Rating: ★★½☆☆

Everyone’s got to start somewhere. When getting new products, especially for the first time, most of us fail to do the proper research, and with good reason: we don’t have enough of a background to understand the product or service we’re researching. So it’s best to stick with bigger brands with safety options, like long warranty’s and the chance to return it for next to any reason. That’s partly why Costco is so popular.

With TVs though, trusting big brand names like Samsung or Sony often comes with a steep price. Television sets can range from overpriced to what were you thinking in no time. There is no better way to make your wife into a zealous rage than by attempting to explain how a 42” TV could possibly cost $2,000, when you’re supposed to be saving up with a baby on the way. I mean, really. Think of the children!

Perhaps with the Sceptre E420BV-F120 42” LED-HDTV, picking a big brand name isn’t the best bet.

The E420BV-F120 42” LED-HDTV – or F120 for short, because who in the hell came up with such an atrocious name – is a 42” 1080p LED backlit display. It’s not the fanciest, nor is it the biggest set you can find, but it has plenty of inputs. Because the one thing you don’t want to be left without is the proper input options for whatever you use around the media center.

The F120 has one of everything – cable/antenna, component, composite, S-video, VGA + audio, and even a USB, all on top of 5 HDMI inputs. This means you can hook up up-to 11 video sources into this TV at once, which is fabulous. It was for me during my testing, in which I had all of the following connected simultaneously: Playstation 3, Xbox 360, Wii, Apple TV, Logitech Revue, an OnLive microconsole, a desktop computer, a capture card, and occasionally my laptop. Every bit of hardware I had spewed across my media center had its place.

Add on top of that a standard Auxiliary, RCA and SPDIF audio outputs, and any stereo headsets you have can keep that pleasure watching on the down low, so you don’t wake up the baby. Unfortunately the SPDIF is coaxial, which will send an analog surround signal to some surround speakers systems. A digital fiber cable would have been an infinitely better option. Lacking a digital audio-out is a real shame, especially with the tinny soundbar, which barely kept me on the edge of my seat when watching The Dark Knight or Inception, or playing Crysis 2. Even with my sophisticated sound system being forced to have dozens of wires just for audio, especially when HDMI is so prevalent, is beyond a nuisance.

Of course, if sound and video quality are the most important thing for you when it comes to a new television set, then the F120 may not be for you. Audio quality is lacking and, as mentioned, there’s no fiber out. Video quality is decent, but not great. After calibrating (and yes, you’d better take some time to calibrate this set before having a housewarming for the new TV), you’ll immediately notice light bleed from the backlight, pixilation in DVD playback and most upscaled video, and otherwise blue blacks. SD quality video isn’t a big deal if you have an HD cable box and generally stream in HD, but if you still haven’t made the move then this set is definitely not for you. For 720p and 1080p video, images are clear and sharp, though colors are dim and the dark blacks are uncomfortable.

A note on light bleed. Light bleed, as you can see in the image above, is when the backlight shines through the edges of the screen. This makes images too bright, which is especially harmful to darker images on the screen. Picture a film with plenty of low-light scenes, and imagine them brightened around the corners because of the TV. The F120 does exactly that, and as you can see in the light bleed pattern above, this is more than an annoyance. It’s a severe headache. It is hard to see the backlight bleeding through on brighter video and games, and the more color used also tends to help (black and white video suffers, for example), so if you play a lot of video games, the light bleed isn’t going to be a big deal. For movie and TV viewers, it is more prevalent, but once again depends on the content.

But let’s take a step back and get back to the baby. You’d really better be careful with the F120. Even with the circular base the TV doesn’t sit in place very well, especially with all of those cables you have plugged in on the bottom or left side of the TV. It wobbles back and forth, and I wasn’t too comfortable with how easy the display is to move. Wall mounted, the F120 is fine…otherwise, be wary of junior doing this.

As a new TV, especially a first TV for a high-tech house with plenty of HD devices, the Sceptre E420BV-F120 42” LED-HDTV is a good set to have. It’s got enough ports for almost anything, excluding outputting digital surround audio. For HD content, video quality is decent and certainly good enough for a starter TV or as a step-up from an SD set. But if you’re looking to replace your current HDTV, still watch a lot of SD content, don’t necessarily want to wall mount (and have a safety issue) and want a good soundbar, then the F120 is one TV you should pass on. However, I have no doubt new buyers will be happy with the F120 even with its light bleed and average video quality because of its simplicity, many available ports, ease of use, and low price.

The Sceptre E420BV-F120 42” LED HDTV is available for purchase from Amazon for $699.99.



James Pikover

 
Spawned in the horrendous heat of a Los Angeles winter, James was born with an incessant need to press buttons. Whether it was the car radio, doorbells on Halloween or lights, James pushed, pressed and prodded every button. No elevator was left unscathed, no building intercom was left un-rung, and no person he’s known has been left un-annoyed.