High resolution meets high value
Confusion - that was my first response when I saw the Westinghouse name on flat-panel HDTVs. But when I heard that the company had a 37-inch 1080p (progressive-scan) model selling for only $2,000 ($2,299 list), that feeling quickly turned to curiosity. It turns out that the Westinghouse brand name, which we're used to seeing on refrigerators and such, has been licensed by a U.S.-based sales group with Asian manufacturing connections. As you'd expect given its price, the LVM-37w1 is a bare-bones monitor with no amenities aside from speakers and a somewhat flimsy table stand, both detachable. A dull-gray plastic bezel drives home the no-frills effect.
The Short Form
|WESTINGHOUSEDIGITAL.COM / 866-287-5555 / $1,999 ($2,299 list) / 36.625 x 23 x 8.375 IN (WITH STAND) / 56 LBS|
|•Crisp HDTV and DVD pictures.
•Vivid, natural color right out of the box.
•DVI and VGA inputs accept 1080p signals.
•Great price for a 1080p HDTV.
|•Weak blacks and limited shadow detail.
•Flimsy remote control.
•Several minor operational quirks.
|•$1,999 ($2,299 list)
•37-inch diagonal screen
•1,920 x 1,080-pixel resolution
•DVI, component-video, and VGA inputs
|The Westinghouse's Color 1 preset delivered natural color with only minimal adjustment. The set proved capable of displaying full-resolution 1080i-format HDTV signals via the digital inputs, but not via its component-video input. Both white-field and off-axis picture uniformity were excellent, allowing for pure colors and pictures that appeared equally bright from off-center seating positions.
Full lab results
Controls are neatly tucked away on the side, and inputs include a pair of DVI jacks and two sets of component-video connections, one of each on either side of the back panel. Although I wasn't able to test this, unlike most 1080p sets the Westinghouse can apparently accept a true 1080p signal (through one of its DVI jacks as well as its VGA jack).
The small but serviceable remote handset is about as basic as they come. The keypad has no backlighting, and the same-size button assortment makes it challenging to use the remote in the dark. On the plus side, a set of five input buttons makes it easy to quickly switch between sources. Pressing the Scaling button toggles through three display modes: Standard, Fill, and Zoom. Each of these can be used with HDTV, although on our sample the Fill and Zoom modes didn't stretch or zoom "upconverted" 4:3 high-def pictures enough to fill the entire screen.
SETUP & USE I had to sit about 7 feet away from the TV to eliminate the screen-door effect. Although it has only a basic selection of picture adjustments, any settings you change can be stored for each of the inputs. Along with standard options like color and contrast, there's a backlight-intensity adjustment and three color-temperature presets. I eventually settled on a mid-level (50) adjustment for backlight, which gave the best overall picture contrast for watching movies in a dim room. The Color 1 preset delivered the most accurate color of the three choices - so natural, in fact, that there was no need to make any further adjustments.
I did uncover a few annoying bugs while using the Westinghouse, including the set's tendency to go dark briefly when I switched between 1080i- and 720p-format HDTV channels - going from Discovery-HD to ESPN-HD, for example. The workaround was to set my cable box to upconvert all programs to 1080i format, which is the best match for the set's native resolution anyway. The same glitch - which was accompanied by a brief "scrambling" of the picture - occurred whenever I paused a DVD with my player connected to the TV's component-video jacks and configured for standard (480i) output.
PICTURE QUALITY With my progressive-scan player plugged into the Westinghouse, I sat back to continue my Hitchhiker's Guide DVD journey. In the scene where Arthur encounters the comely Trillian on Beeblebrox's spaceship, her blue shorts and Zaphod's red smoking jacket looked vivid and rich, while the white walls and control panels in the background came across as clean and uniform. The set's color rendition was exceptionally realistic, bringing out the differences between Trillian's milky complexion and Arthur's pinkish skin. I was also impressed by its rendering of subtle rust stains on the interior walls of the Vogon ship. In this and other dark scenes, however, the TV had trouble delivering both a deep black and lighter gray details in the shadows (although its performance here was better than the LG's).
While I didn't have any 1080p material to watch on the Westinghouse, I did have a pristine-looking 1080i-format recording of Napoleon Dynamite on my DVR. The set's vivid, natural color was evident in the scene where Napoleon's polyester-shirted Uncle Rico videotapes himself throwing a football beside an orange van parked in an empty field. In another scene, where Rico as traveling salesman attempts to sell a set of plastic bowls to a couple of suckers, fine details like the texture of his beige-colored yarn tie were plainly visible. The set's ability to show the full detail in 1080i-format programs like this is one of its strong points, giving it a leg up on the Sony and LG, whose native resolution is better suited for 720p programs.
BOTTOM LINE The Westinghouse LVM-37w1 is a bare-bones TV with a couple of operational quirks, but its performance with progressive-scan DVD and HDTV was very good overall. Its biggest shortcoming - the inability to convey deep blacks or a wide range of shadow detail in dark scenes - is mostly an inherent shortcoming of LCD technology, although its adjustable backlight gives it an edge there over some LCDs without this feature. When you take all this into account along with its very reasonable price, it's definitely one of the better HDTV deals going.
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