It’s difficult to recommend the UE2220 to anyone other than people searching for the smallest, cheapest TV available. On top of its small stature, the UE2220 just doesn’t perform well at all.
It doesn't take long to figure out why the Upstar UE2220 (MSRP $159) is so handsomely priced: Its picture is anything but handsome. That's not to say that this TV doesn't have its place, but it does make it difficult to see that place as being anywhere but a room where it doesn't get much attention.
We test our TVs before and after calibration in order to compare their out-of-the-box performance with that of its fully calibrated potential. The amount of calibrating we end up doing for any given TV depends on how extensive the picture customization options are.
The UE2220 does not have 2-point white balance controls, a gamma slider, or a color management system. The only calibration I was able to carry out was lowering the TV's brightness.
A TV’s grayscale is its production of neutral tones from absolute black (0 IRE) all the way up to its peak white (100 IRE). These neutral tones are the result of red, green, and blue sub-pixels working together to create black, white, and each shade of gray. By measuring the grayscale, we can determine how evenly these sub-pixels are emphasized.
The amount of error present in a TV's grayscale is represented by DeltaE, with the ideal out-of-the-box DeltaE being 3 or less. Prior to calibration, the UE2220 sports an awful DeltaE of 20.09.
A closer look at these test results identifies the problem: an over-emphasis of blue and green coupled with an under-emphasis of red, particularly as the TV approaches peak white.
Blends in with the wallpaper
Being a tiny TV, the UE2220 doesn’t have a lot of real estate to make a stylistic impression. That said, the best thing I can say about the UE2220 is that it’s innocuous. People won’t really notice it until it’s on, which isn’t exactly praiseworthy, but it’s better than being an outright ugly TV.
Its plain, black panel rests atop a plain, glass stand; two black squares connected by a neck. The security of the stand itself doesn’t inspire confidence since the panel doesn’t sit on it tightly—on more than one occasion I assumed I had broken it.
The remote control is straight out of 1998: chintzy plastic, bright orange buttons, and a remarkable ability to not work about 40% of the time.
In any event, bemoaning the UE2220’s lack of style is kind of like complaining that your Big Mac wasn’t plated in an elegant manner—you get what you pay for.
On the back of the UE2220’s panel is an L-shaped cutout that harbors an HDMI port, composite/component inputs, a VGA input, an RF input, a headphone jack, and a USB port.
The viewing angle of a TV is the easiest way to determine how well guests in your living room will be able to stray from a head-on angle before the picture degrades past an acceptable level. Ordinarily, this information is critical when dealing with bigger screens. With a 22-inch TV like the UE2220, you can kind of get away with a lackluster viewing angle, since it’s probably only going to be entertaining one person at a time.
That said, I measured a dismal total viewing angle of 16°, or ±8°. This is clearly a personal TV.
Not a lot of screen, not a lot of upside
It shouldn’t come as a surprise that a TV of this price isn’t exactly a world-beater, even in the entry-level field. Despite the UE2220’s ability to produce deep, inky black levels and bright, contrasting highlights, I found that the TV severely crushes its mid-tone details, resulting in a dull, washed-out picture.
The UE2220 also struggles to produce accurate secondary colors like cyan and magenta, giving content a bluish hue that will likely be noticed by even the most untrained eye. For more on this, check out the Science page.
Ordinarily, I’d recommend a TV of this nature for gaming enthusiasts who just need a secondary TV for gaming, but given the UE2220’s small size, I can only see this relationship working out for people who intend on sitting a few feet away from the screen.
As for cinephiles, I say, “walk on by;” there’s not a lot of upside here. This is a TV to watch a weather report on before leaving the house in the morning, not something to watch a Paul Thomas Anderson movie on.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the UE2220’s speakers, which sound as if they’re inside of aluminum cans. Given the price of the UE2220 it’d be foolish to expect dazzling audio, but this is particularly bad—we’re talking tinny, distorted, and with no bass to speak of. It’s the aural equivalent of bland soup. Keep this in mind if you’re hoping to put the UE2220 in a busy kitchen or an otherwise loud room.
Contrast ratio is one of the most important yard sticks of a TV’s performance, and it’s determined by dividing a TV’s reference white (100 IRE) by it’s darkest black level (0 IRE). Exceptional displays feature deep, rich black levels and bright highlights to contrast them. The larger the contrast ratio, the more room there is for detail.
The UE2220 packs a surprising amount of depth into its tiny picture. The TV sports a black level of 0.032 cd/m2 and a peak brightness of 145 cd/m2 , resulting in a commendable contrast ratio of 4531 cd/m2 .
Well, it’s cheap.
If you’re considering a TV that costs this little, chances are that you’ve already made peace with the fact that it’s going to have some questionable performance aspects. That said, I urge you to consider the UE2220’s tiny stature and hellacious audio.
This is hardly a TV for a bedroom, let alone a living room. Its natural habitat is a kitchen, dorm room, and perhaps a small guest room. Essentially, if you’re envisioning yourself viewing the UE2220 from more than a few feet away, I would avoid it altogether; its size plus its shortcomings make for a bad bedroom or living room television.
Since the UE2220 is a close-quarters TV, it would work well as a cheap, 720p monitor. However, for this purpose, a more versatile option would be the Seiki SE24FE01, which is available for roughly the same price.
There are certainly better TVs in this size range—the Samsung UN24H4500, for example—but they're not going to be as dirt cheap as the UE2220.
TV manufacturers strive to meet the international HDTV color standards outlined in Rec. 709. In testing, we measure three primary color points and three secondary color points and then visualize their accuracy using a color gamut.
The UE2220 hits its primary color points surprisingly well, but its secondary colors (cyan, magenta, and yellow) are another story. Cyan and magenta skew far too much towards blue, making it impossible to call them even remotely accurate.
Gamma represents how gradually a TV allocates luminance across a grayscale. Ideally, the TV should follow a curve that allows for a smooth transition between one shade and the next. Symptoms of poor gamma include blotchy shadow tones and a loss of detail in areas where similar colors are prominently featured. For a dark room, the ideal gamma is 2.4. For a lighter room, the ideal is 2.2.
Due to a dismal gamma curve, the UE2220 crushes its mid-tone details, giving the picture an unattractive, washed-out look. This TV does not look good in darkened home theaters.
Meet the testers
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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