Soniq E40S12A LED television

Soniq’s small-screen Smart LED TV is under $500 at JB Hi-Fi

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Soniq E40S12A
  • Expert Rating

    3.25 / 5

Pros

  • Smart TV through Android
  • Useful remote control
  • Low price

Cons

  • Low-resolution interface
  • Mediocre contrast and clarity
  • Unnecessary features integrated

Bottom Line

Soniq's E40S12A is a surprisingly cheap television, given that it has an Android-based Smart TV service integrated. It is not an especially high quality panel, and the interface is unnecessarily complicated at times, but it's one of the cheapest televisions we've seen that can connect to the Internet.

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Smart TVs have been all the rage for the last couple of years, with market leaders Samsung, LG, Sony, Panasonic and Sharp all implementing some manner of Web features into their premium panels. It’s only now that we’re starting to see cheaper televisions from Chinese companies start to catch on to the trend, with the Soniq E40S12A using an Android-based interface.

Soniq E40S12A: Design, connectivity and features

The 40-inch E40S12A is joined by the 32-inch non-Full HD E32S12A ($348) and the 48-inch Full HD E48S12A ($699). A $29 wireless adapter provides 802.11n Wi-Fi network access to any of the S12A series. All three TVs are available exclusively through JB Hi-Fi and Soniq’s online store.

The Soniq E40S12A won’t offer up any surprises in the design stakes. It’s a simple and unspectacular chassis with piano black finishing on the inch-thick plastic bezel. The base of the stand is slightly larger than we are used to with big-brand TVs; this is a problem if you don’t have much space on your entertainment unit, but it does offer a little more stability.

Around the back of the TV, you’ll find more inputs than you could reasonably expect on a TV of this price. Four HDMI ports is a good base to start from — when you buy cheaper TVs from big brands, you usually get 3 or less — and analog ports are in abundance with two component, two composite, and one VGA connector. An SD card reader and three USB ports make for some comprehensive multimedia connectivity, too — even if you’re using one port for the optional Wi-Fi adapter, you can have one port for a permanently-attached hard drive and a temporary flash drive.

The stand of the Soniq E40S12A lets the screen swivel from left to right, across an OK-but-not-great 20 degree range of motion.

The remote control that’s bundled with the Soniq E40S12A is what differentiates it from other TVs of its price range, and even from the cheaper Smart TVs available from big companies like Samsung and LG. It’s a regular candy-bar remote control with standard playback and power and navigation buttons on one side, but the other side has a full QWERTY keyboard with a similar key layout to the Logitech Dinovo Mini.

The remote control works well for the TV’s Smart services, especially the Web browser. Typing search queries into YouTube or Google is the bane of our existence on a candy-bar TV remote, and having a full keyboard on hand simplifies the process massively. It’s also a reasonably well-built remote, beating out the clickers we’ve tried on similarly-priced televisions from companies like Kogan.

Soniq E40S12A: Android Smart TV and interface

The interface of the Soniq E40S12A is based on Google’s Android low-powered operating system. It’s a forked version of the system, so it’s got no resemblance to the touchscreen interface you’d find on any recent smartphone or tablet. It’s based off Android 2.2.1 Froyo, but since there’s no chance of updating it, that’s not a particularly important thing to note.

The interface is not particularly good-looking. It’s not running at the native resolution of the screen and is up-scaled to suit, so icons and text are somewhat blurry and slightly indistinct. You’ll have no problems reading them or understanding what they are, but you’ll get a better TV interface from a non-Android, proprietary system like Panasonic’s or Samsung’s TVs can offer.

What we also don’t like is the complicated nature of the menu from which the Smart TV features are on offer. While other manufacturers keep the pre-installed software to a minimum and let you pick and choose what you want, Soniq has the E40S12A populated with online shopping, games, weather, and news apps, as well as the standard YouTube, Web browser, and Facebook. The Android Market (not Google Play, though, obviously) lets you install a range of other apps.

The Smart TV features offered through Android have potential, but the integration at the moment is largely useful only for easy YouTube or Web browser access. As Soniq releases other features this experience may change for the better.

Soniq E40S12A: Picture quality and performance

The Soniq E40S12A is a Full HD 40-inch TV, using an edge LED backlight for its LCD panel. Its screen is a good match for broadcast free-to-air digital TV and DVD watching, but it doesn’t have the contrast to be able to do high quality movies on DVD a great deal of justice.

The LED backlight means the Soniq E40S12A performs better than a CCFL-backlit LED, but the backlight isn’t able to dynamically adjust its brightness to suit the material that’s playing on-screen, so with the backlight set to a moderate level dark scenes a movie can look bright, while bright scenes can look a little gloomy. This is an area where the Soniq is clearly cheaper than more expensive models from bigger brands — dynamic backlight adjustment is a definite advantage for the display quality of a TV, and local dimming (lowering brightness in one area of the screen while boosting it in another) is a further improvement again.

In general, contrast is OK, but definitely nothing special. There’s a moderate amount of detail lost in both dark and light areas of the screen if you’re watching a well-mastered movie on Blu-ray like The Dark Knight, but this is inevitable on a television of this type and price. For casual watching — digital TV, Saturday night movies and the like — the Soniq E40S12A is acceptable with no critical flaws.

Detail is good when you’re watching flattering Full HD content. Lower-resolution video is up-scaled with a moderate amount of blockiness and blurring; nothing terrible but this is another shortcoming of cheap televisions generally. Motion is another area where the Soniq stumbles — it doesn’t have any 100Hz motion smoothing, so if you’re watching fast-moving video there’s a lot of detail lost and the screen can tend to look jittery.

Soniq E40S12A: Conclusion

The Android Smart TV platform has a lot of potential, and it just needs some more refinement before it becomes a feasible and high-quality alternative for cheaper TV manufacturers to use in competing with Samsung, LG, Panasonic and Sony. Paired with a large Full HD TV and the kind of remote control that we liked about the Soniq E40S12A, it could be an excellent system.

The E40S12A is a perfectly reasonable small-screen television, especially given its sub-$500 price tag. It doesn’t have the picture quality to flatter high quality content, but for casual watchers it’s adequate — and the addition of integrated access to a Web browser and YouTube can’t be discounted.

Struggling for Christmas presents this year? Check out our Christmas Gift Guide for some top tech suggestions and more.

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