ViewSonic NextVision N3000w 30in LCD HDTV
The high def future today?
Review You may have read about HDTV in the news, but just to fill you in, broadcast High Definition TV is only a year away in the UK. Well that's not entirely true, as a Belgian company has already set up a European service known as HD1 which is available now but only to those that don't mind realigning their older dishes to point to the Astra 1H satellite cluster, writes Jalal Werfalli.
However, closer to home, the BBC has made it clear that it will produce all of its content in HD by 2010. One of the first to jump on the UK bandwagon will be BSkyB, which will launch its service sometime in 2006, rumoured to tie in with the football World Cup.
Of course to be able to receive this content you're going to need two key components. First of all, viewers will need an HD-compatible set-top box, and secondly they'll need a display that can do justice to this new standard.
Cue the NextVision N3000w, ViewSonic's first foray into the LCD TV display market. ViewSonic has built up a very good reputation in the standard LCD market and it's capitalised upon this. The N3000w is a fine display in its own right and it's currently competitively priced at £1138.
For the money, you get a 22kg, 30in widescreen display (29.5in viewable diagonal), an acceptable if a little drab two-tone plastic chassis with no stand adjustments, and an impressive array of ports that should cover it for most home cinema set-ups now and for the future. I say the future because unlike a number of LCD TVs currently available, the N3000w is HD-ready.
What I mean by this is the fact that the screen's DVI-D port is HDCP-compliant. HDCP (High Definition Content Protection) is a standard technology to encrypt and ultimately protect the pure digital video and audio signals from being copied, and it will be applied on all digital outputs from HDTV signal demodulators as of July 2005.
The reason why this is a plus point for the N3000w is that HDTV set-top boxes, when they hit the shelves in a big way, will probably have DVI or HDMI (High Definition Multimedia Interface) ports, thereby bypassing any analog-to-digital and digital-to-analog conversions that may degrade the picture quality. You also have to remember that HDCP will only work between two HDCP-compliant devices, so the N3000w shouldn't present any problems if a clean end-to-end digital signal is what you want.
Of course, you can still make use of the analog signal from your source device, and the N3000w won't you leave you high and dry in that department. For starters you have two RGB-enabled SCART sockets that will accept S-VHS, CVBS, and stereo audio signals. For an even better signal there are two sets of component video inputs, both with their own set of audio inputs. One of these is progressive scan compatible, the benefit of which - along with the N3000w's 3-D comb filter and 3:2 reverse pull down capability - was evident when I used our progressive scan DVD player with an appropriate DVD movie. During testing with this set-up I could easily notice a near total elimination of artefacts such as jaggies and shimmering horizontal lines in comparison to a composite signal.
However, if you want to use a composite signal then you'll find a composite video input lurking along the left side of the chassis. This is accompanied by another two RCA ports for audio as well as a headphone jack that will take up the audio produced by the source device or from a PC if the PC audio-in jack around the back is used.
Furthermore, an LCD TV is not an LCD TV if you can't feed it with an RF signal and to this effect the N3000w comes complete with twin analog TV tuners. Unlike Dell's W2600, an internal aerial splitter has not been used and instead ViewSonic has gone for two separate aerial connectors. That means twice the cabling if you want to use both tuners and since there's only one lead in the box, you'll need to fork out for another. In fact, ViewSonic has been a little thrifty with the provision of cables and I was disappointed to find no DVI, component video, composite video or RCA audio leads in the box.
As for the quality of the TV signal, this was good despite the notoriously weak reception in our offices. I was also impressed by how the auto-tune facility managed to lock onto all the channels. By the way, the Picture-in-Picture facility offered 16 sizes and a range of positions. Using this feature I was able to keep an eye on one channel while watching another, whether it be two TV signals or those from a PC or DVD player. You have to remember to use the on-screen display (OSD) to set up which signal is fed to the sub screen otherwise it won't work. In addition, a PooP (Picture-out-of-Picture) option allows you to view two feeds side by side.
There's plenty more to the TV's connectivity array than I've mentioned so far. There's a D-SUB port if you want to hook the N3000w to a computer. There's even a VGA pass-through for a secondary display. Rounding everything off are another two rear-mounted RCA audio ports and one sub-woofer output. There's pretty much everything here to satisfy the most ardent of connection junkies.
In use, I found the set of buttons mounted under the bezel a little awkward for navigating around the OSD. It was far too easy to scroll along to the wrong option and not so obvious to exit. That said, after a little practice you get used to the overall menu layout. Available options are as comprehensive as many standard LCDs, covering source selection, pixel phase and clock for an analogue video signal, brightness, contrast, tint, sharpness and colour temperature (cool, normal, and user modes). Typically for an LCD TV there are controls for the audio that emanates proficiently from the two 10W speakers that run down either side of the panel. Volume, bass, treble and audio source selections are all present, and these as well as all the other OSD options can be accessed using the chunky remote control. It's not quite as stylish as the one that came with the Dell W2600, but at least its size should prevent it from being gobbled up by your sofa.
Performance-wise, the N3000W put in a good showing. The panel did not quite match the sharpness of the Dell W2600, but then this is a physically bigger display with larger pixel elements. As a PC screen, my test images looked surprisingly natural in terms of colour accuracy. Skin tones were realistic and vibrancy was excellent thanks to a high contrast ratio of 500:1 and a brightness of 500cd/m2. In fact, using this screen as a computer display at its native 1280 x 768 resolution was a bit much for my aging eyes and I couldn't spend too many hours staring at it from close quarters. In my opinion, the N3000w is purely for use at some distance, which of course is the intention - a living room focus point if you were. The viewing angles are wide enough for its intended purpose, but I did notice a drop in illumination and a degree of colour wash-out when the screen was viewed at about 80 degrees from head-on.
For gaming, I'd say the same - use it at a distance for the best experience. The 16ms response time also helped to minimise motion smearing, although I could detect slight signs of motion trails when using the Motion Engine test in DisplayMate. As for the rest of DisplayMate's test screens, colour scales were very good, and appeared evenly stepped. However, the 256 greyscales were not so linear with evidence of banding and visible colour tints to the stepped intensities. That said, LCD TV manufacturers are well aware of the high intensities that conventional televisions can produce and they often employ low-level contrast enhancements to create a television-like experience, which in turn can show up in our sensitive test screens. So, at the end of the day more emphasis was placed on how good this LCD TV was as a television, and overall ViewSonic's NextVision N3000w put in a convincing performance.
The ViewSonic NextVision N3000w LCD TV gives us a glimpse of what the future will hold when HDTV finally makes its way over here. It clearly shows that LCDs are real alternatives to plasma screens and in this case a true replacement to the conventional CRT television. ViewSonic could be more generous with its cable offering, and a more lush design would go down well, but at only around £140 more than Dell's W2600 (at the time of writing), you get a bigger screen, and just as many connection options.
|ViewSonic NextVision N3000w|
|Price||£1138 inc. VAT|
|More info||The ViewSonic site|
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