If you have been around the industry long enough, you will have witnessed over the years the launch of new brands to the Canadian audio and video landscape. I have come to realize that purchasing a product from a “new player” in the market can be an excellent buying opportunity; especially as these “new brands” are usually only new to the market that they are now targeting, while being established brands in other parts of the world.
Take Skyworth for example. You might be asking yourself what’s Skyworth and what do they do? Well, the Skyworth Group is a leading Chinese manufacturer of smart technology solutions including televisions. The company has been listed on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange (HKG: 0751) since 2000 and has a market valuation over $19 billion USD and employs over 40,000 people worldwide.
Skyworth, founded in 1988 and headquartered in Shenzhen, China’s “Silicon Valley”, is one of the top brands in the Chinese display industry and is a top three global provider of the Android TV platform. The company exports to more than 100 countries and regions, and offers consumer electronics, display devices, digital set-top boxes, security monitors, network communication, semi-conductors, refrigerators, washing machines, cell phones and LED lighting. And yet chances are good that if you are in Canada, you may never have heard of them. Until now…
For close to forty years the group’s operations have expanded worldwide and in addition to a strong presence in both mainland China and Hong Kong, Skyworth also operates in other areas in Asia, such as the Philippines, Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, Vietnam and India, as well as South Africa, Germany and the USA.
So, what makes buying from a brand you’re not familiar with a buying opportunity? Simply put, when a brand is already successful in other markets and they enter a new market, they tend to offer products with better specs and are under-priced compared to similar products from the leading territory manufacturers. We have seen this countless times – especially in the auto industry – where brands such as Hyundai and Kia offered decade-long warranties, leather seating, in-car entertainment and navigation, as standard while established auto brands like Toyota, GM and Honda offered those features as add-ons. Come into a market, offer something amazing, price it lower than the competitor and use your established sales and market share in other parts of the world to fund your global expansion, as you enter a new region.
Well at least that’s how the theory goes. I was eager to see how this idea would stand with Skyworth, as it attempts to become a household name in Canada. Skyworth’s impressive bio states the brand developed the first flicker-free TV, the first 4K TV, the first OLED TV, and pioneered transparent TV.
Skyworth USA, represented by John Wiebe in Canada, sent me their 65” Clarus S1 Full Sun Outdoor LED 4K Google TV. I couldn’t think of a better TV model to put to the test, seeing how Canada has a reputation of offering all four seasons in a single day.
The 65” Clarus S1 is an absolute beast. The TV’s shipping weight is a hefty 140 lbs, more than triple the weight of the average packaged non-outdoor 65” panel. While we have written extensively in the past on reasons why you’d buy a purpose-built outdoor TV, as a refresher, the most important features are weather resistance, the ability to operate in a wide temperature range and of course anti-glare technology that allows the panel to be viewed even in full sunlight. These three features alone explain why an outdoor television weighs and measures considerably more than an indoor Smart TV.
Skyworth’s Clarus S1 is IP66-rated for dust and weather protection, which is commercial grade, has an IK10-rated impact-resistant glass panel and a wide operating temperature range from -20 to +55 degrees centigrade. The Clarus S1 panel has an ambient brightness adjustment, is rated to 3000 Nits brightness driven by Mini LED technology, and has a long spec sheet that says the panel is tough enough to brave the Canadian elements.
Unboxing the Clarus S1
As is common with most TV manufacturers, the 65” Clarus S1 arrives in a full colour box that slides off the panel from the top; a relief considering the 140 lbs I was anxious to unpack. Heavy cardboard and Styrofoam protect the panel and to my surprise, included in the box is a 100-watt 8-speaker Dolby purpose-built soundbar spec’d similarly for the outdoors but lacking the same connectivity seals as the panel. That brings me back to my earlier point of over-delivering: can you name another TV manufacturer that includes a soundbar in the box with the TV? I can’t. Also included is a handsomely braided HDMI cable used to connect the soundbar to the TV. Again, besides a power cord, most manufacturers in the war to keep price points as aggressive as possible almost never include accessory cables with their product. So having an included HDMI cable (and a fancy one at that) was my second wonderful surprise.
The panel comes with a basic remote that is common with most Google branded televisions, however Skyworth includes a silicon sleeve allowing the remote to become weatherproof. No functionality is compromised with the silicon sleeve and while the remote can stay outdoors I still tend to keep mine inside by the door figuring the batteries will probably last longer.
What is not included in the box is a pedestal or feet of any kind. Skyworth’s Director of Business Development John Wiebe confirmed that the TV is intended to be wall-mounted either outdoors in a home or in a commercial application such as a bar, restaurant or hotel. The hefty powder-coated metal wall mount (included -surprise number three!) has multiple milled holes allowing for easy adjustments as you centre the mount on your joists on the intended wall. After finding my joists, securing the wall mount took a matter of minutes and I was ready to install the TV.
Before You Install
A purpose-built outdoor TV needs to be protected from the elements whether that be humidity and bugs in the south or rain and snow to the north. The 65” Clarus S1 has an internal box to house all accessory cables be it optical, HDMI or analog. Unscrewing six machine screws and removing the rubber-sealed metal lid reveals connections for three HDMI (1 ARC), one optical out, two usb (v2.0) and for the US market an ATSC and Digital Cable tuner is also a connected feature. Having the area of the TV for connections sealed is the main reason that an outdoor Smart TV will always be thicker than a comparatively sized indoor TV that doesn’t need to worry about the elements.
Once all required connections are secure (including the power cord) small silicon seals close off the holes of any connections not in use. With my power supply and HDMI cable attached, I reattached the weather-tight lid with the six screws. The last part was to secure the soundbar to the TV with the included brackets. For my initial demo, I attached the soundbar with the supplied HDMI cable in HDMI 1 (ARC). Now it was time to mount the panel to the wall. While we have certainly lost a big portion of that 149 lb. shipping weight shedding the packaging, the all-metal Clarius S1 still needs two individuals to lift the panel to the mount. The Skyworth 65″ Clarus has two built-in handles on the back of the TV making the installation much easier. Once on the mount, you have an easy 12” either way to adjust the panel horizontally to your desired location.
Turning the Panel on
I always find it exciting to finally hit the ‘power on’ button once you have diligently gone through the set-up process. Skyworth (with co-branding from Google) show some funky visuals immediately showcasing how bright and glare-free the panel is!
Now time for set up
Oh Oh. The panel sent to me did not come with English set as a default and my ability to read Chinese is zero! I intuitively scrolled the settings menu trying to guess which toggle is for language but failed miserably. Now that I spend most of my time in the mountain town of Mont-Tremblant north of Montreal, I have become used to using Google translate, seeing that Canada, having two official languages only pertains to Canada outside of Quebec, while all government or municipal correspondence stemming from Quebec is only delivered in French I have become a master of Google Translate! Using the ‘Google translate’ camera function, I pointed my phone to the TV, found the menu for language and clicked on English. Now back in business, setting up Wifi and network TV subscriptions via QR codes was a total breeze and the Skyworth Clarus S1 was ready to be enjoyed.
So What’s it Like?
If living through a pandemic has taught us anything, it’s that life can be short and we should enjoy every minute of it! My guilt of having such an extravagance as an outdoor TV lasted for about a nanosecond. I fired up the wood-burning pizza oven as the kids sat in the hot tub, I watched Sunday football with the gorgeous fall colours around me, and I breathed in the fresh air scented with the birch and hickory wood from the fire. Wow … life is GOOD! While nobody technically needs an outdoor TV to add to their life, I immediately started kicking myself why it had taken me so long to add such an amazing product to mine! Movie night, BBQs, sporting events that I have often resented (because watching them on TV means sitting in a dark room on a beautiful day) are a thing of the past. I can multi-task watering the plants while watching F1, I can cut the lawn and glance over to see the score, we can lounge outside on a calm August night and watch John Wick!!
Skyworth has built an outdoor television spec’d like a tank! It is tough and well constructed from materials for its intended purpose of performing in a harsh environment. That the Clarus S1 can equally multitask in a commercial or residential environment gives me peace of mind that it has been spec’d to endure the toughest conditions. The panel is exceptionally bright and the anti-glare technology allows us to watch the panel (that’s mounted on the west side of our house) even as the sun goes down and paints our porch in an orange glow and the ambient technology adjusts the brightness down as we move into night. I still have some fine tuning to do with cable management and aesthetically I think Skyworth can improve upon the cable connectivity to the soundbar since it takes away from the beautiful clean lines. We also have to do a follow up part two review to see how the Clarus S1 survives a Canadian winter since I have no intention of brining the TV indoors during a Quebec January. And of course, as Skyworth builds ground and gains popularity, having a first screen default to ‘change language’ will certainly decrease the volume of calls to their 1-800 call centre.
If you are looking for an outdoor TV, taking advantage of a brand that is in the building stage of becoming a Canadian household name that offers a long list of accessories inside the price is a great idea. Being an early adopter with Skyworth is a pretty good call. We love this Smart TV. A wifi hifi Five Stars!
What We Love
The all-metal build quality.
The protective glass protecting the screen.
The included soundbar built to the same weather-resistant specs as the TV.
Protective seals and lots of connectivity including Bluetooth 5.0.
Works with voice commands.
The first outdoor TV with Google TV
Dolby and Dolby Vision compatible
It’s really fun and inclusive!
Needs a Bit of Work
Navigating to your desired language from the default ‘Chinese’ at set up.
The connectivity to the soundbar exposes the HDMI cable.
We’d pay a few bucks more for a sexier all-metal remote.
A bit of fan noise when the TV is on.