Vizio and Westinghouse have become relatively well-known brands among the hundreds of flat-panel LCD makers most people haven't heard of, and Olevia also deserves credit for establishing its name as well. The company has dropped the old name "Syntax"--definitely not an error--and released a slew of models, including the 52-inch 252T FHD. This set's MO is small dough for a big screen, and while it undercuts 1080p LCD models such as the Vizio GV52LF by a few hundred bucks, it's still more expensive than even name-brand non-1080p 50-inch plasmas, such as the Panasonic TH-50PX77U and the LG 50PC5D. While the Olevia puts out a decent picture for the money, overall it still suffers compared to plasma, especially in black-level performance and screen uniformity.
The Olevia 252T FHD is a distinctive-looking HDTV, if not as sleek on the outside as some of the more well-known brands' designs. Its big 52-inch viewing area is double-framed in black matte near the edge of the screen and glossy around that. Below the frame there's a curved, silver lip that swoops outward a bit to deflect sounds from the bottom-mounted speakers toward the viewer.
An included glossy black stand sports a jaunty strip of chomeish plastic along its front edge. You can obviously wall-mount this flat-panel if you'd like, but be aware that it's a good deal heavier than many LCD sets of similar size. The svelte Sharp LC-52D64U, for example, weighs just 62.8 pounds without the stand, and even the glass-screened Panasonic mentioned above weighs 88 pounds, while the Olevia tips the scales at 110 pounds. Most of that weight can be attributed to its relatively deep chassis--the panel measures 5.6 inches deep, an inch or two thicker than many of its competitors. With stand, the 252T FHD measures 51 inches wide by 33.8 inches high by 12.9 inches deep and weighs 132.3 pounds.
Olevia's remote can command a whopping seven other pieces of equipment--more universal goodness than we've ever seen from a TV remote. The clicker's layout is a step up from the budget norm, with backlighting behind every key and generally friendly button layout. It gets a bit less friendly toward the bottom, however, where a tight grid of identical keys controls less-used items such as picture-in-picture and closed captioning. Still, we applaud the ability to access these functions directly.
The menu system is organized around a strange polyhedron in the upper-left corner that we found more confusing to use than a standard flat menu arrangement. It's also unclear whether you're supposed to press "enter" or the right cursor control to advance, and counterintuitively, the left cursor control doesn't go back a menu layer. We'll also take this opportunity to complain about the inability to jump directly to a specific input--to change sources, you must cycle through the 12 available inputs, although the cycling does move very quickly.
Olevia gave its 252T FHD the increasingly commonplace native resolution of 1080p, which works out to 1,920x1,080 pixels, the highest count generally available today. It allows the set to display every detail of 1080i and 1080p sources, and as usual, all other sources are scaled to fit the pixels, whether they come from 720p HDTV, DVD, or standard-definition television.
The set's picture adjustments are somewhat annoying because each of the standard controls--contrast, brightness, and so forth--lacks a numeric indicator. Instead, there's just a slider with a single marker that changes position after you make the adjustment. Not only does this arrangement make it difficult for us to provide our ideal picture settings (see Performance),but it also makes precisely tweaking the picture harder in general.
We did appreciate that the picture settings were stored independently per input. Of the two color temperature presets, "6,500K" came closest to the standard of, well, 6,500K, and the set doesn't allow users to further fine-tune the color temperature. It does provide a four-position noise reduction control, though.
A few unusual picture adjustments can be found if you spin that polyhedron enough times. There's a suite of settings under the heading "Idea" (talk about lost in translation) which includes items such as White Peak Limiter, Black Level Extender, and Contrast Enhance. We left them turned off for peak performance. The Mode submenu, meanwhile, includes a setting related to bright, medium, and dark room lighting, which controls overall light output and acts like a three-position backlight control--a setting the TV otherwise lacks. A selection labeled Input supposedly optimizes the picture for various sources, including VCR, Interlaced DVD, Progressive DVD, and Standard and High-Definition TV; we left it set on "User." For all you TV salesmen out there, another setting allows you to toggle between Home and Showroom settings.
Olevia throws in an ample selection of four aspect ratio modes with high-def sources, one of which, labeled "1:1," doesn't introduce any scaling, and so allows 1080i and 1080p sources to be displayed in full detail with minimal overscan (unlike most HDTVs, the Olevia still cuts off a bit of the picture's edges in this mode). There are also five selections for standard-def sources. Unlike many HDTVs these days, the 252T FHD includes picture-in-picture, which provides plenty of combinations and screen configurations.