Most modern TVs have smarts, whether they're from a built-in streaming platform, support for smart assistants or both. Some sets, however, like the Sceptre 43-inch X438BV-FSR TV ($139), haven’t given in to the popularity of internet-based entertainment.
A lack of smarts doesn't make the very affordable Sceptre 43-inch X438BV-FSR TV a bad TV, but it is reason to exclude it from our best cheap TVs roundup. The poor performance and underwhelming 1080p LED display don't help the set's case, either.
Sceptre 43-inch X438BV-FSR TV specs
|Screen size||43 inches|
|Resolution||1920 x 1080|
|Ports||3 HDMI, 1 USB 2.0|
|Audio||2 channel x 10-watt|
|Smart TV software||N/A|
|Size||38 x 23.3 x 7.9 inches|
|Weight||14.9 pounds [w/o stand]|
Sceptre 43-inch X438BV-FSR TV price and availability
The Sceptre 43-inch X438BV-FSR TV originally sold for $348, but has dropped to an extremely affordable $139 through retailers like Walmart.
While our testing and review focused only on the 43-inch model, Sceptre does appear to sell a 50-inch model that is very similar. The Sceptre 50-inch X505BV-FSR sells for $199, and boasts a similar feature set, from the 1080p, 60Hz LED display to the twin 10-watt speakers.
While we can only speak to the test results we saw on the model we reviewed, we're confident that most of our observations on the performance and features of the 43-inch X438BV-FSR will also apply to the 50-inch model.
Sceptre 43-inch X438BV-FSR TV design
At 38 x 23.3 x 7.9 inches, the Sceptre 43-inch X438BV-FSR TV looks pretty thick –– a common characteristic of sets in this price range. You'll find pricier TVs, namely our best TVs, sport more slender panels.
The plastic construction is relatively lightweight at 14.9 pounds. I was able to lift and position it myself, so most people shouldn't have trouble moving the set solo. Its boomerang-shaped plastic feet keep it steady, but it can be mounted to a wall, too.
A subtle, yet spunky touch to the Sceptre 43-inch X438BV-FSR TV’s design is its textured bezels. They're etched to emulate wood grain, elevating the set's otherwise budget aesthetic.
Sceptre 43-inch X438BV-FSR TV ports
The Sceptre 43-inch X438BV-FSR TV provides one USB 2.0 port and three HDMI ports. One of the HDMI ports supports Mobile High-Definition Link (MHL), meaning you can use it to stream in HD from a smartphone or tablet using a compatible cable.
Also on the back of the Sceptre 43-inch X438BV-FSR TV you'll find a coax connection for antenna or cable, a shared composite and component video input, a VGA connection and a 3.5-mm audio input for connecting PC audio.
Because this Spectre is not a smart TV, there's neither an Ethernet port nor a built-in Wi-Fi. There's no built-in Bluetooth, either, meaning you can't pair wireless headphones to the X438BV-FSR.
Sceptre 43-inch X438BV-FSR TV performance
As I fired up Planet Earth in Full HD on the X438BV-FSR, performance problems with the 1920 x 1080 resolution became evident quickly. As the chapter panned over the Amazon rainforest, the greens below blended together. It looked more like a murky sea of leaves rather than crisp, textured foliage.
Tight shots of creatures let me catch some details in fur or claws, but they blurred with fast movement. A leaping frog looked like a projectile blob, while I could barely make out brown monkeys swinging between tree branches.
Black levels proved a problem for the X438BV-FSR. Even in a dark room, the set struggled to reproduce rich black color. On a snowy mountain, a leopard's spots looked strangely blue.
Dark colors (and most contrast, for that matter) didn't hold up from a wide degree of viewing angles, either. Turning on auto-contrast helped somewhat, but I found it tried to compensate by oversaturating a sunset scene.
Tom's Guide TV lab testing backed up my hands-on experience. The color reproduction was less impressive than other sets in this range, with the Spectre reproducing 95% of the gamut in the Rec. 709 color space. For comparison, the TCL 3-Series 32-inch Roku TV (32S327) reproduced 98.2% of the sRGB color gamut, while the Vizio 24-inch D-Series reproduced 97.9%.
Color accuracy was similarly subpar, with a Delta-E rating of 9.4 (closer to zero is better) revealing a significant deviation from what the displayed colors should look like. And price is no excuse: other sets in this range manage much better scores in our TV lab testing. The Vizio D24f-F1 had a Delta-E rating of 3.1, while the TCL 3-Series scored a fairly impressive 1.8.
I also noticed the LED panel's corners cast an obvious shadow on the picture in a wide shot of a bright, snowy mountain. Upon closer inspection, it seemed the picture clarity distorts near the edges, too.
As for gaming performance, the Sceptre's 27-millisecond lag time satisfies. If you're looking to hook up your Playstation 4 to a cheap, midsize TV, the X438BV-FSR is a capable option.
Sceptre 43-inch X438BV-FSR TV audio
I didn't expect the Sceptre 43-inch X438BV-FSR TV's audio quality to impress, but I found the set sounds decent for its price. Even without a subwoofer, its dual 10-watt speakers delivered full, loud sound.
The piano keys rang clear in Adele's cinematic "Skyfall," while the singer's croons soared in the studio I use for TV testing. I toggled with surround sound mode while watching Planet Earth and was amazed by how the whistles from birds-of-paradise and the coos of indri lemurs echoed in the test lab. The setting didn't benefit the narrator's voice as well, though.
The Sceptre 43-inch X438BV-FSR TV didn't provide much bass. An inexpensive TV simply won't thump like a premium set. We generally recommend that you get a soundbar to get better sound for your TV.
Sceptre 43-inch X438BV-FSR TV remote control
The lengthy, lightweight remote control that comes with the Sceptre X438BV-FSR sports the expected channel and volume controls, a number pad and a four-button navigation pad. It's a rather simple looking clicker, but without smart features there's no need for the frills of dedicated app buttons or built-in microphones.
I do like the orange and opaque-white composition of button colors, though. They pop off the matte black body well and offer a sense of distinction for each control.
If the price of the 43-inch TV sounds too good to be true, that's because it is. The Sceptre 43-inch X438BV-FSR TV cuts too many corners where it matters. As much as the design and audio feel borderline premium, the problematic performance drags the set's rating down.
For a similar sub-$200 price, you can get the TCL 3 Series 32-inch Roku TV. It's smaller, but offers a bounty of useful smart features that the Sceptre 43-inch X438BV-FSR TV cannot compete with. But if you're averse to an internet-enabled TV and want something of substantial size for cheap, it could work for your situation.