But between this TV's chintzy design, it's severely problematic picture, and its total lack of picture customization options, it's difficult to recommend this TV to anyone. If you want the biggest screen you can get for this price then it's bound to be on your radar, but there are simply better options out there.
The Sanyo FVD48R4 is a bargain, but it appears as if costs were cut at the expense of quality. The R4 is cheap 48-inch TV that performs about as well as one expects after glancing at the price tag.

We conduct both pre- and post-calibration tests in order to compare a television's out-of-the-box performance to that of its full potential. The extensiveness of the calibration process depends on the amount of customization options included in the television's menu software.

Unfortunately, the R4 lacks just about every picture customization option critical in calibrating a display.

Sanyo-FVD48R4-Calibration.jpg

This TV lacks any worthwhile customization options when it comes to picture calibration.

It looks better when it's off.

The Sanyo FVD48R4 actually doesn't make a half-bad first impression. It's plasticky, sure, but there's an appealing brushed look to it. It's certainly a better look than many older TVs, with sets from a few years ago often rimmed with thick glossy plastic bezels. Even the back isn't that bad, with an interesting zig-zag pattern suggesting someone, somewhere cared about designing this thing.

The panel itself sits atop a sturdy, twisty, metallic stand. Other than the curvy stand, there's not much out of the ordinary about the R4. A cut-out on the back of the R4's panel houses a standard collection of connectivity ports, including three HDMI ports, shared composite/component ports, a VGA input, a digital audio output, a USB port, and an RF antenna input.

As soon as you pick up the remote to turn on the R4, though, it's obvious trouble's afoot. Ever get stuck with the worst rental car in the lot? Some aging Ford Probe that creaks and groans and gives you that sinking feeling that you're about to break something every time you turn a knob? Welcome to life with the Sanyo FVD48R4. The remote, especially, is lightweight in all the worst ways. It feels like it could snap in two at any moment.

Actually using it to navigate the TV's menu software is even more troubling than the ergonomics would suggest; the entire system is slow and often unresponsive. The menu layout is cumbersome, but given how threadbare it is, you probably won't be using it for much except jumping back and forth between inputs.
All of the colors a television is capable of producing are created by way of red, green, and blue sub-pixels. Since neutral tones (black, white, and gray) are the collective work of all three, we measure absolute black, various shades of gray, and white to suss the overall performance of these sub-pixels. Problematic results are caused by an over- or under-emphasis at least one of the TV's sub-pixels, and polluted neutral tones are symptomatic of this problem.

We measure the amount of grayscale error in DeltaE. The ideal out-of-box DeltaE is 3 or less, and this number is capable of dropping with white balance controls and proper calibration. The R4 doesn't have white balance sliders, so its heinous out-of-the-box DeltaE of 22 is here to stay.

The R4's entire grayscale is polluted with color. The over-emphasis of blue is quite literally off-the-charts. There is nothing redeeming in these results; Sanyo's R4 is a disaster.

A television's contrast ratio describes its reference white (100 IRE) divided by it's black level (O IRE). A deep black level is the most critical element of a rich, detailed picture. So naturally, the higher the contrast ratio, the better.

The R4 features an impressive black level of 0.037 cd/m2 , but it doesn't get very bright. I measured its reference white at 110.6 cd/m2 , resulting in an average-level contrast ratio of 2989:1. It'll look slightly better in a dark room as a result, but in a bright room you'll actually have an even more difficult time watching this set.

Abandon hope, all ye who watch this TV.

I'm going to be upfront: This TV's picture is simply not good. If you're dead set on getting this television for some reason, or you already own it, just keep repeating this to yourself while you read the next three paragraphs: "$300. I paid less than $300 for this thing."

Despite a myriad of flaws, the R4's most crippling shortcoming is its horrendous color production. Its secondary colors are skewed so far towards blue that even acceptably accurate image reproduction is impossible. The most obvious impact is with white colors. The TV's interpretation of white is an unavoidable, purple-tinted impostor that rears its head in every scene. The whites look like they were run through the wash with a bright red sock. White props, white skies, white lettering, and white splashes of light are all rendered with an offputting magenta glow; as a result nothing is immersive and everything is ugly.

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Left: The Fifth Element on the Sanyo FVD48R4. Right: The Fifth Element on our reference plasma.

This discoloration does not reveal itself exclusively to the well-trained eye: Casual viewers will notice these issues too. Televisions are art reproducers, unless you're the type to soak in artwork from behind a pair of purple shades, you're not going to like what you see.

The whites look like they were run through the wash with a bright red sock.

It's worth noting, too, that light from the TV's LEDs spill into the sides of the screen, so letterboxes and darker sequences are stepped on by the panel's edge lighting. In fact, the only positive aspect of the R4's picture is that it's 48 inches and can be purchased for under $300.

A TV without a home

Look, we've been there. You've got a couple hundred dollars together and you want to buy a TV. You want the biggest one you can get for the money. 48 inches for a price that normally gets you a 32-inch set, at best? Sounds awesome. But try as I might, I cannot come up with any reason for anyone to purchase the Sanyo FVD48R4, even at its ridiculous price.

If the only issues were iffy design choices and a lack of smart features, we wouldn't have a problem with this set. The issue here is the picture quality—you know, the thing you're paying for—is just not worth it. Every time you watch a movie with someone new you're going to have to explain why the whites look so off. Save yourself the trouble and get something better.

If you're dead-set on getting a TV this size then your best bet—outside of potential Black Friday deals—is the 48-inch Vizio E480i-B2, a smart TV with excellent picture quality that you can get for a couple hundred bucks more. If your budget is that tight, the 42-inch Vizio E420-B1 is available for right around $350 and also offers excellent picture quality.

$300 for a 48-inch TV may seem like a deal that you just can't pass up. But your money is simply better spent elsewhere. Get a better set used, get a smaller set for a similar price, or save up for the bigger TV that deserves your money. Either way, get a better TV than this one.
Television content is best viewed at a head-on angle, and most TVs have a threshold at which the picture's contrast ratio dips below 50%. We consider this point representative of the TV's maximum viewing angle, since anything below 50% severely compromises the integrity of the picture.

The R4 stumbled through this test as well, producing a total viewing angle of 18°, or ±9°. It may be a big set, but if your plan is to stick this in front of a sectional for the whole room to enjoy, you'll want to think again.

The international standard for HDTV color is outlined in a document called Rec. 709. These specifications are what television manufacturers use to achieve accurate color hue, saturation, and luminance. A color gamut is a way to visualize the accuracy of these color points.

The Sanyo FVD48R4 is features some of the worst color test results I've seen all year. Cyan and magenta are wading too far in blue's territory, and white is destroyed by its purplish-pink hue. Slight color errors are practically inavoidable, but pushing blues or magentas in the wrong direction is forgivable. When neutral tones—especially white—are this far off it's impossible to avoid. Every scene will have some kind of white in it, acting as a constant, purplish reminder that you should've bought a better TV.

Meet the testers

Michael Desjardin

Michael Desjardin

Senior Staff Writer

@Reviewed

Michael Desjardin graduated from Emerson College after having studied media production and screenwriting. He specializes in tech for Reviewed, but also loves film criticism, weird ambient music, cooking, and food in general.

See all of Michael Desjardin's reviews

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We use standardized and scientific testing methods to scrutinize every product and provide you with objectively accurate results. If you’ve found different results in your own research, email us and we’ll compare notes. If it looks substantial, we’ll gladly re-test a product to try and reproduce these results. After all, peer reviews are a critical part of any scientific process.

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