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The Sceptre 50-inch X515BV-FSR ($199) is something of a holdout in today's world of smart TVs and 4K sets. With 1080p of resolution and no smart functionality, it's a great example of where TV technology was just a few short years ago.
That's not to say that it's a bad TV. But despite its attractive price, this sub-$250 TV will have limited appeal. You’re better off with one of the best cheap TVs on our list.
Sceptre 50-inch X515BV-FSR Key Specs
|1920 x 1080
|3 HDMI, 1 USB 2.0
|2 Channel x 10-Watt
|Smart TV Software
|44.3 x 25.5 x 3.6 inches [w/o stand]
|24.6 pounds [w/o stand]
The Spectre X515BV-FSR is a 50-inch TV, measuring 44.3 x 25.5 inches and a chunky 3.6 inches in depth. That's pretty thick compared to today's svelte premium TVs, but it's not unusual in this price range.
The plastic construction is relatively lightweight, and while the 50-inch, 24.6-pound set is unwieldy enough that you'll want two people to move it, it's not so heavy as to discourage moving the TV to another room.
The unit has a pair of black plastic feet that screw onto the bottom of the set. These boomerang-shaped feet offer pretty good stability on a table or entertainment unit, and have a footprint of 44 x 2.1 inches.
If you want to forgo the stand entirely, the X505BV-FSR is also wall-mountable. On the back of the chassis is a standard four-hole mounting pattern that will work with any 200 x 200 millimeter VESA wall bracket.
The X515BV-FSR is outfitted with both TV and PC monitor connections, allowing you to use it as either a TV or a monitor (or both). On the back of the set you'll find three HDMI inputs, 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 the Spectre is not a smart TV, there's no need for internet connectivity. As such, there's no Ethernet port and no built-in Wi-Fi on the X515BV-FSR. While there is a single USB 2.0 port for viewing photos and videos from a flash drive, that's pretty much it for modern connectivity.
Outputs are all audio-focused, with a pair of RCA outputs for stereo sound, a 3.5-mm headphone jack, and an SPDIF optical connection for digital surround sound. Your wireless headphones won't work here, as there is no Bluetooth capability.
The 50-inch Spectre offers a better-than-average display size for the affordable price, but don't expect too much. The specs alone should temper your expectations – 1920 x 1080 resolution, with a 60Hz refresh rate – but our hands-on viewing still left us feeling let down.
Whether I was watching over-the-air TV channels or scenes from "Blade Runner 2049" there were a couple of glaring issues that were hard to ignore.
The first was the backlighting. While I didn't expect perfectly uniform backlighting on such an inexpensive TV, the problems on the Spectre exceeded the issues I anticipated, such as shadowy corners. Also, the LED backlight showed me a problem I've never seen before: Around the outer edges of the display, there was a clear stripe of excessive brightness, almost like a picture frame around the LCD panel. The issue was clear to see, whether I was watching Drew Carey host "The Price Is Right" or watching Ryan Gosling grapple with Dave Bautista in "Blade Runner 2049."
The other issue is more commonplace among cheap TVs, but was still pronounced. Densely packed details, like stubble on an actor's face or a pattern on a piece of clothing, caused a noticeable sizzle effect on screen. Add motion, such as a character walking or a camera panning across the screen, and the effect grew more pronounced.
Lab testing gave us similarly mixed results. The color reproduction was good, with the Spectre reproducing 97.9 percent of the gamut in the Rec. 709 color space. This was evident in scenes from "Spider-Man: Homecoming," where the reds and blues of Spidey's suit looked fairly bright.
At a price of $249, the Samsung M5300 offered a slightly wider color gamut (98.2%); the Spectre's results are right in line with the $139 Vizio 24-inch D-Series (D24f-F1) (97.9%) and much better than you'll get on even cheaper sets, like the $149 TCL 32S325 Roku TV (84.8%).
Color accuracy was an entirely different story, with a Delta-E rating of 7.97 showing drastic deviation from what the displayed colors should have been. While we didn't expect miracles from such an inexpensive, full-HD set, this is markedly less accurate than other sets in the same price range.
The Samsung M5300 (3.2) and Vizio D24f-F1 (3.1) weren't particularly impressive either, but the Sceptre had noticeable color problems, with yellows skewing green and other colors taking on a pronounced blue tinge. The issue was especially noticeable in "Spider-Man: Homecoming;" Marisa Tomei's skin tones took on an unhealthy pallor that didn't really match the character of a younger Aunt May.
Gaming performance should be pretty good on the X515BV-FSR, with a tested lag time of 29 milliseconds. If you're after a good-sized TV for your XBox One S or regular Playstation 4, the Spectre X515BV-FSR should be a decent low-price option.
Sound quality was good, without a hint of chassis buzz when turned up to full blast. Listening to Vampire Weekend’s “This Life,” I was able to fill our AV test lab with music, but the pair of 10-watt speakers inside the TV produced only moderate volume and the sound quality got a little reedy when dialed up above 70%. Given the lack of a subwoofer, I didn't expect much on the low-end, but I was still struck by the near-total absence of a bassline.
The barebones remote control that comes with the X515BV-FSR is as basic as the TV itself, with the expected channel and volume controls, a number pad for entering individual channels, and a basic four-button navigation pad. With no smart functions built into the TV, there's no need for fancy features like a built-in microphone or motion-tracking cursor control.
The Sceptre X515BV-FSR offers a great bargain for budget-minded TV shoppers, delivering a 50-inch, full-HD TV for less than $250. But any experienced bargain hound knows that low prices come with some caveats, and in this case it's mediocre picture quality, which suffers from a combination of bad backlighting, poor image processing, and noticeably skewed color.
The Sceptre is still a good deal in terms of screen-size-per-dollar, but for a better picture and fuller-feature set, the Samsung M5300 Smart TV is a better buy, even in its 32-inch size.
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Brian Westover is currently Lead Analyst, PCs and Hardware at PCMag. Until recently, however, he was Senior Editor at Tom's Guide, where he led the site's TV coverage for several years, reviewing scores of sets and writing about everything from 8K to HDR to HDMI 2.1. He also put his computing knowledge to good use by reviewing many PCs and Mac devices, and also led our router and home networking coverage. Prior to joining Tom's Guide, he wrote for TopTenReviews and PCMag.