If you search the Internet for "Best Outdoor TVs" listicles, there are some otherwise-reputable sites whose lists are partially (or completely) filled with regular indoor TVs. This is a terrible idea. Your run-of-the-mill indoor TV is not designed to withstand even minimal exposure to weather or outdoor conditions -- be it the heat of direct sunlight, the chill of a winter wind, or even the condensation that can happen as early-morning temperatures approach the dewpoint. And if you do put your indoor TV outside, there's a good chance you just voided the warranty, so good luck getting it fixed or replaced.
There are companies that specialize in outdoor products for exactly this reason, with Séura being one of the more highly respected. The company has a range of indoor and outdoor TVs designed for bathrooms, kitchens, and shaded or sunny outdoor areas. The Shade Series 2 is designed for shaded areas such as patios or decks. Models range in size from 43 inches to 75 inches (our review sample was a 55-inch model) and all come with a matching soundbar. The 55-inch Shade Series 2 with included soundbar retails for $2,499.
At first glance, the price might seem a bit on the high side for a 55-inch TV (even with an included 50W soundbar), especially one that isn't an OLED. But the premium price is evidenced by the design necessary for a TV to exist in the outdoors year-round. To keep the electronics of the Shade 2 safe, Séura created a chassis that has an IP56 rating. The first number of the IP (Ingress Protection) rating refers to the TVs ability to protect from dust. A five indicates a rating of Dust Protected -- while it's still possible for dust to get in to the television, it won't have an adverse effect of the Shade 2's operation. The second number refers to its protection from liquids. At a level of six, the TV is protected from powerful jets of water from any direction. A necessary precaution if you live anywhere with rain. Séura also sells an optional $209 cover for the Shade 2 for extra protection in the event of, I don't know, tropical storms, or just to give you extra peace of mind if you know the TV will go unused for a while.
In addition to protection from dust and rain, any TV installed outdoors needs to be able to withstand much wider temperature extremes that you would hopefully ever experience inside. This is where those Best Outdoor TV guides are really failing, especially for anyone that lives in a climate where temperatures can swing 100 degrees throughout the year. When off, the Shade 2 is rated to withstand temperatures anywhere between minus-24 and 140 degrees Fahrenheit. The upper limit lowers to 104 degrees when the TV is in operation (it will be generating heat, after all). So you could even watch the Packers outside in your Green Bay backyard as they play in December (although optimal viewing temps are between 32 and 104 degrees Fahrenheit). I had the Shade 2 outside my home during one of Los Angeles' heat waves this past summer, where high temps reached into the upper 110s, and while I didn't watch it during the heat of the day, it showed no issues when I turned it on later in the evening.
Needless to say, the Shade 2 is solidly built. Side and bottom bezels are sufficiently thin and aren't distracting, although the top bezel is a little over twice the width of the others. At its deepest (which is the top half of the display), the Séura is 2.9 inches thick. Unlike many indoor TVs, the entirety of the Shade 2's chassis is metal, and after spending time with it, I have no reservations about its build quality.
All of the connections are hidden behind a hinged panel that is secured with five thumbscrews. There's a rubber gasket that seals it from all directions when the thumbscrews are tightened, as well as a foam section along the bottom side where cables can run out without significantly breaking the seal. The panel also has a RF window to allow for better signal transmission. Behind the panel are three HDMI 2.0 ports with HDCD 2.2 (one with ARC), component video input, RF, coax and optical digital audio out, RCA audio out, a 3.5mm analog out (which connects to the included soundbar), USB that supplies 5V 0.5A and is also capable of playback and updates, IR in and outs, RS-232, and an RJ-45 port for IP control.
The same care given to the weatherproofing of the connections panel is given to the remote. The bottom sheath slides off to reveal a rubber flap that protects the battery compartment. The remote is light and thin, though slightly boxy. The buttons panel has a slightly rubberized texture and buttons have a satisfying click. There's no backlight, so if you're watching at night there could be some difficulty seeing which button is which. But all of them are in relief, so it's pretty easy to feel your way around. The IR signal beam is narrow, so the remote needs to be pointed almost directly at the IR sensor on the TV (at the top right corner) to be sensed.
Included with my Shade 2 sample was the Séura TW-5 tilting wall mount, available for $299. It came with the necessary mounting hardware and was easy to attach. The two-channel soundbar needs to be affixed to the TV before the mount, as they both use the 400 x 200 mm VESA points (the 43-inch Shade 2 has a 300 x 300 mm VESA pattern). It can be installed either on top or underneath. The soundbar's depth is equal that of the top of the TV. I personally prefer soundbars to be under the image, as my ear better correlates the dialogue in that position. Having it above the screen sounds often sounds wrong to my ears. When installed at the bottom, though, the difference in soundbar depth as compared with TV is significant and can look odd when viewed from the side. The soundbar itself also isn't the most attractive. It's basically a black metal rectangular cuboid with a perforated black metal grille.
A consideration when mounting is access to the back panel. When an indoor TV is attached to a wall mount, it can be difficult to access the connections because of how close the back of the TV is to the wall. Access can be made easier by using an articulated wall mount that allows the TV to be pulled away from the wall. With the Shade 2, access is even more difficult because of the panel door. The door needs 14.5 inches of clearance to fully be able to open, but you can get away with five or six to have suitable access. That amount of access isn't possible with a regular tilting wall mount, so I highly recommend taking stock of the cables you'll need and plugging them in to the Shade 2 before putting mounting it.
The Séura Shade 2 is not a Smart TV, so a streaming stick is the easiest way to get your Netflix, HBO, Amazon, and other streaming services to the TV. There's a decent amount of space in the connections compartment to connect one -- in my case a Roku Streaming Stick+. The design of the Roku (with its power connection coming out the side) means I needed to connect it to HDMI 1 to keep it from interfering with other HDMI connections. This places it at the farthest point from the USB, though, and the USB power cable is barely long enough to make the connection, so it pulls slightly at the streaming stick while it's plugged in. If you're using a Roku stick and have only one other HDMI source then the easy solution is to put the Roku stick in HDMI 3 and the other source in 1 to avoid any issue, but this means you won't be able to use HDMI 2. It's a very situational problem, but one to be aware of if you too use a Stick+ and have any other HDMI sources.
Menu options are sparse. For video options, you basically have the choice of picture mode and color temperature (both of which I'll address in the next section). If you are not planning on having any 4K signals and choose Standard mode for the HDMI, you get the additional option to toggle Adaptive Contrast. Enhanced mode allows for 4K at 60Hz. When I initially switched this on for HDMI 2, it didn't sync properly and displayed images at 4K/30. A quick on/off managed to sync the picture back up and I didn't encounter the issue again. Audio is a bit more in depth, with six different modes, a five-band equalizer (with User mode), and a dialogue clarity option.
Evaluating picture quality on outdoor TVs is somewhat different from judging the performance of a TV in a dark, light-controlled room. Even though the Shade 2 is designed to be out of direct sunlight, it still needs to combat a whole lot of ambient light. It can do this in a couple different ways: more light output or lower gamma. More light output will obviously create a brighter image, while the lower gamma will raise the shadow level so detail doesn't get as lost in the afternoon sunlight.
In my testing of the Shade 2, using a 25 percent peak brightness window, I measured a max brightness of 549 nits before calibration. After calibration that dropped slightly to 536 nits. This doesn't compete with indoor TVs in the same price range (the new Vizio P Series Quantum X boasts 3,000 nits peak brightness), but it is enough for a daytime image. For gamma, the traditional targets for indoor viewing are either 2.4 (for darker rooms) or 2.2 (for lighter room). The Shade 2 measured expectedly below that, with an average below 1.8.
I used a Photo Research PR-650 spectroradiometer, Calman calibration software, a VideoForge Classic for SDR patterns, and HDR10 patterns from Diversified Video Solutions for my testing. All of the picture modes start in the Cool color temperature setting, and because of that, they all measure with a blue tint to the grays and white. The most accurate color temperature setting is in Movie mode with Warm color temperature selected. RGB balance in this mode was consistent and decently balanced across the grayscale range. Midtone grays all measured expectedly bright (again, low gamma).
SDR color point hue and saturation were all excellent, with luminance across the board -- save for blue -- higher than a normal target. Blue was a little oversaturated. Color measurement accuracy carried over to HDR. Blue was again a bit oversaturated and green tracked ever-so-slightly towards yellow. The EOTF curve for the midtones was a bit above target. Again, not unexpected from a TV that needs to combat the outside light.
The Séura Shade 2 excels at detail with 4K material. In Blade Runner 2049, individual grains of dirt and soot fall through K's fingers as he picks up the wrapped toy horse at the orphanage's furnace. This whole scene is a favorite of mine for checking HDR performance, as well. The heightened black level (due to the EOTF curve being a bit above target) allows you to see more of the shadow detail when he first enters the orphanage and the piles of books and paperwork behind Mister Cotton in his office. The tradeoff to that raised shadow level is a decrease in perceived depth to the image.
K's face looks realistic too, from the detail in his pores and hair to the color of his skin. In fact, color throughout the film really pops with nice vibrancy. The neon projected holograms that punctuate the dreary future Los Angeles cityscape sparkle against the bleak buildings and sky.
SDR content also benefits from good color rendering. I recently finished 12 Monkeys on Hulu and the variety of red used in the red forest imagery (an important thematic element) added to the interesting visuals. The 1080p image, through my Roku Streaming Stick+, looked sharp. Viewing angle on the Shade 2 is good as well. I didn't notice any significant discoloration until around 45 degrees off-axis, and then it was mainly to yellow and white. The image began to be a bit washed out by this point, too.
To get a sense of what it's like to play video games outside (and yes, I recognize the irony here), I fired up Star Wars: Squadrons, the spiritual successor to the '90s hit space-sim Star Wars: X-wing. Input lag on the Shade 2 measured 32ms in 1080p and I could feel it a bit while flying. There's no input lag reduction option. Even in Game picture mode it measures the same. There was a bit of color and grayscale banding in Squadrons, mainly visible within some of the cutscenes but occasionally around nearby stars while flying around space. With movies and television programs, the banding wasn't apparent.
The included soundbar is most certainly a step above any internal TV speaker I've heard. Dialogue is forward and cuts through any action, be it exploding TIE Fighters or the chaos of the tent during Bread Week on Great British Bake Off. The speakers add some much-needed directionality for an open outdoor space, although the soundstage isn't particularly wide. The soundbar enclosure increases the bass output, but it's still lacking low-end thump.
In a television landscape full of Smart TVs, it's a bit unfortunate to come across one with no Smart features at all. There's also no wireless connectivity, nor any way to cast a video to the Shade 2. This can be remedied with the purchase of a streaming stick, but for a TV over $2,000 -- even one that can withstand the elements outside -- I wish the Shade 2 had a more functional and user-friendly interface.
Also, at the price point I'd hope for more light output. For most situations there's just enough, but HDR performance could be improved. Of course, more light output leads to more heat and there isn't an active cooling system in the Shade 2 (adding one is cost-prohibitive at this price point), so with the closed system needed for water and dust resistance, this might not be a possibility.
The most direct competitor to Séura is SunBriteTV, another popular outdoor TV manufacturer. The company's Veranda series is built for shaded installations, and the 55-inch version retails for $1,999 -- $500 less than the Shade 2. There are a lot of similarities between the two displays: both are 4K HDR, they have the same operating temperature ranges, and both come with weatherproof remote controls -- but the SunBriteTV is a half-inch deeper, not quite as bright, only has a one-year warranty (Séura's is two years), and doesn't include a soundbar. SunBrite sells a weatherproof soundbar, but it's $1,000, so getting comparable features and performance from the 55-inch Veranda Series actually costs an extra $500.
A name you most likely recognize is Samsung, whose line of outdoor Smart TVs is called The Terrace. The 55-inch version retails for $3,500. Its IP55 rating means it's not quite as water resistant, but it can operate in temperatures up to 122 degrees Fahrenheit. The extra $1,000 also gets you significantly more brightness (2,000 nits) for better HDR and out performance during the day, a built-in HD Base-T receiver, and the features you'd expect from a Smart TV manufacturer such as voice integration, streaming apps support, and screen mirroring. There is no included soundbar, however. The Terrace Soundbar costs an additional $1,200, so a comparable setup to the Séura Shade 2 is almost twice the price after the soundbar is added into the equation.
Outdoor TV manufacturers have significantly more to deal with in the development of their televisions. Just getting a complicated piece of electronics to survive a temperature swing of over 100 degrees is impressive. But beyond that, Séura has managed to deliver solid performance. While the light output doesn't rival that of its pricier competition, the color accuracy and detail of the Shade 2, particularly with 4K, is wonderful.
For future iterations of the series, I hope to see a more robust user interface and maybe with some Smart TV functionality to compete with Samsung, but that is a big ask for a comparatively small company already producing a great outdoor product. And those missing features can be added with a $50 streaming stick, which is likely a lot less than the price increase that would result if Séura started licensing this sort of technology. When it comes down to it, the Shade 2 delivers a great picture any time of the year, and that's what really matters.