This squat, boxy display actually houses a 22-inch, 1080p, 60Hz LCD panel and modern TV software—it only looks "retro," at the end of the day.
The selling point for this product is obviously its retro-tastic design, but the picture quality we tested is decent for a novelty item: Nothing mind-blowing, but it gets the job done.
Magnavox, Zenith, Sanyo...
... and now Seiki. This squat, primarily-plastic TV's biggest appeal is its throwback design, which calls up memories of classic models from the '60s and '70s. Currently, the SE22FR01 only comes in red, but it's a handsome-looking final product, if a bit cheap to the touch.
A round cabinet perches upon three silver-hued, plastic legs; they hold the screen aloft just like the TVs of yesteryear. Big, pronounced buttons for power, channel, menu, and input selection line the underside of the screen. The buttons operate with a reliable travel that recalls the bygone days of American manufacturing. The power dial is particularly satisfying: Turn it from left to right, and it clicks into place—the screen lights up a few seconds later, with a delay that's almost true-to-form. A volume dial lives within easy reach on the cabinet's right side.
These retro trappings belie the modern nature of the screen itself: a 22-inch LCD panel that refreshes at 60 Hz and is worlds beyond most TVs made before the year 2000. The boxy casing also houses a downward-firing speaker and the TV's connectivity ports.
If the modern screen wasn't enough to betray this retro TV's true timeline, its video connections certainly do. The SE22FR01 is fitted out like the rest of the 2013 crop: Component/composite video in, VGA (D-Sub) input, and three HDMI inputs live beside analog/digital audio hookups and a coaxial jack for antenna or cable connection. This isn't the most ample port selection, but it's plenty for the TV's intended use in a bedroom, kitchen, or dorm.
Alongside the screen casing and stand components, Seiki includes a decidedly non-retro remote: Other than its red coloration, the included remote is almost identical to the one included with Seiki's dubious UHD model. Replete with a full number pad, platforms for channel and volume, and an almost overflow of single-function buttons like "CC" (Closed Caption), "Sleep," and "P. Mode," users will have almost no reason to use the menu interface—convenient, but not very retro.
Somewhere between outdated and next-big-thing
Complex, aesthetically pleasing menus are a relatively recent thing in TV land. Well, retro purists will be glad to know that this Seiki strikes a fine line: No, it's not exactly nostalgic, but neither is its menu nearly as glitzy and glamorous as some of what's on the market right now—long story short, it's just cheap.
Unfortunately, from a practical standpoint, that really limits this TV's full range of features. Don't expect any apps, 3D, or even media playback via USB. The SE22FR01 is outfitted with a simple, almost ugly menu comprising standard sub-menus like Picture and Audio.
Seiki provides five picture modes: Standard, Dynamic, Movie, Energy Saving, and User, as well as the ability to adjust color temperature. If this sounds like a lot of filigree, you probably haven't used a new TV in the last decade.
The Audio menu has a number of adjustable settings as well. Of note are separate controls for Bass, Treble, and Speaker Balance. The most relevant menu features, however, are those that parents should take note of: Channel Lock and Sleep Timer. It's very likely this semi-cute retro TV will find its way into your child's bedroom, and those two functions mean you can lock unsavory cable/satellite channels and set the TV to shut off automatically so it doesn't run for hours on end.
Picture quality is not one of this TV's selling points.
It goes without saying that Seiki's Retro TV is something of a novelty item. While its modern panel supports a full 1080p resolution and refreshes at the standard 60 Hz, the overall picture quality is quite lackluster—it's still better than anything from the 60s, but pales in comparison to the year's more serious displays.
The barebones software interface allows little in the way of calibration, so what you see is what you're going to get.
I tested below-average contrast, skewed color fidelity, and a way of outputting light that hurts the SE22FR01's chances as a serious display. In short, this TV is engineered as a secondary display—like for a kitchen or guest room. This picture won't hold up under the eye of a practiced cinephile.
For news, weather, cartoons, or older video games, however, the SE22FR01 is perfectly watchable. It's just not—and is not meant to be—a home theater TV. Cable or satellite content, VHS tapes, and DVDs all look fine, with decent color presentation and acceptable room brightness. This Seiki is definitely better off in a brighter environment, however, as its flaws really stand out in the dark. For that same reason, it could sub in as a computer monitor without issue.
This Seiki's hip to the max, dig?
For $200 online, you could do worse than Seiki's SE22FR01 Retro TV. While cheaply made up close, it's amusingly retro from a distance, and picture quality's not too shabby, either.
If you're looking to upgrade to an affordable HDTV, though, don't go in for this one: There are better 29- and 32-inch models out there for as little as $50 more, and Seiki Digital even offers a plain, 22-inch flat panel for a mere $83 online.
As a cute addition to a kids' room, or something nostalgic for grandma, however, the SE22FR01 is a great choice. Just remember that it only looks retro—it won't be any kinder to your Betamax collection than other 2013 displays.
The Seiki SE22FR01 (MSRP $249.99) does a great job at looking like a 60s-era television, but it misses the mark a little when it comes to modern expectations for picture quality. We tested a narrow contrast ratio, skewed color production, bizarre gamma correction, and an error-filled grayscale. Fortunately, the story wasn't all bad: This retro TV has decent motion and uniformity, so at the very least most content is palatable.
A display's color gamut is a visual representation of all the colors it can display. There's an international standard for TVs—lovingly called Rec. 709 within the industry—that dictates the exact hue and saturation a display's red, green, blue, cyan, magenta, and yellow should be.
The SE22FR01 struggles to meet these expectations on a few fronts: The cyan and magenta it produces are both way off in terms of hue, and blue is much too emphasized within the color spectrum and within sub-pixel balance.
A display's "grayscale" is the spectrum of neutral shades it produces—blacks, grays, and whites. Because displays use digital "additive" color, they create neutral shades by combining red, green, and blue sub-pixels. Ideally, the sub-pixels will be of equal emphasis within grayscale production, resulting in the same "shade" of white/gray/black across the grayscale.
Unfortunately, the SE22FR01 tested with a total error sum ("DeltaE") of 8.16, which lowered its final ranking considerably. Grayscale error is acceptable at a DeltaE of 3 or less—8.16 is much too high.
We can look closer at the reasons behind these grayscale errors by studying a display's RGB balance. This Seiki Retro TV makes the sub-pixel error that so many modern displays make, over-emphasizing the blue sub-pixel at the expense of the red sub-pixel, resulting in an imbalanced grayscale.
Gamma refers to how quickly or slowly a display's grayscale luminance increases out of minimum luminance, or black. A higher gamma number like 2.2 or 2.4 means a slower exit from black, whereas a lower gamma number like 1.9 or 1.8 means a quicker exit from black into middle luminance. TVs typically follow a gamma of 2.2 for brighter environments, and 2.4 for darker environments. The SE22FR01 is clearly set up for a brighter environment—we tested a gamma of 1.92.
Viewing angle refers to how far from center you can watch a display without picture degradation. For LCDs like the SE22FR01, we like to see a total viewing angle of at least ±45°—sadly, this is rarely the case. While this Seiki didn't meet our ideals, it did test decently with a total viewing angle of 40°, or ±20° from the center to either side. This isn't much of a problem, considering how small this TV is.
Contrast ratio refers to a display's ability to make you believe it—a high X:1 number means a lot of luminance is contrasted against a convincing minimum luminance, which makes brighter objects pop and stand out, and dark areas and shadows look more realistic. The SE22FR01 tested with a rather poor contrast ratio of 631:1, resulting from an overly bright black level of 0.22 cd/m2 and an equally unimpressive peak brightness of 138.90 cd/m2 .
Meet the tester
Editor, Home Theater@Koanshark
Lee has been Reviewed's point person for most television and home theater products since 2012. Lee received Level II certification in TV calibration from the Imaging Science Foundation in 2013. As Editor of the Home Theater vertical, Lee oversees reviews of TVs, monitors, soundbars, and Bluetooth speakers. He also reviews headphones, and has a background in music performance.
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