Social Connect
« Review: Channel Master DVR+ | Main | Your Smartphone is a Set-top Box! »

Review: Seiki 4K LED TV

Updated October 13, 2014 to reflect changes in available 4K/UHD technology

4K or ultra high-definition (UHD) televisions offer four times the resolution of regular 1080p TVs, and these 8+ million pixel screens have quickly become the option of choice among home theater aficionados looking to futureproof their display investment.

Pronounced SAY-KEE
Seiki Digital is a relative newcomer among LCD television manufacturers, but the company's 50 inch SE50UY04 4K Ultra HD TV has grabbed everyone's attention with its low price - the similar 55-inch version is $770! The Seiki SE50UY04 costs a fraction of the price of other 4K TVs, but is this 4K bargain worth it? I give it a qualified 'yes', but there are aspects of Seiki 4K Ultra HD's design that will influence your decision to add one to your AV arsenal or avoid it altogether.

Port selection
The SE50UY04's rear port panel features three HDMI, one component video, and VGA inputs. Two USB ports support basic JPG/MP3 playback, and an RF input is ready for cordcutters looking to add an antenna for over-the-air (OTA) digital reception. For a value-priced TV, three HDMI ports and an HDMI cable included in the box are nice touches. The SE50UY04 lacks WiFi or a network connection for multimedia file streaming or app support, nor does it do 3D - more reasons that Seiki televisions are as attractively priced as they are.

Screen tech
The Seiki SE50UY04 has a screen resolution of 3840x2160 pixels and a 120Hz refresh rate. Keeping thing simple, the TV performs a 4x frame repeat with 30Hz input and 5x frame repeat with 24Hz input to reach 120Hz. Compared to interpolation techniques, frame repeating eliminates the soap opera effect (SOE) (aka "120Hz effect") that can result in unnaturally smooth looking video motion. However, the lack of interpolation hardware reduces motion resolution compared to LCD TVs with this feature enabled. The SE50UY04 also accepted 4096x2160 input at up to 30Hz (with some scaling on the sides) as confirmed by the DVDO AVLabs TPG. 

Finding 4K
Sources of 4K video remain scarce and quality varies wildly - read my article How to Watch 4K for the latest update on this subject. PCs equipped with modern AMD and Nvidia desktop graphics cards can output 4K via a single HDMI connection, but the SE50UY04 tops out at 4K30 (30Hz) input making it more suited for video and workstation use and less ideal for high framerate 4K PC video gaming. If you are thinking of adding something like a Sony FMP-X10 4K Ultra HD Media Player to this 4K Seiki, it won't work. 4K source devices like the FMP-X10 require HDCP v2.2 and the SE50UY04 doesn't have it. However, 4K upscaling Blu-ray players will work just fine.

Lab results
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). Beware the service menu's factory reset option will also wipe out the factory grayscale calibration. As with any trip into a TV's service menu, I'm obligated to remind you to take lots of pictures and notes before touching anything!

In the lab, the Seiki SE50UY04 LED TV revealed a decent factory grayscale calibration with the TV's Movie picture preset enabled. Grayscale error measurements recorded using CalMAN 5 calibration software revealed the Seiki had a good average delta-E of 1.97. Grayscale errors less than 3.0 are considered below the "just noticeable" threshold and indicate decent color consistency from light-to-dark shades.

Overscan fix
Until a recent firmware update (since removed) that fixed the issue, the Seiki SE50UY04 overscanned all HD formats by about 2% resulting in softened picture detail. Feeding the TV a 4K signal eliminated overscan as did forcing 720p/1080p refresh rates above 60Hz: 1080p at 120Hz from a PC looked especially promising on the Seiki (think PC gaming!). Video processing 1080i into 1080p proved mediocre with film-sourced (24 frames-per-second) material, but most connected devices will provide progressive scan output helping mitigate this issue.

Viewing exam
With 4K source material, the Seiki SE50UY04's picture 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 4K resolution test patterns. As expected, DVD and Blu-ray movies ran though a 4K upconverting disc player looked about as good on the SE50UY04 as they did when fed to a 1080p TV.

To buy or not to buy
The Seiki SE50UY04 4K Ultra HD TV is one of the least expensive 4K screens ever made, and it has some significant long-term limitations. Feeding this TV at its native resolution produces impressive visuals, but its 30Hz refresh rate limit with 4K resolutions simply isn't fast enough to keep the on-screen action smooth with 60fps games. Some PC users may find the Seiki 4K Ultra HDTV an ideal 1080p 120Hz display, or as a seriously spacious 2D desktop workspace. And, if a 50-inch or 55-inch 4K desktop display is too large, Seiki Digital has a 39-inch version for you to consider. For value-conscious shoppers looking for a 4K screen with HDMI v2.0 ports and HDCP v2.2 support, Seiki Digital has announced an upcoming pro line of 4K TVs that looks to fill the shortcomings of its current ultra high-definition offerings.

Robert's Favorite Home Theater Gear

TV Picture Setup Guide

How to Watch 4K

Check Today's Audio and TV Sales

Blu-ray Movies for Less Than $10!

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 Commenterheronfidelity

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

PostPost a New Comment

Enter your information below to add a new comment.
Author Email (optional):
Author URL (optional):
Some HTML allowed: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <code> <em> <i> <strike> <strong>