When LeEco started selling televisions in the U.S. last fall, it became the latest Chinese company to target American TV shoppers. Predecessors include Hisense and TCL, once little-known brands that now offer decent, affordable options to budget-conscious consumers.

In 2016, LeEco televisions were available only on the company's LeMall website, so most consumers weren't likely to come across them. But now the TVs are sold by Amazon, Fry's, and, soon, Best Buy.com and at some Best Buy stores. Also last year, LeEco announced it was acquiring Vizio, the number two TV brand here. LeEco said Vizio will continue to operate run as a separate company. The deal has yet to be finalized.

Given the company's rising profile in the U.S., Consumer Reports decided to test the 55-inch LeEco L554UCNN, $799, which has a solid list of features. That's not expensive for a 4K set that size, but it's not cheap, either—some comparable sets cost $250 less.

Here's what we found.

Attractive Styling—and Features

The L554UCNN we purchased comes from LeEco's line of "Super4 X" 4K UHD sets. As you can see in the photo above (supplied by the company), it's attractively styled, with a silver metallic bezel surrounding the screen.

The TV sits on a sturdy silver-colored metallic stand, with inward facing feet that give the whole package a slightly pigeon-toed stance.

Like most 4K sets we've tested, the X55 supports the HDR10 format for high dynamic range (HDR) content. TVs with HDR promise better contrast—the difference between how bright and dark a TV can get—letting you see more details in the very darkest and brightest areas of the picture.

With good HDR performance, you'll also see enhanced “specular highlights,” which are the momentary glints of brightness that appear on illuminated objects, such as the reflections off a car's chrome bumper or a gladiator's breastplate. 

This TV, like several Sony sets we tested last year, uses Google's Android TV as its smart TV platform. It features Google Cast, which lets you send app-based content from a compatible smartphone. We've found Android TV to be a decent system with good voice recognition but relatively complicated to navigate.

Strong HD, But Inconsistent Colors

The X55 did a lot of things well in our tests.

For example, its overall high-definition picture quality was very good. HD image detail was excellent, black levels and contrast were both solidly good, and the set did a very good job upconverting regular high-def content to its native 4K resolution.

But we also found some problems. Most notably, color accuracy varied depending on the type of content we played. Colors were less saturated on brighter scenes and more heavily saturated on darker scenes. Also, brightness wasn't uniform across the panel, so there were some cloudy areas in darker scenes. We don't think either of these will be big concerns for most people during normal viewing.

But when we kicked the TV into HDR mode—more about that process in a minute—it was clear that we wouldn't recommend this TV for anyone looking to enjoy a high-quality HDR experience.

One reason is that the X55 really doesn't have sufficient brightness to show HDR content to any significant degree. Images didn't pop or look as lifelike as on TVs that are capable of higher peak brightness. (To be fair, many TVs in this price range have similar brightness limitations.)

But a bigger problem was that the color inconsistencies we saw with regular HD content were even more apparent when we played 4K Blu-ray discs with HDR. The videos were consistently oversaturated. Usually our testers would dive into the settings to correct for this kind of problem. But with this LeEco TV, the color settings are locked when the set is in the HDR mode, so we were stuck.

This wasn't an issue when we were streaming online content through the television.

And last, the TV stumbled in a test that gauges color volume—the ability of a TV's colors to remain vibrant at varying levels of brightness. The colors either lost their intensity or were displayed inaccurately as the screen got brighter. For example, in a scene from a "Mad Max: Fury Road" Blu-ray with HDR, some gleaming highlights from a car's metallic frame actually appeared blue instead of white. 

Another thing to note if you really want to understand color: The LeEco is capable of producing a wider range of colors than regular TVs, but it uses an 8-bit rather than 10-bit panel. This refers to the number of distinct shades of color a TV can produce. By analogy, it's like having a smaller box of crayons. An 8-bit panel can present more than 16 million different colors, but a 10-bit panel can display more than a billion distinct colors.

It may sound like 16 million colors would be plenty. But sharp-eyed viewers can see the difference. With an 8-bit panel you get fewer in-between colors, plus rougher transitions that are more susceptible to "banding"—or coarse lines—as you move from one shade to the next. The X55 uses video processing to artificially create those intermediate shades of color, which provides some noticeable improvement.

Clumsy HDR Setup

While testing the X55, we encountered an HDR setup problem we've seen too many times during the past several months: The TV detects HDR content but doesn't kick into its HDR mode. That can really limit the value a consumer derives from some sets.

When you use the LeEco TV with a device such as a 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray player or 4K streaming player that supports HDR, the set detects the HDR and displays an "HDR10" flag on the screen. But guess what? You're not actually watching HDR.

To see the video rendered in HDR, you have to go into the TV's menu and manually set the “HDMI signal format” to “4K@60 compatible.”

This isn't just a problem with midpriced TVs—we saw the same thing late last year with Sony's flagship Z-series TV. Then as now, we believe it will result in many viewers thinking they're watching HDR when they're really not.

Again, this doesn't apply to HDR content you stream from a service such as Amazon or Netflix directly from the LeEco TV.

When we contacted LeEco, a spokesman said the company would be issuing a firmware update to address this problem and to offer some additional fine-tuning capabilities in the HDR mode. The update wasn't available at the time we completed our review, so we can't comment on its effectiveness.

Bottom Line

Based on the first LeEco TV we tested, it seems the brand is off to a pretty good start in the U.S., especially for consumers who don't care too much about HDR performance. For normal viewing with regular HD content, the TV has very good picture quality, only narrowly missing an excellent HD picture-quality score.  

But this set also underscores a point for those buying a 4K set to experience the benefits of HDR: Most TVs in this price range don't have the hardware to truly deliver those picture enhancements. What we ask of these TVs instead is to at least not screw up anything else in the process. And that's where the LeEco falls short, with its trouble displaying color in HDR mode.  

For consumers, another concern is price. This TV currently costs a few hundred dollars more than comparable models from more established companies. For example, the Hisense 55H8C and TCL 55US5800 have a similar picture-quality scores but sell for $250 to $300 less. (The Hisense also has HDR issues, and the TCL, a Roku TV model, doesn't support HDR at all.) 

You can also find better-performing models from some major brands, including LG and Samsung, for about the same price.