Soniq 55in Full HD TV (E55S14A)

It's big and full of features, but the picture quality will leave you wanting more

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Soniq E55S14A

Pros

  • Can play content off USB, SD, and network locations
  • Large size at a sub-$1000 price

Cons

  • Picture quality
  • Interface too busy

Bottom Line

Overall, the main selling point is the 55in size. If that’s the most important thing to you, and you don’t have a budget that extends past $999, then it could be worth a look. But if you’re after something with very good picture quality, then you’ll want to save up and get something with better contrast and colour output.

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Soniq’s 55in Full HD television is one of the few models of this size that can be purchased for under $1000 ($999, specifically). It’s the type of TV to go for when you want bang for buck as far as picture size is concerned, and if picture quality isn’t of the utmost importance to you.

It’s a fully featured TV despite the price range it occupies, so not only can you use it to tune in to digital TV, it also has the ability to record onto external USB hard drives, it can view content from media servers, and, of course, it has the facilities to reside on your home network (both Ethernet and single-band Wi-Fi). Apart from that, you also get a passive 3D capability (with four sets of glasses, but the 3D effect is rarely of benefit on 2D source material), and there is a Cinevision interface that shows free and rent-able content that’s curated by Soniq itself.

The specs include a 1920x1080-pixel resolution, the panel is backlit by a LED light, and it has a refresh rate of up to 100Hz, which helps to display smooth motion for sports and action scenes. On the rear, there are two HDMI ports, an Ethernet port, a VGA port, an antenna port, a USB port for the remote control’s receiver, and a Component input. The side has another two HDMI ports, an S/PDIF optical audio output, two more USB ports (one being USB 3.0), a composite video input, and a full-sized SD card slot. Not many TVs come with an SD card slot, and it's a wonderful convenience, especially when you want to view photos you've just taken with your camera.

You’ll need a friend to come over and help you unpack and set up the TV, mainly because the wide size makes it awkward to lift into position by one’s self. Before you do anything, though, you have to attach the base to the stand, and this is a simple process as the base goes on one way and there are screws to keep it in place. It’s a central column that holds the TV to the base, so the screen will shake a little if you ever bump it.

Stylistically, the Soniq is a lot better looking than its price range would otherwise suggest, with a barely noticeable frame present along the outside of the screen, in what the manufacturer likes to call a ‘borderless frame’. It looks minimalist because of it, but there is actually a black frame around the edge of the picture, as the pixels don’t extend all the way to the outskirts.

A somewhat busy interface litters the screen when you hit the ‘home’ button on the remote control, and from this screen you can access the various ‘smart’ features that are present in the operating system. Primarily, it gives the ability to watch any of the Cinevision content that’s available, to access apps (YouTube being the most useful), and to also browse local drives and network locations to stream content to the TV. We recommend hooking it up via Ethernet for these tasks, as Wi-Fi will not cut it if your TV is too far away from the router, or if you are in an area with plenty of other 2.4GHz routers and can't get a fast connection.

We found the interface to be a little awkward to use at times, mainly due to the layout, which has a preview picture in the centre that’s turned to the input you currently have selected, and with other options to click on surrounding it (including ads and links to Web sites). The interface worked well enough, though, with media streaming from a DLNA-enabled NAS device, in particular, being quite easy to do. We played H264-encoded files of MP4 and MKV extensions without any issues, and most of our Xvid-encoded AVI files also played back smoothly.

When it comes to picture quality, though, this TV isn’t up there. Images can appear blocky, overly noisy, and there is a lack of contrast that can turn subtle shades to solid areas of black. The first action/chase scene in the Casino Royale Blu-ray, which already features plenty of noise by default, did not look good at all as the TV struggled to render the intentionally noisy picture and the out of focus background at the end of the sequence.

Other Blu-ray movies such as The Dark Knight suffered from a narrow colour gamut and contrast, showing plenty of blotchy skin tones, overly dark areas (especially in the Bat Cave), and jagged line edges. DVD movies also didn’t fair too well, with a lack of definition noticeable due to the lower resolution of the source material, but if you play naturally bright movies such as Austin Powers: Goldmember, the experience will at least be enjoyable. It's mostly with darker titles that the TV's struggle is obvious.

Watching video streams or other low-quality source material (especially from YouTube) will clearly showcase the limitations of the big screen. The limitations of DVDs won’t be so bad if you sit a reasonable distance away from the screen, say, about four metres, but low-quality online streams won’t look good regardless of the distance.

A lot of the streams that can be found in the Cinevision interface cater to foreign languages, but there isn’t much of interest there beyond that. You don’t get access to ABC iView or SBS OnDemand, or any other TV station apps. The good part is that there is a useful YouTube app, though you have to head to the ‘app’ section to install it. Coupled with the keyboard on the back of the remote, you can easily search for YouTube content and watch it without the need for a computer or mobile device.

The full keyboard on the underside of the remote control is always exposed, and it can make the control feel quite awkward to hold. The other side has navigational buttons, among other buttons such as 'input source', but the whole thing feels understandably cheap.

Overall, the main selling point is the 55in screen size. If that’s the most important thing to you, and you don’t have a budget that extends past $999, then it could be worth a look. But if you’re after something with very good picture quality, then you’ll want to save up and get something with better contrast and colour output.

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