Budget HDTVs are all about sacrifice, so don’t expect 3D or Web connectivity, but it doesn’t mean you have to live with a set that looks cheap and delivers subpar picture quality. The RCA LEDC45RQ series is an LED-backlit LCD HDTV line that delivers full 1080p HD and rich colors. The 42-inch model we tested (RCA LED42C45RQ: $449.99 list) offers wide viewing angles and conveniently placed I/O ports. You do only get two HDMI ports, and its 60Hz panel produces a bit of motion lag, but despite its flaws, it’s our Editors’ Choice for under-$500 HDTVs.
Editor’s Note: This review is based on tests performed on the RCA LED42C45RQ, the 42-inch model of the series. Besides the screen size difference, the $599.99 46-inch LED46C45RQ is identical in features, and while we didn’t perform lab tests on this specific model, we expect similar performance.
Design and Features
The LED42C45RQ isn’t very flashy, but it is a nice-looking HDTV. The 42-inch 1080p panel is framed by thin 1-inch glossy black bezels along the top and sides and a 1.5-inch bezel on the bottom. The trim has a subtle beveled edge that adds a touch of style. There’s an RCA logo on the bottom bezel, to the right of the remote sensor.
Measuring 3.6 inches at its thickest point, this set isn’t exactly svelte. It sits on a black rectangular stand with a clear acrylic finish that provides plenty of support for the 30-pound cabinet, but it does not let you swivel the panel. The cabinet is equipped with the requisite four VESA holes for mounting on a wall, as well as two 8-watt speakers that are moderately loud. You can even squeeze a modicum of low end out of them with the built-in equalizer, but don’t expect wall-shaking bass output.
All six function buttons (Power, Volume Up/Down, Channel Up/Down, Input Select) are at the rear of the cabinet facing right. On the opposite side, facing left, is the I/O port array. You only get two HDMI ports, and the composite/component ports are shared. There’s also a USB port, a headphone jack, a digital audio output, and a coax cable/antenna jack. At this price point you won’t see web connectivity (wired or wireless), or Web/streaming apps.
The remote control is a black, no-frills, 9-inch wand with 48 rubberized buttons plus a four-way arrow key. None of the buttons are backlit and all of them are a bit small, but the remote is responsive and fits comfortably in hand.
This set offers limited picture settings; presets include Standard, Movie, User, Power Saving, and Dynamic mode, but only the user mode lets you adjust brightness, contrast, color, tint, and sharpness. On the other presets, these settings are locked. Oddly, the Power Saving mode looks identical to the Standard mode, and in fact uses the same amount of power.
Regardless of the preset you’re using, you can change color temperature and a handful of advanced settings like Dynamic Contrast, Film Mode, and Noise Reduction. Sound settings include a not-half-bad simulated surround effect, auto volume control, and an equalizer.
The LED42C45RQ uses a 60Hz panel, unlike some other budget sets including the Insignia NS-42E480A13 and the Westinghouse UW40T2BW
, which both use 120Hz panel technology. In my tests, I observed some motion lag while watching the Blu-ray version of 2012, but the flaws were minor. Viewing angle performance is generally good; there was a slight loss of luminance when viewed from a side angle, but colors remained intact.
We measured the panel’s ability to display bright whites and dark blacks using a Klein K10-A Colorimeter and images from the DisplayMate suite of HDTV diagnostic tests. The set produced a peak brightness of 323.26 cd/m2, which is plenty bright, and a black level of 0.18 cd/m2, which is not very dark. Despite a middling contrast ratio of 1,796:1 the picture showed plenty of pop and exhibited good highlight detail. Shadow detail was a bit murky, however, while watching Black Swan on Blu-ray.
As shown on the chart above, generated by SpectraCal’s CalMan5 software, green and blue color levels were close to the CIE standards but reds were a bit weak, although not weak enough to cause tinting or affect color fidelity.
The LED42C45RQ used 67 watts of power during testing, which is average for a 42-inch LED-backlit panel. The same-size Insignia NS42E480A13 used 64 watts, while the 40-inch TCL LE40FHDE3000 consumed 50 watts.
With the RCA LED42C45RQ you get a very affordable 42-inch HDTV that uses energy-efficient LED backlighting and delivers a bright, well-balanced picture. In order to keep the price under $500 RCA had to skimp on some features, which explains the limited port availability and the 60Hz panel, but its overall picture quality is superior to the other sub-$500 HDTVs we’ve recently tested, including the Insignia NS42E480A13 and the Westinghouse UW40T2BW. If you’re looking for a capable, yet affordable small-screen set without all the perks that come with pricier sets, the RCA LED42C45RQ should be at the top of your list.
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|Video Inputs||Component, Composite, HDMI, USB|
|Diagonal Screen Size||46 inches|
|Pixel Refresh Rate Speed||60Hz|
Copyright © 2012 Ziff Davis, Inc