It's official. Maxent is the cheapo flat-panel brand of the month. What's that? Never heard of Maxent before? Don't worry. Neither had anyone else a few months ago. But that hasn't stopped Regent USA, the brand's U.S. parent, from placing its bare-bones plasma TVs in Costcos, Best Buys, and Web retailers across the States. The company's MX-32X3, a midsize 32-inch wide-screen HDTV-ready LCD, costs around $1,000 yet has most of the features and all of the flatness that people want in a new television.
Considering some of the supermodelworthy competition in the flat-panel market, we didn't find the MX-32X3 all that attractive. A bland silver-plastic band surrounds the screen's black bezel and holds the nonremovable side-mounted speakers. Those speakers create a very wide television, measuring about 23 by 40 by 9 inches with the included swivel stand, so it may not fit in some people's TV furniture. The full-size remote is comfortable enough to hold, and most of the important keys lie well within thumb's reach. The biggest exceptions are the Mute key, which is tucked in the upper-left corner, and the dedicated input-selection buttons, which are hidden away beneath a sliding panel. Thanks to these input buttons, universal-remote programmers will have a much easier time creating macros.
With a native resolution of 1,366x768, the MX-32X3 should be able to display every detail of 720p HDTV. As with all LCD TVs, this Maxent scales all incoming signals to fit the panel's available pixels. One NTSC tuner provides standard-definition over-the-air television. Want to watch HDTV? You'll need an external tuner or a cable or satellite box.
Single-tuner picture-in-picture, independent input memories, and color-temperature controls top the list of convenience features. Aspect-ratio options include 4:3 (displays 4:3 sources properly), 16:9 (stretches 4:3 material evenly to fill the screen), Panorama (stretches the edges of 4:3 material to fill the screen), Zoom:1 (stretches 2.35:1 content horizontally and vertically to fill the screen), and Zoom:2 (stretches 2.35:1 content horizontally and vertically to fill the screen and shifts the picture upward to prevent clipping of subtitles). Modes 4:3 and 16:9 are available with high-def sources, as is a 1:1 mode that displays incoming signals without scaling them to fill the screen.
The set's inputs are adequate for most users and include one DVI, two component video, two S-Video, two composite, one RF, one RGB (VGA) for PCs (up to 1,280x1,024 resolution), and six stereo RCA. Outputs include one RGB, one stereo RCA, and one subwoofer. As you'd expect at this price, the MX-32X3 lacks an HDMI input, but that's not a major omission; the DVI connection is HDCP compatible, and a simple HDMI-to-DVI adapter or cable will bridge the different-size ports.