Outdoor spaces are becoming increasingly popular, especially as we approach or, perhaps by the time you read this, enjoy the summer months. With the majority of Americans spending more and more time outside as the weather warms, it makes sense that someone out there in the CE space would want to take advantage of the phenomenon. Enter SunBrite TV. SunBrite TV is the premier manufacturer of outdoor LCD HDTVs and their Model 4610HD reviewed here is among their flagship efforts. Retailing for $4,295, the Model 4610HD isn't cheap, but then again, it can withstand a lot of punishment that would make less expensive HDTVs simply crumble, as I found out.
The Model 4610HD is a 46-inch 1080p LCD HDTV, encased in a powder-coated aluminum casing to protect it from the elements. The LCD panel itself is sourced from Samsung, although all markings indicating its origins have been removed. The hard outer shell, along with the final assembly of the display itself, is all SunBrite. SunBrite claims their TVs, including the Model 4610HD, are water-, temperature- and shock-resistant and, upon first glance at the robust case, there's little that would cause you to doubt those claims. The front of the outer shell, which is non-removable, by the way, contains a large pane of anti-reflective glass, which floats a fair distance in front of the actual panel's glass, which in this case is actually plastic. Around back, you find a pair of vents that lead to the Model 4610HD's Airflow system, which helps keep the display cool and dry in temperatures in excess of 122 degrees. Inputs are housed behind a thick metal door that is held shut by three thumbscrews and kept water-tight by a double barrier of weather stripping. The entire package measures 44.72 inches wide by 27.16 inches tall and nearly seven inches deep. The outboard weather-proof speakers that attach to the bottom of the display increase the height to 29.33 inches. The entire package with speakers weighs roughly 87 pounds and is available in your choice of black, silver or white, all of which are powder-coated aluminum underneath.
The Model 4610HD itself is a true 1080p design, sporting a reported contrast ratio of 4,000:1 with a refresh rate of 60Hz, with an eight millisecond response time. Inputs include RF, HDMI (x4), S-Video, Composite Video (with L/R audio), Component Video (x2), PC and RS-232. There are even an optical and an analog audio out.
Which brings us to the remote. The remote is a rather flat, plastic-coated affair that is both lightweight and weather-proof. Its buttons are barely raised above its smooth plastic face and, as such, can make them difficult to use. However, I have to imagine that anyone considering buying an outdoor TV, such as the Model 4610HD, is more than likely going to have a home automation-like setup. As a secondary or emergency back-up, the included remote is satisfactory.
Since the Model 4610HD is an outdoor TV, this review was bound to be a little different than other reports on HDTVs I've done in the past. For starters, you can forget about calibrating it, for the Model 4610HD has to do battle with more than just the sodium lights of a Best Buy - it has to battle the sun. Knowing this, the Model 4610HD is the first (and most likely the only) HDTV I will ever recommend leaving in vivid or "torch mode" for all but super-late-night viewing.
For viewing purposes, I set the Model 4610HD up on a collapsible folding table outside my house, high in the mountains of the Angeles National Forest. I left the TV outside for the duration of my review, meaning it was left in the sun, rain and, yes, even snow. I did not cover it, nor did I bring it inside for any reason. When the winds in my canyon began to gust in excess of 60 MPH, I simply bolted the stand to the table, using lag bolts from Lowes. When I wanted to watch it, I sat outside on a folding chair and did my viewing.
To test the Model 4610HD's toughness claims (as if I hadn't already), I and a fellow HomeTheaterEquipment.com forum member, RayJr., put it through a series of tests, which I'll talk about in the performance section of the review. One of the tests involved a bear. Yes, a real bear.
As for the rest of the system used to test the Model 4610HD's performance, it was as basic a system as I could muster, for while the TV may have been water-proof, my associated equipment was not, so I used the least expensive Blu-ray player I had in the form of my four-year-old Sony, on the off chance that it would be destroyed during testing ... it was.
Performance: General Outdoor Viewing
To kick things off, I fired up The Dark Knight on Blu-ray disc (Warner Bros.) and just let the film play on repeat. Checking in on its performance periodically throughout the day, first in the morning, next at midday, then at dusk and eventually at night, I can say that the image was at its best in the morning, late afternoon and night. In the midday sun, with zero cloud cover or shade, the image was difficult to see, leading me to believe that anyone hoping to enjoy a SunBrite TV of their own in the afternoon hours would be well-advised to install it somewhere that has cover. The built-in fan turns on almost immediately after power-up, regardless of the time of day or temperature, and is rather loud, even in an outdoor environment, if I'm honest. I could always turn the speakers up enough to counter its mechanical droning, but nevertheless, the fan noise was an issue.
Read more about the performance and durability of the Model 4601HD on Page 2.
Getting back to the film, because the TV should be left in its vivid or high-brightness, high-contrast mode, the image quality is what you would expect to see if you put your indoor TV into the same mode. At the right times of day or under the cover of some form of shade, the image was very poppy in terms of its contrast and color. Black levels were deep but not really nuanced and whites were brilliant with just a hint of blooming in certain scenes. Viewing angle was okay; in my tests, I'd have to say it wasn't as robust as SunBrite's claims, for at around three feet off-axis, reflections began to become an issue. Obviously, the image appeared better the brighter the source material was, which was evident in my viewing of Pixar's Cars (Disney) and the action comedy Knight and Day (20th Century Fox) on Blu-ray disc. HD broadcast signals were also appropriately bright, leading me to believe that those who are fans of sports and BBQ (as if you can be one without the other) would most likely be pleased by the Model 4610HD 's performance. A critical viewing display it is not, but keep it out of direct sunlight and the SunBrite Model 4610HD more than fills the bill for those wanting to enjoy a little HD programming outside.
Performance: Durability Tests
Since SunBrite doesn't actually make the display inside their robust aluminum housing, I felt it was necessary to test their work and its durability. Now, you could argue that I already did this by leaving it out in the rain, snow, wind and heat, and you'd be right to think that. But to be honest, if I'm going to plunk down over $4,000 for an outdoor TV, it needs to withstand more than that.
First up, my friend's pressure washer. Spitting out who knows how much water and at what PSI, I sprayed the front, side and rear panel of the Model 4610HD with a pressure washer from six feet away, three feet away and point blank range for a period of a few minutes. The TV was on the whole time, and an image was being displayed with zero hiccups. I even disconnected the nozzle and left the hose on top of the TV for a solid fifteen minutes, and still the Model 4610HD worked flawlessly. I wanted to throw it in a swimming pool (unpowered, of course), but couldn't find anyone willing to let me do it - out of fear for their beloved swimming pools, not the SunBrite TV.
Next up, heat. To test SunBrite's heat claims, I set the display on fire. That's right, I said on fire. I doused the front, top and rear of the unit in flammable liquid and set it ablaze until it burned itself out. Because of this potentially dangerous situation, I was unable to leave the display on while it was burning. However, once the flames had stopped, I plugged it back in and everything worked as normal. There weren't even char marks on the glass or the aluminum case. Not completely satisfied, I repeated this process four times. Each time, the display powered up and worked without fail.
To test the strength of the glass, as well as the aluminum chassis, I borrowed two competition-grade paintball guns and a couple hundred rounds of orange paint and shot the screen, its case and the back panel mercilessly, until both guns went "click." When it was covered in orange paint, I proceeded to hose the Model 4610HD off and discovered no cracks, chips or dents. So I shot again, this time from a distance of three feet (my previous distance was seven to eight feet) and, as with the earlier test, there were no signs of damage to the Model 4610HD's screen or casing.
Thinking to myself that the paintballs were weak sauce, I (with the help of my company credit card) procured the services of some bears. Yes, bears. Because bears like picnics, I set the display atop a picnic table I purchased from Lowes and left it in an arena where a very nice gentleman with two large brown bears agreed to let me leave it for a while. I set up a couple of cameras in order to film the test (something this outlandish required proof) and spent the rest of my afternoon watching them lick the screen (I might have spread honey on it), knock it with their paws, press on it and even fall asleep on top of it. At the end of the day, after the bears had gone to bed, I retrieved the Model 4610HD, plugged it in and, wouldn't you know it, it still worked. It was nasty, for it was covered in honey, saliva and urine, but it still worked.
I spent a good week contemplating what to do next when it hit me: is the Model 4610HD bulletproof? To find out, I phoned another friend of mine who happens to be an avid gun enthusiast and competition shooter, who was all too eager to assist me in what would be my final test of the SunBrite Model 4610HD. He brought along a 12-gauge shotgun loaded with birdshot, a pair of AR-15 semi-automatic rifles and a 9mm handgun - okay, the handgun was mine. We began with the 12-gauge loaded with birdshot from a distance of roughly twenty feet. Turns out the Model 4610HD is not bulletproof, as the front glass broke up, but didn't shatter as it turned out to be safety glass. Surprise. Another thing we noticed was that the birdshot only penetrated the glass, but not the rest of the display or the casing itself. This led my friend to proclaim that he'd rather hide behind the SunBrite than a sofa or table like in the movies if someone were shooting at him with a shotgun. Obviously, you should not try this at home (same with the bear trick), but it was a funny statement and a rather remarkable outcome nonetheless. The Model 4610HD's outer aluminum casing is so strong that it took an AR-15 to penetrate it and, even then, not every shot made it through. Impressive? Hell, yes.
Say what you will about watching HDTV outdoors, SunBrite knows how to make one hell of a strong, protective case. Needless to say, following our shenanigans with the firearms, the Model 4610HD ceased to operate. So, I gave it a Viking burial and set it on fire one last time. I am such a child.
I found zero fault with the quality, construction and robustness of the Model 4610HD enclosure. As a protective measure from all that Mother Nature can dish out, the Model 4610HD's aluminum enclosure is more than up to the task. That said, there were a few issues I had with the display's image and sound performance. First, because the protective glass floats over or in front of the LCD's actual screen, double imagery and/or ghosting is possible and persistent unless steps are taken to curb this issue, mainly through the use of cover and/or shade.
Speaking of shade, the screen itself, despite its anti-reflective coating, is highly reflective, even in indirect sunlight. Early morning and late afternoon hours into the evening are the most opportune times to enjoy the Model 4610HD if installed in an open area, which doesn't necessarily coincide with the times you may be enjoying the great outdoors.
The fans charged with keeping the Model 4610HD dry and cool are also very loud and, even in an open outdoor environment, can disrupt your viewing experience if you're trying to listen to your programming as well as watch it.
Speaking of sound, the outboard speakers, which are necessary if you want to hear anything, leave a lot to be desired, as they sound very boxy and distort at even moderate volumes, which are necessary to drown out the Model 4610HD's fans. Your installer will likely want to come up with a solution that includes speakers that are also not scared of the elements.
Lastly, the included remote isn't all that responsive or easy to navigate, thanks to its button layout and almost smooth surface. Like I said earlier, I assume customers of SunBrite most likely have home control or automation systems that would probably do a better job at controlling the Model 4610HD than the included remote.
Comparison and Competition
While there are a number of mid-sized LCD HDTVs on the market today, there aren't any that recommend you install them outdoors - that distinction belongs solely to SunBrite. Because of this, there isn't much in the way of competition facing SunBrite, other than the task of having to convince customers of why such a display is necessary and at such a premium price. Well-heeled enthusiasts, specifically those with outdoor living spaces, will most likely give little thought to the Model 4610HD's asking price, for it will be nothing more than a necessary component to their outdoor family room, etc. Those who enjoy the outdoors but don't necessarily have the means to have a luxury outdoor living space may find the Model 4610HD's higher asking price prohibitive. Whether or not you fall into the first or second group doesn't much matter, for if you decide to take the plunge and purchase an outdoor HDTV, there's only one place to turn to and that is SunBrite.
For more on LCD HDTVs, please visit Home Theater Review's LED/LCD HDTV page.
Let's not mince words here. $4,295 for a 46-inch Samsung clad in a special aluminum case is a lot of money, no matter how strong or well-built that shell may be. The value proposition is made murkier by the reflective nature of the screen, which is virtually impossible to see through when placed near or in direct sunlight. While this may seem like a "duh" comment, it means that the Model 4610HD must be installed in an area that can be shaded or will receive natural shade during peak hours, like the afternoons of your family's weekend. Take the proper precautions and the Model 4610HD will reward you with bright, punchy HD imagery for years to come, thanks to its ingenious outer case. Is the Model 4610HD perfect? No. It's not perfect nor is it bulletproof, but for what it does, it's damn good. If you're one who likes to spend time outdoors but also don't want to miss your favorite programming, the Model 4610HD is definitely worth a look. If the Model 4610HD's price is a bit cost-prohibitive, there are more affordable options in SunBrite's stable.
• Read more LCD HDTV reviews by HomeTheaterReview.com's staff.
• Explore reviews in our Blu-ray Player Review section.
• Find a soundbar that would pair well with the Model 4601HD.