Thursday, September 29, 2011

Buying "American": The Sigmac NE15AB LED TV.

The NE15AB and some of its specs.
For years, I've been using a little 13" CRT TV in my home studio, but have been feeling the need to upgrade because my cable company has recently gone digital and many of the stations offered even on the basic tier cannot be watched on an analog set.  Advancements in technology thus dictated to me the need to bring my TV, and thus my studio, into the twenty-first century.

The upgrade quest began with a quick scan of the sales flyers in my local newspaper.   This turned up an offering from a company called "Sigmac" and its Model NE15AB 15”television.  It's a 15" LED TV priced at an astounding $69 + Tax at Fry's Electronics!

 Without question, the price point got my attention and had me wondering what I could get for such a miniscule cost.  Even more interesting, according to numerous web sources, the TV is “Made in the U.S.A.”.  Yup, amazingly enough, there are STILL TV’s being made here in America and this alone had me convinced I needed to see this set up close and personal.  So off to Fry’s I went with a piqued curiosity, cash in pocket and the desire to support American jobs.

On initial inspection, the Sigmac NE15AB looks similar to other small LED TV’s in the entry level class. It’s compact, lightweight and can be stowed in tight spaces with ease wherever a TV is desired.  It’s not a bad looking piece either!  The unit is shod in shiny plastic and has a clean, efficient look about it.  On the back there are plenty of connections for anything you’d like to plug in including VGA, S-Video, Composite Video, HDMI and USB.  I thought this level of connectivity options impressive for a budget machine.

At this angle, you aint seeing much!
From there, reality set in and it became apparent why this unit is amazingly inexpensive.

A look at the screen is your first clue that this is NOT one of the top tier TV’s on the market.  While the picture was acceptable, it had to be viewed dead-on and level for it to look good.  Any deviation of one’s viewing angle to the left, right up or down resulted in color distortion and fading.  I can only assume that the screen employed in the Sigmac is older technology that was originally purposed for laptops manufactured in the recent past.  For this reason, this TV should NEVER be considered for anything other than desktop use or in applications where close proximity to the screen is not the norm.  Under these conditions, the NE15AB performed well.  The brightness and color were fine out of the box, and watching sports produced no ghosting or blurring during moments of fast action. 

In keeping with its low-end price tag, the Sigmax has a top resolution of 720p.  On a screen this small, that’s just fine since the differences between 720 and 1080 at close distances are negligible.  HD Television programming in 1080 looked fine on the little Sigmax with good color, a sharp picture and no discernable distortions.

The screen did have one annoying trait however, that did detract from its viewing pleasure.  The screen is HIGHLY reflective and will pick up every light source facing it.  Careful consideration must be made as to where to place the unit to avoid this. 
Then there’s the sound…just one listen will tell you the best that can be said about the Sigmax's audio is that it’s there.  While the speaker in the unit produces decent volume levels, the audio is of such poor quality, I suspect that anyone who buys this unit will immediately plug external speakers into the headphone jack for at least passable fidelity.  Think Mickey’ D’s Drive Through and you’ll get the picture!  Don’t get me wrong, you CAN get by with what’s built into the TV, but you’d have to be an incredibly cheap person to tolerate it over buying some inexpensive external speakers! 
That cable plug on the back is a pain!
As I mentioned earlier, the Sigmac NE15AB is a budget unit that offers many connectivity options.  All are easily accessible on the rear of the unit with ONE glaring exception: The cable television plug.  It’s jammed into a corner and extremely difficult to attach a screw-on 75ohm cable for anyone with average sized or larger fingers.  It CAN be done, but perhaps the better option is to use 75ohm cables with push-on plugs.  Once again, the Sigmac shows its true colors as a budget unit with this design flaw.

Picking up the TV reveals the Sigmac to be an extremely light unit that’s rather flimsy feeling.  The plastic of the TV’s body gives when even the lightest pressure is applied which suggests to me that moving this TV from place to place may not be the best idea if you want it to last.  If it’s portability and long term durability you’re looking for, you’re going to have to spend more than what Sigmac is asking.
The buttons on the side are nothing special, when pressed they operate well and with a tactile snap, but they look and feel chintzy.  You’ll find the typical stuff along the right side of the TV like volume, menu, channel and source. 

The options for TV operation are fairly standard.  You’ll find menus for setting channels, source programming, picture adjustment and so on.  They’re fairly intuitive, though there’s room for improvement.  Once unboxed and plugged in, I had the TV do an auto scan for the channels available through my cable provider.  This proved to be an exercise in patience.  The Sigmac chugged away for close to ten minutes before finding all of them which is excessive in my opinion.  Once locked however, the channels came in clear and looked fine.

Overall, I’d say that this TV is far from what one would call a “stellar performer”.  Its bargain basement construction and shortcomings reflect the price this TV is fetching.  However, the Sigmac NE15AB is not a unit that should be dismissed outright.  Despite what I outlined above, this unit IS a deal for the person looking for a basic HDTV and for someone not needing all the “frills” of a higher end unit.  It does what it’s supposed to better than you’d expect for such an inexpensive item.

In addition, there’s the “Built in the U.S.A.” factor to consider.  I’m always on the lookout for a purchase that will help the American worker, and was surprised to see this incredibly inexpensive TV was a domestic product.  I’m not fooling myself  though, since I’m sure the TV was merely ASSEMBLED here in America with incredibly cheap components manufactured in China.  That’s not the important thing here.  What IS important is that somewhere an American company is building TV’s for Sigmac at a price point one would not think possible to cover the costs of U.S. labor.  THAT is a major accomplishment and a trend that I hope continues.

So what’s the bottom line?  The Sigmac  
NE15AB  isn’t  bad, but it’s not great either.  It’s a flawed product that’s hampered by its crude technology and usage limitations.  If you have a darkish nook, the need for a close-proximity HDTV, you don’t want to spend a lot of cash and you want to put your money in a product that is American (To some extent), then this is an interesting option to consider.  If you’re looking for more refinement, then get ready to pony up at least twice the cash for a TV from one of the major manufacturers.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Sound went out after 13 months on a 42". The remote broke too. Customer service is terrible. I would spend the extra money and go for a better brand.