In 2016, I bought more TVs than ever in my life. My family re-did a 1957 "post and beam" modern house here in Los Angeles a little over a mile from the beach. One of the design details we added to the house was to take the standard two-car garage and turn it into a pool cabana. We ripped off the garage door and opened up the side wall and part of the back wall to make a fully covered space next to the pool, the BBQ area, and the wood-fired pizza oven. While everything was under construction and a complete mess, I had my AV installer, Simply Home Entertainment, run a full complement of cables from the house's "mechanical room" to the pool cabana to accommodate future in-wall speakers, outdoor speakers and subs, and a 4K TV, with full control of all of the sources through my Crestron AV distribution system.
Before the pool cabana was completed, I took a 70-inch Sharp 1080p TV from our old Luxury Publishing Group offices and asked Simply Home Entertainment to hang it outside. Because of the moderate temperatures and low humidity where I live, I didn't have any real problems with that setup. I did buy a cover for it to keep the vast amounts of dust from collecting on the screen. It wasn't the most elegant solution, but it worked.
Last fall, when I was in Dallas for the CEDIA Expo, I saw and procured a much more sensible solution from outdoor TV specialist SunBriteTV. The company currently has three lines: the Pro Series is designed for full sun (and often commercial) applications, the Signature Series is designed for partial or indirect sun, and the Veranda Series is designed for full shade (covered or uncovered). The TV that I selected for review is the Veranda SB-6574UHD, a 65-inch UHD set priced at $3,495 and sold direct or through SnapAV dealers (SunBriteTV is now owned by Snap AV). I also picked up one of the company's articulating mounts, which was well worth the investment for angling the set as needed--especially as the sun moves from point to point in the sky.
I want to address the skeptics before I get too deep into this review. Outdoor AV is one of the hottest categories in specialty audio these days. For obvious reasons, my original approach of moving a traditional indoor HDTV to the outdoors isn't really that smart, unless you can justify throwing away the set when it hits its first weather or environmental issue. With SunBriteTV solutions, you are paying for a TV that is built like a brickhouse. It isn't the thinnest set, and it doesn't have all the smart TV bells and whistles you'll find elsewhere. It's a direct-backlight LED/LCD TV with local zone dimming, but it lacks HDR and Wide Color Gamut capabilities. What it can do is survive a spray-down from your gardener, like The Wolf did to Jules and Vincent in Jimmy's backyard in Pulp Fiction. What you are paying for is a UHD TV designed to withstand -24 degree cold. You are paying for a TV that won't melt when rocking UHD movies at a pool party in the summer when the internal temperature of the set is well above 100 degrees. This is a set designed to bring the best of your AV system to your backyard with a level of reliability that you expect from a Brinks truck.
SunBriteTV says that the SB-6574UHD is 30 percent brighter than a comparable indoor TV. The company's Signature Series TVs use a special anti-glare coating, while my Veranda Series model simply features a less glossy, less reflective screen than most of today's indoor TVs. The matte screen made a big difference for me compared with the Sharp TV. The SB-6574UHD's onscreen menus are pretty clunky compared with those of LG, Sony, and Samsung--but they aren't used all that often, so it's not too big of a ding. The non-backlit remote might be weatherproof, but it kinda stinks. The buttons are sticky and close together. Thankfully, I have everything programmed into a Crestron MLX-3 that works fantastically.
As with all of my TVs, I hired David Abrams from AVICAL to measure and calibrate this TV. His measurements confirmed that this TV puts a huge emphasis on light output for outdoor use. The Standard picture mode is very bright, measuring about 172 ft-L. This mode is not the most accurate option, though. Its color temperature is very cool or "blue," which is to be expected to help whites look brighter for outdoor viewing. Its color points are also pretty far off the mark.
The most accurate mode out of the box is the Movie mode, and it's still much brighter than your average Movie mode, at about 102 ft-L. It is reasonably accurate before calibration, and it calibrates pretty well, to produce a neutral color temp and accurate gamma. The red, blue, and magenta color points are still a bit too far off the mark after calibration, but green, cyan, and yellow are good.
After David performed his calibration, I settled in to watch some UHD content. When watching The Lego Movie on UHD Blu-ray through the new Oppo UDP-203, I could see that the edge detail was excellent. The colors were rich and well saturated, even when watching the set in broad daylight under a roof. Amazing. Does the performance improve at night? You bet it does. I watched some standard HD NHL hockey from DirecTV, which can be a good test--since the puck moves fast, and there's lots of bright colors on a stark-white ice background. The SB-6574UHD ate up this challenge.
It looked especially good with golf on DirecTV. The detail resolution in the close-ups of the CBS broadcast from the Genesis Open at Riviera Country Club was amazing. Close shots of Dustin Johnson chipping from the tight-cut fringe were highly detailed--and somehow it was just more fun to watch the broadcast outside.
I didn't try to torture test this set, as we did years ago when we filmed a SunBriteTV set being attacked by a real bear and shot with paint-pellet rounds. It took a more traditional bullet to take down that SunBriteTV, so you know these TVs are designed to be tough.
Click over to Page Two for Measurements, The Downside, Comparison & Competition, and Conclusion...