Like that broomstick in a game of limbo, prices on LCD HDTVs just seem to get lower and lower and lower. The Soyo DYLT032D is one of the least-expensive 32-inch flat-panel LCD sets out there right now, costing less than $800 at the time of this writing. The big question is whether it can squeeze under that low price bar without falling flat on its back.
The Soyo DYLT032D's look is pretty bland: all black with a few chrome-colored accents. Soyo elected to go with speakers on the sides, a bad move in a world where most new HDTVs have speakers below the screen to save as much width as possible. This is especially important for midsize wide-screen HDTVs such as the Soyo, which are often asked to squeeze into entertainment centers designed for older, non-wide-screen televisions. Set atop the included stand, the DYLT032D measures 38.6 by 22.4 by 11.8 inches (WHD) and weighs 33.1 pounds.
As is often the case with budget LCDs, the included remote won't win any medals for ergonomics, cannot control other devices, and incorporates some unusual keys. A huge button labeled Bright is indeed the brightness control; why the designer chose to single it out among the other picture controls, such as contrast and color, is a mystery. The same wacky forces were apparently at work when YPrPb (that's component video to the rest of us), alone among the input types, scored its own direct-access button.
We've also never seen an HDTV with the Soyo DYLT032D's zoom. A rocker switch on the remote allows you to zoom 80 steps into the image, which is plenty of magnification, for example, to fill the screen with one of the small network logo watermarks in the lower right of many TV shows. You can also zero in on any portion of the screen. In addition to the zoom mode, there are two other aspect-ratio control settings, and all are available across every source and input.
The strangeness continues with the Soyo's input bay. Its single HDCP-enabled DVI port is the lone digital input, and while it works fine with HDMI sources as long as you have an adapter, most new LCDs have actual HDMI ports instead. There are two component-video inputs, but only one can accept progressive-scan and/or high-def sources; the second can handle only regular 480i sources. You'll find one of each composite-video and S-Video inputs, but they share a single set of audio jacks. We liked the presence of a VGA-style PC input (1,280x768 is the recommended resolution), but overall, the jack pack is subpar.
While most HDTVs available now, such as the similarly priced Westinghouse LTV-32W3, comply with the FCC tuner mandate and include an ATSC tuner for off-air HDTV reception, the Soyo does not. If you hook up this TV to an antenna, you'll get only standard-def TV, which naturally won't be a big deal if you depend on cable anyway. There is a versatile picture-in-picture setting, however, that allows many combinations of sources between the main and inset windows.
The Soyo offers a decent level of control over the picture. While there are no picture presets, independent input memories allow you to save your settings for different sources. There are also three color-temperature presets, as well as the ability to adjust color temperature manually in the user menu. The five-position slider labeled Backlight, unfortunately, had no appreciable effect on either absolute light output or black levels; going from 0 to 5 increased light output by a mere 6 footlamberts, from 79 to 85. Finally, the Fleshtone setting made the image too red to our eyes, so we left it turned off.
When setting up the Soyo for critical viewing, we noticed that its initial color temperature in the Warm preset came relatively close to the standard, and even after adjusting the manual controls, we didn't get it much closer. The consistency of the grayscale did vary with light output; the image became bluer as it got brighter, although in its favor, the Soyo didn't become nearly as blue as some LCDs we've tested. Unfortunately, the darkest areas became severely discolored, again toward blue, if we decreased contrast below 40 percent or so. We left it turned up, which made the image too bright for comfortable viewing in a dark room.
As expected, the Soyo was severely challenged by a lot of the darker scenes we chose. During the beginning of The Fifth Element, when the ship fires upon the planet-size malevolence, the dark areas of the picture, such as the letterbox bars and the depth of space, appeared noticeably lighter than they did on the ViewSonic N3260W, for example. In its favor, the Soyo delivered better-looking skin tones than the ViewSonic, thanks to its more accurate color temperature. In the classic Leeloo reconstruction sequence, her fair skin appeared significantly more natural and warmer.