Shopping for a great TV is always tricky, but what makes a good TV once you leave the living room? If you want to enjoy a movie out on the deck or kick back with some Netflix by the pool, you need an outdoor TV.
In our hunt for the best outdoor TV, we tested models from two major players: SunBriteTV and Cosmos by Evervue. SunBriteTV is one of the largest outdoor TV companies, and is the only outdoor TV brand offered through Best Buy. Evervue is one of the leading companies for custom-installed TVs, offering everything from in-shower TVs, smart mirrors and outdoor TVs.
Obviously, much of the evaluation relied on the same combination of instrumental testing and hands on experience we use when we review conventional TVs. But we also needed to look specifically at specialized outdoor features, like weatherproofing, mounting options and visibility in the partial sunlight conditions the TVs are made for.
Even with all their weatherproof, backyard-friendly designs, an outdoor TV remains a TV. So we evaluate them along the same lines as any regular TV.
While you can get a more detailed look at the SunBriteTV Signature Series 55-inch Outdoor TV and Evervue Cosmos 40-inch Android TV in their respective reviews, four main elements stood out in our comparison: picture quality, audio quality, smart functionality and remote control design.
|Row 0 - Cell 0||SunBriteTV Signature Series 55-inch||Evervue Cosmos 40-inch|
|Screen size||55 inches||40 inches|
|Resolution||3840 x 2160||3840 x 2160|
|Ports||2 HDMI, 2 USB||2 HDMI, 1 USB|
|Audio||N/A||2 x 10 Watt internal speakers|
|Smart TV software||N/A||Android 7.1|
|Size||50.5 x 29.7 x 3.8 inches [w/o stand]||35.8 x 22.3 x 2.4 inches [w/o stand]|
|Weight||68.5 pounds [w/o stand]||80 pounds [w/o stand]|
Picture quality is a tricky issue even on standard TVs. The picture you see may look better or worse due to a variety of factors, such as color accuracy, brightness, black levels and what sort of processing has been applied. While you can parse technicalities in a variety of ways, we've found that the most important indicators for picture quality – the raw numbers that best track with the eyes-on experience – are color gamut and color accuracy.
In this case, both TVs have a strong showing in color reproduction, with test results nearing 100 percent of the sRGB color gamut. This is in line with some of the best TVs out there.
|Row 0 - Cell 0||SunBriteTV Signature Series 55-inch Outdoor TV||Evervue Cosmos 40-inch Android TV|
|Color Gamut (Percentage, Higher is Better)||99.83||99.86|
|Color Accuracy (Delta-E Rating, Lower is Better)||6.7||13.1|
Both TVs also have boosted display brightness to compensate for the sunlight you'll encounter outdoors. As a result, both displays are less spectacular than you'll see on similarly priced indoor TVs, but picture quality takes a back seat to visibility in partial sunlight.
Winner: SunBriteTV Signature Series. According to our lab testing, the SunBriteTV has the better picture, but it's far from perfect. The color accuracy is still a far cry from even cheap indoor TVs, and the better picture is marred by narrow viewing angles that cause some color shifting when viewed off center. Despite all of this, the SunBriteTV still had the better picture of the two when compared in our controlled lab.
The other major component of the TV experience is audio. For outdoor TVs, this is another area where the objective quality takes a back seat to the weatherproof designs required for outdoor use.
The open speaker grilles that standard TVs use to let internal speakers put out sound become major holes in the protective barriers outdoor TV designs use to keep out moisture, dirt and insects. An indoor TV won't have to stand up to blowing wind; rain, hail and snow; or potential infestation as bugs or rodents try to crawl into the warm confines of a TV cabinet. Outdoor TVs, on the other hand, have to protect against all of these potential threats, and their designs reflect that.
The Evervue Cosmos handles these problems in two ways. First, the TV's boxy steel cabinet has downward-facing speaker grilles, which automatically prevent most worries about moisture and dirt thanks to gravity's downward pull. (It does, however, mean that the TV comes with warnings that mounting it at an angle or sideways can void the warranty.) In addition to this simple protection, the cabinet also has a water-resistant membrane layer between the speaker grille and the speaker, further sealing out physical threats.
But stainless steel and outdoor spaces don't make for well-directed audio. In order to point the sound toward viewers, the Evervue Cosmos uses a pair of large curved metal plates that extend below the TV chassis and function as sound reflectors, redirecting the sound toward those in front of the TV. Unfortunately, bouncing sound has a name — an echo — and the steel reflectors gave everything a metallic echoey sound, as if you were listening to a show through a metal pipe.
The SunBriteTV skips this problem by dropping the speakers altogether. Instead, the company has a weatherproofed soundbar it will sell you. You also can opt to provide your own wired outdoor speakers. SunBriteTV included its recommended soundbar with the TV, and the soundbar is very good. But at the added expense of about $1,000 (on top of the SunBrite TV’s $4,499 price tag), it had better be.
Winner: Draw. The SunBriteTV has either no audio, or a pricey soundbar, depending, but the quality of the Evervue Cosmos’ echoey sound is bad enough that neither is a clear winner.
While smart-TV functionality has become a major part of the consumer TV market, it's more of an afterthought with outdoor TVs. These sets aren't built to be the center of your connected entertainment life the way the TV in your living room might be; rather, they're designed to let you enjoy a movie on your patio or while soaking in a hot tub. Basic TV functions come first, with smart capabilities coming in a distant second.
This can be seen in the divergent ways the two outdoor contenders treat smart-TV features. The SunBriteTV doesn't offer them at all, though it lets you add a streaming stick, with room in the rear compartment to plug in a device to HDMI and USB.
The Evervue Cosmos, on the other hand, has a second compartment built into the TV cabinet specifically for a separate Android set-top box, but it's an add-on device that comes with some caveats. The included Docooler A5X Plus Mini 4K HD TV Box runs a modified version of Android 7.1 meant for a tablet or mobile device, instead of a version of Android TV.
Evervue's set also had a separate remote for the Android box, leaving you to juggle remotes whenever you want to switch from watching a Blu-ray to streaming something on YouTube. These less-polished aspects of the Android setup caused many navigation and usability issues, and made the whole smart-TV aspect of the Cosmos feel like a tacked-on extra, rather than a major selling point of the TV.
Winner: Evervue Cosmos, since it offered smart functionality. Be warned that it's so clunky in its execution, it's not much of an edge over the SunBriteTV.
As we've already stressed, there's more going on with these TVs than simply a quality panel and nice speakers. The outdoor aspects of these TVs are the primary reason to buy them, so we had to test that, too.
This puts us in a slightly precarious position, as we definitely wanted to test the weather-resistant capabilities of each TV, but didn't want to risk damaging the review units that had been lent to us. In the end, we decided the best tests to do were to look at viewability in outdoor conditions, check to confirm water resistance and look at the weatherproofed remote controls.
Construction and physical controls
When you're building to withstand the elements, construction quality becomes essential. Cheap indoor TVs can get away with flimsy plastic cabinets and fancy bezels, but a weatherproof TV needs something beefier. In the case of the SunBriteTV and the Evervue Cosmos, that means metal.
The SunBriteTV has an aluminum enclosure that has a flat-black paint job on the rear panel and a glossy powder-coat finish around the bezel. The textured finish looks like something off a Chevy truck.
The Evervue Cosmos does it one better, with a stainless-steel chassis that gleams in the sun. The enclosure is sealed, with an internal climate-control system that keeps the components warm in the winter and cool in the summer.
The onboard controls are also sealed on both sets. The SunBrite TV has buttons for power, input, menu and controls for channel and volume, all covered in a waterproof plastic membrane.
The Evervue Cosmos has a single button for power on the side, and it looks like something off an elevator. The button has a decidedly industrial look, but it's just as weather-resistant as the rest of the armored TV.
Winner: Draw. While the controls on both sets differ in design and complexity, they both are built for keeping the weather out.
Connectivity and Power
A TV alone is mostly useless without something to watch on that nice big screen. Streaming sticks, media players, gaming consoles – they all have a part in your home theater setup, whether it’s indoors in your den or out poolside. To provide the necessary connectivity while still protecting against the elements, outdoor TVs have sealed compartments for all of the AV ports that would normally be easily accessible on the side and back of a regular TV.
With both the Evervue Cosmos and the SunBriteTV, this meant sealed compartments with water-resistant seals that let cables pass through. The Evervue Cosmos actually had two such compartments, one for the smart-TV streaming hardware and a second for connecting external devices and power. The compartments are small, and getting all the cables plugged in and manipulated into position is a a challenge. These panels were secured with four hex screws, which you could loosen and tighten with an included Allen wrench.
The SunBriteTV, on the other hand, uses a single compartment that is larger, easier to manage regarding cable organization, and secures with tool-free thumbscrews. It's got better overall connectivity, is more convenient and just as secure as Evervue's approach.
Power was another issue. The SunBrite TV has a standard power cable that comes connected to the TV. You can't remove it, but the necessary waterproofing is already in place. The Evervue Cosmos, on the other hand, has a separate power box, and a weatherproofed power cable that uses a screw-on connector.
Winner: SunBriteTV. It's easier to connect and secure against water and other outdoor hazards.
Both of the TVs we tested are designated for partial sunlight, meaning that the ideal operating conditions aren't in direct sunlight, but in shade. This doesn't mean that sunlight won't have a major impact on visibility — just that it's less extreme than unobstructed sunshine would be.
To test visibility, we set up both TVs side-by-side outdoors. Using the same Blu-ray player and HDMI splitter we use when testing TVs in our lab, we had the TVs show the same scenes from our 4K copy of Spider-man: Homecoming and Blade Runner 2049. Then, we compared picture quality on the sets.
We selected scenes that differentiate a good display from a great one, with elements chosen to show color fidelity, subtle color transitions, backlight consistency and contrast. We also select scenes that showcase HDR characteristics, like glowing highlights, deep blacks and shadows, and rich midtones.
In every case, scenes simply looked better on the SunBriteTV. The color accuracy meant that Spider-Man's red-and-blue costume looked correct, and HDR support made everything look more vibrant, whether it was a shadowy warehouse or the glowing beams of a sci-fi weapon. The Evervue was watchable, but had significantly duller, less accurate colors, and the lack of HDR support was a major differentiator.
Winner: SunBrite TV. When compared side-by-side, the SunBriteTV had significantly better picture quality.
Stands and mounts
Hefty, weatherproof TVs require stout, weatherproof stands and mounts. And because most outdoor TVs require custom installation, both SunBrite TV and Evervue do a fair amount of business selling the hardware to put their TVs on the wall, next to a hot tub, or hanging from the ceiling. Both companies have a wide variety of mounting options, though they couldn't be more different aesthetically.
Evervue's stands are made of tubular steel, the same heavy stainless steel used for the TV's chassis. These custom-fabricated stands are welded and polished, with routing for cables built in. Special framed brackets work with traditional VESA mounting patterns to provide a sure attachment to the stand that can be easily slipped off and changed as needed.
SunBriteTV's stands are slimmer and more elegant, though no less sturdy. Heavy-gauge powder-coated aluminum provides stability, and shrugs off any kind of weather. The stand is a bit more involved to attach, but it's very secure once it's in place.
Winner: Draw. The mounting options from both SunBriteTV and Evervue offer exactly what each TV needs, and with different aesthetic approaches, but both get the job done and provide options to suit any setup.
Although weather comes in many forms, from pounding hail to drifting snow and baking sun, the biggest danger to an outdoor TV is moisture of any kind. While we weren't looking to find the limits of each TV's waterproofing (that would risk damaging the products), we did want to see for ourselves how well each stood up to rainfall.
For this we built a piece of custom-testing equipment: an improvised rainfall simulator that provided a good steady downpour. We set up each TV with our Blu-Ray player and a test video, with all the non-waterproof gear at a safe distance and protected from any water.
Both TVs weathered our artificial storm without missing a beat. The seals kept water out of the port compartments, the display panels held up to our drippy barrage, and everything survived the sort of dousing that would normally give this TV reviewer a heart attack if brought to bear on a standard model.
Winner: Draw. Both TVs handled simulated rain with ease, playing video in the face of a drizzle that would kill the average TV.
Remote Control Design
There is the one part of the TV experience you'll actually touch and feel: the remote control. Just like the set itself, the remote for an outdoor TV has to be specially designed to withstand things that most remote controls never have to face, like water and dust.
The SunBriteTV remote control uses a plastic layer on the face of the remote, with bubble buttons for various controls. The Evervue Cosmos, on the other hand, has individual buttons while still offering the sort of ruggedness that can be left out in the rain.
The Evervue Cosmos adds a second remote for the set's smart TV functions, and we're less sure of its ability to handle adverse weather. Add to this the irritating reality that two remotes provide twice the opportunity to lose one, and we're less impressed with the remote control option offered on the Evervue Cosmos.
Winner: SunBriteTV. The functionality is similar, but Evervue includes a second, less resilient remote.
The Final Analysis
Add it all up, and the big takeaway is how many of the core functions are offered on both models. If outdoor capability is your main concern, both models do the job.
|Row 0 - Cell 0||SunBriteTV Signature Series 55-inch Outdoor TV||Evervue Cosmos 40-inch Android TV|
|Construction and physical controls||Draw||Draw|
|Connectivity and Power||✔||✘|
|Stands and mounts||Draw||Draw|
|Remote Control Design||✔||✘|
In the end, we picked the SunBriteTV as our favorite outdoor TV, thanks to its superior picture quality, both in controlled lab conditions and outdoor comparisons, as well as a more convenient connector panel compartment that is easier to access and simpler to organize cables in.
But the Evervue Cosmos still has plenty to offer, from its lower price to smart-TV functionality. It's also the one of the two that has built-in sound, while the SunBriteTV requires an additional speaker or soundbar purchase. Sure, the Cosmos doesn't have great audio, but at least it's one less device to install.
In the end, any outdoor TV will require some compromises, whether it's giving up advanced functions, accepting mediocre picture quality, or just coming to terms the unique aesthetics of bulky, armored weatherproofing. The SunBriteTV Signature Series managed to provide a better experience despite those trade-offs, delivering an easier setup experience and better viewing, making it the best outdoor TV we've seen.
Credit: Tom's Guide