Review: LeEco X55 4K Ultra HD LED TV Offers HDR At A Bargain

December 13th, 2016 · No Comments · 2160p, 4K Flat Panel, 4K LED LCD, Amazon, Connected TVs, HDMI, HDR, LCD Flat Panel, LED LCD Flat Panels, News, Review, Streaming Services, UHDTV, Ultra HD Blu-ray Players

           LeEco’s Super 4 X55 4K Ultra HD LED LCD (model L554UCNN on Amazon)

The LeEco brand appeared in the U.S. market for the first time this year as the new moniker for the company’s former LeTV brand, which in China has been successfully selling TVs, smartphones and other electronics that carry its streaming, content, cloud storage and Internet services.

At home, the company commands a large customer base, attracted to low price points supported in part by the company’s “ecosystem” of content and services. The company banks heavily on the notion that most TV purchasers will continue to subscribe to its streaming services after the initial trial period ends.

Now trying to build its brand globally, the company is using TVs with sophisticated styling designs, trending picture quality advances and enhanced smart TV functionality.  To see what all of the noise was about, we recently received a test model of the company’s Super 4 X55 entry level 4K Ultra HD LED LCD TV (model L554UCNN on Amazon) with high dynamic range (HDR) capability and a wide color gamut (WCG).

What we found was a TV with good contrast and color in standard dynamic range (SDR), and good handling of HDR from supported native 4K Ultra HDTV content for an entry model with an $899 ($699 on promotion as this was written through the LeRewards program) asking price.

Before we begin, LeEco also announced this summer that it is acquiring a majority share in the popular Vizio U.S. TV brand, but as this review was written the deal had still not closed. Regardless of the outcome, company executives made clear that the marketing plan for LeEco TVs will be separate from that of Vizio’s, and it remains to be seen how or if the LeEco streaming services will be integrated into Vizio TVs in future lines.

Read more of our review of the LeEco Super 4 X55 4K Ultra HD LED LCD TV with HDR after the jump:

LeEco’s Super 4 X55 was introduced at the end of the summer with two other models in the entry level 4K edge-lit LED Super 4 line (the 43-inch X43 and 65-inch X65). It was also joined by LeEco’s flagship 85-inch Umax85 4K Ultra HD LED TV with full-array LED backlighting and claimed “Ultra HD Premium” supporting performance.

Like the X43 and X65 models in the line, the Super 4 X55 supports the HDR10 HDR system (no Dolby Vision support is announced for the Super 4 series at this time), but none of the models support the multi-industry Ultra HD Alliance’s performance criteria for Ultra HD Premium performance levels. That means the displays will present a wider contrast ratio (with deeper blacks and brighter whites) than most standard dynamic range (SDR) models, but images won’t achieve peak brightness levels of 1,000 nits or black levels of 0.05 nits of lower. That also means the sets will have a wider color range than the typical Rec. 709 standard used for Full HD 1080p TVs, but won’t necessarily achieve 90 percent of the Digital Cinema Initiative’s P3 recommendations for professional digital cinemas, as required for Premium certification.

Design

The X55 has an elegant though sturdy metallic frame with inward facing feet placed at the far ends of the panel. The ergonomic design offers modern design stylings without being too overbearing for almost any room décor. The rear of TV is made of metal and gives the overall set a substantial, high-quality feel. The bezel trim is thin and unobtrusive. The mostly metallic build is something LeEco carries throughout the set design, right on through to the remote control (more on this later) that has a pleasing feel with just the right amount of heft. From the profile, the panel depth offers an attractive ultra-thin look only slightly thicker than OLED TVs on the top half, and about triples the width from the middle on down to house the necessary circuitry and inputs. Overall, the appearance is impressive for a television of the price.

Remote

As mentioned above, the remote has an unusual metallic body that fits comfortably in the hand, and features a minimal (13 buttons plus circular arrow control) layout allowing easy one-handed operation. The remote’s solid and durable construction and layout speedily accommodates navigating the on-screen user interface that puts source inputs, program recommendations and supported streaming apps on one screen, much like Samsung’s 2016 smart TV models. On the home screen, viewers are presented with a stack of scrolling ribbons carrying apps and programs, inputs and settings for intuitive and quick access.

Smart TV Functionality

The LeEco TV lineup makes use of the Android TV smart platform, like that offered Sony’s best smart TVs. This includes the use of the Google Cast system, which enables sending content streamed from apps on a compatible smart phone or tablet to the TV screen.  You’ll also find a boat load of apps through the on-board Android TV platform and Play Store. Finding and streaming content is made quick and easy.

In addition, the TV set-up process is greatly enhanced by allowing a user to link to a Google account to instantly find and connect to an in-home wireless network already used by a mobile device. Linking a Google account simplifies purchases and ordering through linked apps on the TV.

Navigation can be simplified further using Google Voice Search as well as the LeEco proprietary ecosystem.

Supported pre-installed apps include Netflix, Showtime, Fandor, Pandora, SlingTV, YouTube, Google Play Music, Google Play Movies & TV, Google Play Games and Hulu. A large selection of additional apps are available through the Google Play Store as well as via the supported Google Cast system, which is built-in to the TV, to stream services through a connected mobile device. However, we could not find or play back the Amazon Instant Video app on the TV or in the Google Cast system. Those Amazon Prime members and others who use the Amazon Movie service will have to get a supporting add-on media adapter like a Roku Ultra or the latest Amazon Fire TV box with 4K/HDR support.

One annoyance encountered was the system’s apparent inability to recognize and interoperate the latest DirecTV 4K-capable Genie box, requiring us to use the satellite provider’s supplied remote instead of the television graphical user interface when looking for programming or signal sources. The 4K signal from DirecTV’s three UHD-supporting channels also was not recognized by the set. When we tried to tune in a 4K program, the DirecTV box warned us that the connected display did not support 4K content and the image was being down-converted to 1080p.

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As mentioned at the start, LeEco has a goal of getting purchasers to use its various streaming and support services. These include the LeEcoPass through which users get a limited time subscription for the purchase of the TV through Lemall.com. It includes a combination of cloud storage, unlimited movie viewing through the app, various content discounts, LeMall.com promos, special purchase days, an extended warranty and other purchase incentives.

Other ecosystem offerings include: “Le,” the company’s aggregation app of streaming movie and TV programming; LeZone, featuring a selection of streamable video games, including Final Fantasy 3, 4 and 6; Heroes of SoulCraft; Gameloft’s Despicable Me and others.

Audio

LeEco Super 4 TVs, except for the 43-inch model, feature built-in Harman Kardon audio systems with support for Dolby Digital Plus Audio and DTS-HD surround sound. The TVs feature decent-sounding built-in speakers that produce clean room-filling sound, with clear dialog. However, the thin nature of the TV itself tends to give sound an overall boxy hollow effect that can be significantly improved upon with a good quality outboard soundbar or, better, a 5.1- or 7.1- surround sound home theater system.

Color

In SDR, Rec. 709 Color Gamut Is Very Accurate

In HDR mode, the Super X55 offers rich, bright colors with a touch of added brightness in spectral highlights like glowing campfires, candles, room lights and fire-filled explosions, but not to the same extent as they appear on top-performing and brighter models like Samsung’s SUHD series or Sony’s X930D and better. Overall color performance levels appeared accurate to the eye in HDR mode and the color gamut measured significantly wider than expected.

                                           X55 color gamut measurement at the default settings.

Images of 4K HDR video samples from Ultra HD Blu-ray discs and streamed from a connected Roku Ultra media adapter were impressively bright and colorful on our X55 review sample. Testing for color gamut in HDR mode using the Florian Friedrich-authored HDR10 Reference Disc 2016 supplied by Samsung along with a supporting CalMan HDR Workflow and SpectraCal C6-HDR colorimeter, we found the X55 achieved 92.2 percent of the DCI-P3 color space, which is within the 90 percent or better specifications listed in the Ultra HD Alliance’s Ultra HD Premium certification standard. This is quite good for an HDR television in this price range. The TV had no color management controls available in HDR mode so no CMS calibration was performed.

HDR

Unlike the LeEco 85-inch Umax85, the Super 4 X55 does not support the voluntary Dolby Vision HDR system that is slowly building momentum and content libraries across CE manufacturers and Hollywood Studios. We expect to see more brands and models of 4K Ultra HDTVs supporting Dolby Vision in 2017, so this omission is becoming more and more noticeable.

Still, the TV does support the mandatory HDR10 format, and for a model in this price range it does a competent job. The LeEco Super 4 X55 doesn’t permit access to color controls and the backlight control is maxed out at 100 percent by default as soon as an HDR signal is detected. Thus, warm color highlights like reds and yellows tend to be a little more exaggerated than we would like. We found bright highlights, particularly in facial skin tones to be a little red, contributing to overly hot fine details and somewhat unnatural skin coloring, particularly in the recent Warner Bros. Ultra HD Blu-ray release of Argo. We tried adjusting the “warm” color temperature setting to “normal,” but found the latter too cool [blue] for our liking.

In measuring for peak luminance in HDR mode we measured 363.6 nits using a 10 percent white window (D65) test pattern; 364.4 nits at 25 percent; 364.8 nits at 50 percent; and 364.1 nits at 100 percent. Light levels measured on pure black registered 0.09322 nits, using a pattern with moving white squares in each corner; this was specifically designed to trick the TV into keeping its LED automatic backlight limiter from shutting off the LEDs, entirely.

These results are well below the 1,000 nit peak luminance criteria needed to qualify for Ultra HD Premium certification, although it is in line with other entry HDR models we’ve tested from Hisense (H8) and others. Naturally, being more than 600 nits off the peak luminance target is going to make brightness highlights less pronounced than they would be in top-performing sets like the LeEco Umax85, Samsung SUHD HDR TV models or Sony X930 series and higher LED LCD TVs. The TV also costs significantly less than any of those models.

Fortunately, the black level performance wasn’t significantly off the Premium target of 0.05 nits, and the set does display dark blacks quite well, as demonstrated in the inky deep-space scenes from the 4K Ultra HD/HDR Blu-ray of The Martian. This black level also provides a solid foundation to generate rich color performance. But the combination of the set’s use of LED edge lighting instead of full-array LED backlighting and a mediocre dimming system resulted in the TV crushing some of the fine detail elements in dark areas of the picture. In addition, we found overly high contrast and detail smothering in bright areas of some HDR scenes.

When we mentioned some of these issues to a LeEco product development executive we were told: “We are still working on making HDR better – we are pushing out another OTA [firmware update] in mid-January that should improve it.”

Viewing Angle

Like many TVs available today, the LeEco Super 4 X55 is an LCD-based set using a VA-type panel. This means the TV is going to exhibit better-than-average black levels with good rich colors but gradually loses that color and contrast performance with each successive step away from the center of the screen. Seated head on, looking square in the middle of the picture, you’ll get a well-balanced image, particularly with SDR material, but viewers seated just two to three feet off to the left or right sides won’t have an equally good experience. This is an issue that is common to virtually all LED LCD TVs and one of the technology’s primary limitations. It also impacts high-angle placements, like mounting the screen significantly above eye level on a wall. That’s something to consider when making a placement decision.

Motion Resolution

Like other Super 4 models, the X55 has a native 60 Hz refresh rate LCD panel, which is the lowest level available. This means that no matter what is done with motion processing trickery, the image is never going to be as good as it would be on a display with a 120 Hz refresh rate panel. That said, the TV incorporates LeEco’s “Fluid Motion 120” motion estimation, motion compensation system, which creates an effect that is claimed to simulate the look of a 120 Hz native refresh rate. The system isn’t the worst we’ve seen. In fact, it was quite good on some upscaled 1080p Blu-ray material with significant fast-motion sequences. Motion blurring wasn’t overtly noticeable although we did seen issues with judder from DVD material, even with Fluid Motion set to the highest setting. While there were some hints of the Soap Opera effect with Fluid Motion turned on, this was not glaring at all.

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Upconversion

The X55’s powerful quad-core CPU, multi-core GPU and 3GB DDR3 RAM contribute to the set’s ability to produce generally very clean, clear images in upscaled sub-4K-resolution content. We were impressed by how well images of SDR, 720p, 1080i and Full HD 1080p looked on the 3840 x 2160 screen. Very few artifacts, like jagged edges, muted colors or mushy faces, were evident in most live basic-cable channels showing lower-resolution material via DirecTV.

In addition, the X55’s processing tends to add its own HDR-like embellishment to SDR content. This is a sort of faux HDR effect that boosts brightness and color levels a touch on regular SDR programming. We found this adds nice qualities to some content better than others, however, and is certainly no substitute for authentic native HDR 4K programming.

Rec. 709 SDR Performance

The X55 is well equipped to handle regular HD content produced with the Rec. 709 color gamut and standard dynamic range. In SDR mode, the X55’s default settings for color were pretty much on target with very accurate colors showing error levels below the perceivable levels. Colors are rich with support from the set’s respectable black level, and uniformity was acceptable. Streamed and upconverted HD images from Blu-ray, Amazon (via Roku), YouTube and Netflix were quite immersive and pleasing to the eye even without HDR. The X55 handled whites well without any hint of clipping in the 1080p Blu-ray version of The Art of Flight, which covers snowboarding dare devils concurring snow-covered mountain peaks in Alaska. Here rich, deep blues and greens of hidden ice flows emerge from beneath the layers of snow drifts to reveal the striking desolate beauty buried in the frozen snowscapes. The diverse colors of the snowboarders’ clothing pops spectacularly against the stark white surroundings. Despite the native 60 Hz refresh rate of this LCD panel, the television also does an admirable job of handling motion blurring and judder in these high-resolution video sequences.

Connectivity

The LeEco Super 4 X55 offers a good selection of inputs including: three HDMI inputs (one with audio return channel), all of which support up to 4K Ultra HD @ 60 Hz. Our sample model arrived with all three HDMI inputs set to the default “standard” setting for 1080p @ 60Hz @ 4:4:4. In order to get the TV to read HDR signals, however, the TV must be set to 4k @ 60Hz. The HDMI standard setting is ideal for some PC applications and Full HD resolution, but most people are going to using the TV for 4K resolution the panel is designed to support.

Therefore, 4K viewers will need to remember to manually go into the settings menu and set each of the appropriate HDMI inputs to receive 4K Ultra HD signal sources. Failing to do this, the TV won’t detect the HDR signal input and won’t enter HDR picture mode. Each HDMI port will support up to the latest HDMI 2.0b spec to easily pass 4K signals with HDR metadata, according to a LeEco spokesman. They also support HEVC and VP9-HDR signal compression decoding and HDCP 2.2 digital rights management.

Other connections include are one digital optical output; one 3.5mm analog audio out for headphones and similar devices; one VGA port for PC connectivity; one coaxial OTA/cable tuner input; one Ethernet input and one IR input.

Conclusion

Over all the LeEco Super 4 X55 is a satisfying entry level HDR-capable 4K Ultra HD LED TV, although some aspects, such as uneven HDR performance and the total collection of streaming apps, has some glaring limitations or omissions. The TV remains a work in progress, and we anticipate picture quality, features and functionality getting better and better with future firmware updates. The TV also lacks Dolby Vision support, which is becoming a bigger factor in the marketplace, although for an $899 suggested retail ($699 on promotion at the time this was posted) it handles HDR10 quite well.

As pointed out, you’ll find better TVs for 4K and HDR if you are willing to pay significantly more money for a comparable screen size. In the entry level HDR class you’ll also find Hisense H8 series models providing similarly good picture quality at promotional prices starting around $499, but with lesser design aesthetics and fewer second-screen and streaming capabilities.

Overall, we expect most people will find this television’s picture and sound quality more than satisfying. At $699 it a good value to boot.

We therefore award the LeEco Super 4 X55 3.5 out of 5 hearts.

3.5 out of 5

 

The LeEco Super 4 X55 used for this review was a manufacturer loan.

By Greg Tarr

 

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