling onto store shelves.

Is this 4K bargain worth it? I give it a qualified 'yes', but there are some aspects of Seiki's design that will influence your decision to add one to your A/V aresenal.

Inputs are located on the rear of the set and include three HDMI, one component video, and a USB port for basic JPG/MP3 playback.  For a value-priced 4K television, I was pleased to see a HDMI cable included in the box - a nice touch.  Note the SE50UY04's lack of a network connection - one reason Seiki televisions are attractively priced is that they do away with "premium" HDTV features like 3D and app support.

Sources of 4K video remain scarce and quality varies wildly - YouTube has a few 4K clips ready to stream to anyone with the available bandwidth and hardware.  PCs equipped with the latest AMD and Nvidia desktop graphics cards can also experience 4K output via a single HDMI connection.  4K movies are coming soon...Sony recently announced a 4K Media Player, but it has been reported that this product will only work with Sony 4K televisions.  And, as was the case with viewing DVD movies on an HDTV, the latest generation of Blu-ray players are incorporating 4K upconversion.  It may be sometime before we have a 4K broadcast television standard, but new compression technologies like H.265 are enabling 4K video transmission in the same space as a regular HD channel.

In the lab, the Seiki SE50UY04 LED TV revealed a decent factory grayscale calibration with the TV's Movie picture preset enabled. Note the delta-E average of 1.97 as indicated in the CalMAN 5 screenshot below - all grayscale errors were below the maximum acceptable value of 3 indicating decent color consistency from light-to-dark shades.

Video scaling was the Seiki SE50UY04's weakness: all 720p60 and 1080p60 sources were overscanned by about 2% resulting in softened picture details [this has been corrected with an updated firmware file that can be manually applied to the TV]. The TV's aspect ratio adjustment has no preset for removing this unacceptable display condition. Interestingly, feeding the TV a 4K signal eliminated overscan as did forcing 720p/1080p refresh rates above 60Hz: 1080p @ 120Hz looked especially promising on the Seiki although I'm not aware of anything besides a PC that provides a 1080p video signal via HDMI beyond a 60Hz refresh rate. Upconversion from 1080i to 1080p was mediocre, but most connected devices will provide progressive scan output helping mitigate this issue.

Calibration enthusiasts will find the TV's hidden service menu a minefield: enter this menu by pressing Menu on the remote followed by 0000 (four zeros). The service menu's overscan controls didn't have the intended affect, and it appears a factory reset option also wipes out the factory grayscale calibration. As with any trip into a TV's service menu, I'm obligated to warn you to take lots of pictures and notes before you touch anything!

With 4K source material, the Seiki SE50UY04 looks damn good - all of those extra pixels in the video signal and screen go a long ways toward making the TV appear window-like! Reducing the TV's sharpness setting from its mid-point default to zero removed the last traces of moiré and artificial edge-enhancements in my 4K resolution test patterns. One thing to keep in mind about current 4K TVs is that the input tops out at 30Hz. Refresh rates faster than 30Hz at 4K resolution will require new chipsets to handle the increased bandwidth - not a simple upgrade or something that can be done with new firmware. In the case of the SE50UY04, it appears to perform a simple 4x frame repeat with 30Hz input and 5x frame repeat with 24Hz input eliminating the "120Hz effect" that produces unnaturally smooth camera motions in feature films that were originally captured at 24 frames per second.

The bottom line on the Seiki SE50UY04 LED TV is that it is the current price leader for a 50-inch 4K screen. 4K early-adopters that can feed the TV its native resolution will see this Seiki at its best. PC gamers may desire a 4K playspace, but the 30Hz refresh rate limit simply isn't fast enough to keep the on-screen action smooth although it's fine as a seriously spacious desktop work environment. And, if a 50-inch desktop display is too much, Seiki Digital has mentioned they plan to ship a 39-inch 4K screen later this year.

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Reader Comments (17)

Although I really like the removal of the "120 Hz effect" (that's "effect", Robert, not "affect"), I'm somewhat disappointed that this TV doesn't support 3D. Considering that it's already 120 Hz, I would have thought that 3D would have been easy to implement, especially when 3D is effectively ubiquitous among 50+ inch TVs anymore. 3D is the main reason why I will be buying a new HDTV by the end of this year, and it's unfortunate that I now have to rule this TV out.

April 30, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJohn Berger

Good point, John. And thank you for catching the typo! Passive 3D w/4K screens seems like a win-win for everyone.

April 30, 2013 | Registered CommenterRobert

Hi, Robert,

Any opinion on how this would work as a computer monitor? For certain display presentations, 4K would look a lot nicer than 1080p. Well, four times nicer, at least.


May 1, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterBob Flaminio

I'm having problems with my unit.

The Samsung 7500 blurry tries to upscale 4k then my screen blacks out.

Anyway you might be able to help me out?

May 16, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterDean

Thats the reason for the price difference: better 4k upscaling/3d... for the sonys.
They are using lg panels, but they still look way better than the 4k tvs from lg.
Why? Just having a good panel doesnt make a good picture. ...

May 18, 2013 | Unregistered Commenteroliver

Thanks for the review here and on HDN! I've been following this to find a new monitor for my Mac. 2560x1440 is too little for my programming needs and multiple monitors has been a constant headache between dealing with the bezel gaps and OSX's increasingly poor support for it.

However, the HDMI 1.4 restriction of 30Hz (apparently even worse at 17Hz with the current OSX drivers) makes it a no-go. Why can't the manufacturers add DisplayPort? It can already easily handle 4k @ 60Hz! Many computer monitors have this now as do all Macs and an increasing number of PCs / graphics cards. Is it being blocked by the companies that get the royalties that HMDI charges (and DP doesn't)?

Seems pretty fishy.

May 27, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterDavid Rogoff

The monitor works fine for FPS if you turn VSYNC off. (With VSYNC on, it's too laggy). The refresh rate doesn't really matter except for FPS. For business, work, and surfing, 30Hz is way more than enough.

July 16, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterGeorge

George -- can you detail how to "turn VSYNC off"? I looked through the menus on my Seiki but I didn't see a VSYNC option.

Thanks in advance...

July 16, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterBob Flaminio

VSYNC can be turned on or off either on the driver options of your NVIDIA / AMD graphics card, or within a game itself.

July 18, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterMax

i bought this tv for just under $ 1100 CAN. After good calibration with good blu ray disks it looks great in my opion with purchased Apple TV content at least . Also a firmware update was offered that i noticed adds a "just scan" option to the aspect ratio secletion options - fixing the 2% overscan with non UHD content sources. Great work Robert love your content everywhere you have it .

September 24, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterEric


Iwas wondering how you got rid of the overscan issue. Please let me know. I am not able to find this just scan option on my TV.

September 26, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterRudy

you need to update via usb (the instructions on there website i belive not DO NOT work as written. A simple google search can find the approerate way. (AVS forum i belive has the deails somewhere on firmware upgrading this model) Due to the inconsitant showings in their menue of this tv it shows as "Standard " to start, but set it as standard with "aspect " button on remote, and then with a 1080p/i or 720 p source in my experience, on tv or HDMI source , if you go back into the menu, and settings section will see the words Just scan in the Aspect /picture size section in there. _ must have the latest fimware running to get this, did an overscan test pattern off a blue ray in a PS3 - no overscan shown.

September 26, 2013 | Unregistered Commentereric

Thank you. This works perfectly now.

October 1, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterRudy

For OSx users, Mavericks 10.9 fully support the UHD format at 30Hz.

October 15, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterPatrick

OK. REV3's beancounter decision offends me as much as ever.

I hope you'll be able to devote time away from HDNation to the blog for it's the sole online-only form that I care to attend as frequently and closely as IP or otherwise TV.

And our family sorely misses your analysis and commentary on HD media and products.

April 20, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterEideard

I think that the overscan problem of video under 4k is addressed by Seiki giving out free 4k upconverter cables:

Since you said that you didn't see the issue with 4k images, this is probably a good way to overcome that.

July 10, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterMike J

These TV's are $500 now 9/03

September 3, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterBripco

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