Gunning for the electronics market this holiday season, Dell has rolled out an LCD TV with a rock-bottom price and a healthy feature set. The W1700 offers true 1,280x720 HDTV resolution, a built-in TV tuner, and enough inputs to satisfy even the most gadget-happy home-theater/computer buff. Its 17-inch wide-screen image isn't large enough to appreciate from across the room, but it does make for an ample desktop monitor, a slick kitchen set, or a workout monitor mounted near a StairMaster or a treadmill. Unfortunately, this jack-of-all-trades masters neither computer nor video images. Its price is on a par with that of similar-resolution panel TVs such as Philips's 17PF9945 and Samsung's LTN1785W.
Dell fashioned its first TV with high style in mind. A silver finish dominates the face, offset by blue-gray highlights. A few buttons offering rudimentary control share the bottom left with an IR sensor, while the subtle Dell logo sits at bottom center.
With its 16:9 screen flanked by a pair of speakers, the W1700 measures about twice as wide (22 inches) as it does high (12 inches). An adjustable tilt/swivel stand is included, and its variable-height stalk can raise the monitor from 4.5 to 9.5 inches above the desktop. The set is a cinch to carry around, thanks to its built-in handle.
This 17-inch wide-screen LCD has 11 percent less screen real estate than a non-wide-screen 17-incher. It seems even smaller when displaying regular TV with window-box bars to either side; the resulting 4:3 image measures about 14 inches diagonally.
The attractive silver remote boasts a comfortable cursor control for menu navigation, but its other buttons are too similar to easily differentiate. We appreciated the dedicated button that switches from PC to TV display. We had no problems with the simple onscreen menu system, which looks like it was lifted straight from a computer monitor. A different menu, with different parameters, comes up, depending on whether a TV or computer source is active.
The W1700 can display just about anything. Its native 1,280x768 resolution is enough to show every pixel of 720p HDTV; higher-resolution 1080i HDTV is scaled down to fit the pixels, while everything else is scaled up. Although you'll need an external HDTV tuner to view high-def programming, Dell includes a standard NTSC tuner that can connect to an antenna or a cable system. Cable subscribers will probably still need to use their boxes to receive every channel.
In addition to the screw-type RF input for TV, the W1700's video connections include composite and S-Video jacks, plus an HDTV-compatible component video input, all with stereo audio. You also get a composite A/V output. There's a DVI jack that can connect to computers, but since it lacks HDCP copy-protection, it won't work with HDTV receivers or some DVI-equipped DVD players. A VGA-style analog computer input is also available. A 1/8-inch headphone jack on the side allows easy late-night listening.
Chief among the TV's convenience features is a PIP function, but unfortunately it works only when the PC is the main source and a video input fills the smaller window--not with two video sources or channels. There are three sizes available for the small window but no split-screen action. The W1700 also has three preset picture modes, four preset sound modes, three color-temperature presets (for video), and a user-adjustable RGB color control (for computers). Video sources allow four aspect-ratio choices, including one that selectively stretches the sides of the image but leaves the middle intact.
We first tested the W1700 as a television. We connected our Denon DVD-2900 in progressive-scan mode, set the W1700 to its Warm color temperature and Movie picture preset, and measured a ridiculously blue 11,745 degrees Kelvin at the bottom of the grayscale and 6,789K at the top (6,500K is ideal). As a result, we saw inaccurate color in low-light scenes; during X-Men when Rogue first encounters Wolverine in the bar, the shadows looked slightly green-blue.
When we slipped in our trusty copy of Star Trek: Insurrection, we noticed the W1700's implementation of 3:2 pull-down worked well, eliminating jaggedness along the edges of the buildings. But the color decoding accentuates green significantly, and we couldn't make any adjustments. We had to reduce the color control to prevent greens from taking over the picture. Like all LCDs, the W1700 cannot produce true black; the best it can do is a dark green-gray. Shadow detail was below average compared to that of other LCD TVs we've seen.
DVD looked better during bright scenes, and we saw plenty of detail via component video during the genetic material fly-through from the beginning of X-Men. When we connected our Bravo D1 and set the DVI output to 720p, the image looked crisper and cleaner than standard DVD. The third time we watched the scene was with the as a source playing our X-Men D-VHS tape; as expected, it looked best of all. Dark scenes were still problematic though; for example, we saw the green tinge in shadows again during the opening scene when the young Magneto becomes separated from his parents in the concentration camp. The high resolution of the W1700 really pays off for HDTV, but keep in mind that you must sit very close to appreciate all that detail on this rather small screen.
The W1700 isn't much of a computer monitor. We were unable to set proper contrast and brightness levels without compromising one or the other. In our grayscale tests, the panel lacked uniformity and showed pronounced bumps, ripples, and variously placed hot spots. Worst, we found that the W1700 suffered from egregious hue-shifting--when the intensity of a color increased or decreased, the color itself changed instead of becoming more or less intense. While the onscreen menus are easy to use, we found it almost impossible to get a good picture with the W1700, no matter how much we tweaked the image settings. Check out the chart below to see how it compared with other 17-inch 4:3 monitors (we haven't tested any other 17-inch wide-screen models as of this writing).
CNET Labs DisplayMate tests (Longer bars indicate better performance)
Brightness in nits
|Note: Measured with the Minolta CA210 or the Sencore CP500.|
When we attempted to test the analog VGA computer input, the W1700 didn't respond. Dell assures us that this is an issue with only the preproduction review sample we received. The company subsequently delivered a second sample with a working VGA input.