How low are you willing to go for the highest resolution possible? We attempt to answer that question with the Proscan PLDED4243A-UHD, a 4K LED TV that comes at a price so low it’s almost unbelievable. I was dumbfounded but it immediately became clear.
I really can’t start this review without mentioning the $300 price of entry. A 42-inch flat panel that gives you 4K without any of that pesky overhead from other known brands, a bottom-dollar feat not seen since the $1300 Seiki SEUY04 4K LED TV tried to make a splash with light waves back in 2013. But this type of low-balling is nothing new when Sony (XBR-84X900) and LG (84LM9600) models had prolific MSRPs of up to $24,000. It just goes to show that anything is possible for under a quarter of typical cost, for better or much worse.
By keeping pace with current aesthetic trends this Proscan sports a thin glossy bezel that looks attractive as a whole, if a little unconvincingly luxurious with two low-profile stand legs. The panel body itself is roughly an inch thick while the lower half is bulkier to accommodate the surprisingly competent array of connections which includes VGA, YPBPR Component and audio (composite video is there too), PC audio, headphone (3.5mm), USB, RF, and analog coaxial (SPDIF).
Proscan includes a remote but not a very good one. I’m being generous with this description because everything from the redundant layout and USB multimedia functions you’ll never use is woeful to operate, fortunately you shouldn’t need this clicker it if you use a DVR or even a generic universal remote from any major retailer.
The HDMI arrangement is significant because the PLDED4243A-UHD can do 4K resolution (4K2K, UHD, 2160p, 3840×2160, etc.). However, like all things in life there’s a catch. Only the single HDMI port on the bottom is equipped with HDMI 2.0 and will handle those additional pixels and higher refresh rates (4K/60Hz) – the other two on the side are regular HDMI 1.4, plus MHL.
More imperative is that HDCP 2.2 is implemented on this TV and ALL your existing components must comply with latest hardware-based encryption standard to properly coexist for ultra-high definition. If not, your content may either be reduced to 30Hz or a black screen entirely. You early adopters of AV receivers and graphic cards should especially keep this mind because HDMI 2.0 doesn’t automatically guarantee HDCP 2.2 compatibility, cutting edge indeed.
The More You Know…
We have to mention that when testing any TV or theater projector the aspect of pixel resolution (i.e. more is better) isn’t indicative of a good display. I’ve discussed the matter before, other reviewers have touched on it, and a pleasant bald-headed man who goes by the name of “Geoff” has adamantly preached to the choir in informative detail; the very general idea is that material reproduction, distance relation, and overall visual interpretation determines how well 4K content looks to the naked eye.
Knowing this, it’s best to look at the PLDED4243A-UHD in one of two mindsets: either as a basic consumer who wants to upgrade their current TV at the lowest common denominator and heard about the splendor of “4K”. Or a PC user looking to match whatever benchmark rig they have for supposed entertainment and/or gaming superiority.
As a TV
The Proscan is so cheap that you won’t have to concern yourself with obtuse features, because options are painfully sparse. The picture presets include Vivid, Standard, Sports, Movie, and Custom; along with some semblance of basic tweaking in temperature modes. There’s also VGA (when connected), Noise Reduction (NR), and aspect ratio being the only unique picture enhancements. There just isn’t that much to fiddle around with beyond audio, clock, and closed captioning. Switching between individual sources is also leisurely and take about 6 seconds per turn, just don’t be impatient because if you overshoot you’ll have to cycle through everything again.
A common 1080p HDTV can easily do sharp. Unfortunately, The Proscan suffers from poor black levels, uneven backlight uniformity, and rudimentary color accuracy. Picture quality, for most intents and purposes wasn’t amazing but could be considered passable for far less discriminating tastes. Still, the matter of contrast is hard to ignore, where lighter parts of an image are reduced to white splotches and unnatural borders between opposing shades. We couldn’t do much to eliminate said problems without further mucking up the brightness and detail, with films (Mad Max: Fury Road) and video games (Halo 5: Gaurdians) appearing softer than expected due to mediocre video processing.
As a 4K Monitor
But very little of that will matter if you’re in it solely for the 4K, despite the fact that the aforementioned picture deficiencies will dampen much of the experience. Because actual native content is on the short side the entirety of our testing was regulated to a PC running Windows 10, an EVGA GeForce GTX 950 video card being the graphic workhorse, and a number of demo clips and games on hand. I ran through some videos featuring European landscapes and Hong Kong skylines first and it was almost easy to forget how middling the PLDED4243A-UHD performed as a TV, in fact it’s deceptively competent as a big-ass monitor.
Playing games is admittedly visceral if we’re less critical. Whether doing reconnaissance missions over an expanse of Afghanistan in Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain or preventing a nuclear meltdown in Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare, there was plenty of visual pop, as character models and environments exhibited an unprecedented crisp quality and thoroughly enhanced smoothness. While modern games typically look good bumping the settings up to 4K will be a superficial revelation to first-timers, holding up at a fairly consistent but unimpressive average of 23fps between with most graphic options set to ‘high’. For game consoles running in 1080p there’s some degree of input lag and jerky response that takes some getting used to in a twitch-style manner, hardcore gamers will want to run away but it’s nothing I’d consider horrible for less sporadic titles and casual users.
Videophiles recommend that viewing at a predetermined distance based on screen size is pivotal to get the full benefit of 4K from a TV. In this case, the PLDED4243A-UHD looked appropriate enough at 2 feet, 11 inches away, which is also the average length between you and most desktop 24-inch monitors available now. By comparison, it is gargantuan having a monolith of a screen completely occupy workspace and a bit absurd without a comparable PC to back it up.
Faults do exist when running in PC mode though, as more persistent issues involved instances of inverted colors on some icons and extended cursor travel when enabling full screen viewing – debatable quirks with the Windows 8.1 operating system rather than the TV itself.
After everything is said and done does the Proscan PLDED4243A-UHD come off as a definitive bargain? Well, not even close. There’s a lot to be desired other than 4K resolution, and hardly touches the bare minimum in terms of overall picture quality and performance. For those willing to put a bargain before anything rational, the PLDED4243A-UHD barely feels suited to the task of being just an enormous computer monitor, instead of legitimate living room entertainment.
If you’re still enthusiastic about having any 4K set in the house though, the PLDED4243A-UHD can be found at your local Menards or online on Amazon which comes bundled with a Roku Streaming Stick.