It's not everyday you get to beat up a television set and soak it with water guns for the sake of a review, but that's exactly what I did.
But I wasn't testing just any television set -- I was messing with a model by SunBriteTV, a Thousand Oaks company that specializes in TVs built for the outdoors.
SunBriteTV has been making outdoor TVs since 2004, and it sells its sets to regular consumers for their homes as well as to large companies.
You may have already come across some of its sets. SunBriteTV has TVs at numerous stadiums across the country, including Yankee and Gillette stadiums, as well as other outdoor locations such as SeaWorld and some Disney properties.
I met up with the company's representatives at Grand Park in downtown Los Angeles, where they had set up two 32-inch TV sets so I could see how the sets worked in an outdoor setting and whether they could take the type of physical abuse an outdoor TV might face.
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One set was from the company's commercial-grade Marquee Series; the other was from its Signature Series, geared toward consumers' backyards.
The 32-inch Signature Series is SunBriteTV's cheapest model, at $1,495. Its most expensive models are a 65-inch Signature set and a 55-inch Marquee, each priced at $6,995.
Once the setup was complete, I first checked out the TVs' picture quality.
The image was in 1080p HD resolution on the Marquee and 720p HD on the Signature, and they both looked just as clear as on any indoor TV. There wasn't anything special about the image quality, but for sets designed for the outdoors, I was impressed.
However, if you buy one of these sets, you'll also want to put it in shade. Depending on your viewing angle and the time of day, the screen glare can be pretty severe. If the set is in direct sunlight, you'll still be able to see the image, but the glare probably will annoy you, and the remote control may have trouble communicating with the TV's infrared sensor.
There was nothing remarkable about the TVs' software, but they worked as well as other television sets.
The part that really surprised me about the TVs was their speakers. The sound was very loud, and everything could be heard perfectly well.
SunBriteTV says most customers buy separate outdoor speakers for their outdoor home theater, but if you decide not to, you'll still be able to hear what's going on -- there just won't be surround sound. The speakers come standard with the Signature sets and are available as an add-on to Marquee models.
Although SunBriteTV sets function the same as indoor sets, they're much thicker and heavier because they are made to be outdoors.
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SunBriteTV builds its TVs to be able to withstand weather, animals and barbecue smoke. The company uses plastic frames for its Signature sets and aluminum frames for its Marquee models so they can take hits without damage to their insides. The Marquee models also come with a protective screen that guards the display from direct impact.
Additionally, the company says it makes sure that there are no openings on its sets where dust, humidity, or insects could get inside and damage the electronics.
Some of the materials SunBriteTV uses include memory foam around a back cover that protects the TVs' inputs. The cover opens so cables can be attached, but when it is closed, the memory foam wraps around the cables so nothing else can get in.
Bright blue microfibers are used on the TVs' ventilation. That material is included so hot air can get out but nothing can get in. SunBriteTV included that because spiders have been known to get into outdoor TVs and make webs inside, which can fry the components.
Clearly, the SunBriteTV sets are built to be durable, but we wanted to see that in action.
First we looked at how much abuse the Marquee TV's protective screen could take. To test it, I threw and punted a soccer ball at it point blank. I also threw a Frisbee directly at the screen. I figured people who buy these sets might also have children who play sports in the yard, so this would be a realistic type of punishment a SunBriteTV set might face.
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I threw as hard as I could and didn't hold back when kicking the ball, and the TV kept working just fine. The protective layer got some scuff marks, but some of them quickly came off, and SunBriteTV said all scuffs could be removed with a bit of alcohol.
We also looked at how water resistant the TVs were, because an outdoor TV probably will get rained on at some point. To do this, I used a water gun.
I completely drenched the sets with water, and I specifically aimed some of the blast at the speaker openings and infrared sensors. Neither TV stopped working.
We were watching a video with music on the Signature Series and had the audio on loudly when I sprayed water directly into its speakers, and the sound quality did not change a bit.
I also went around the TVs and shot their back panels, trying to get water between the microfibers and the memory foam, but the sets still functioned as normal.
So what's my verdict? Well, if you're in the market for an outdoor television set, SunBriteTV has models that are built to last and may be worth the money.
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