For the last three years, we've rated ViewSonic's 32-inch LCD HDTVs as relatively good performers for the price point, and the company's newest model, the N3235w ($679 street), doesn't buck the trend too much. Where this set falls a bit short is around back, where it just doesn't offer the same level of connectivity as some competing bargain HDTVs, such as the Vizio VX32L HDTV. If you're just looking for a simple, no-frills HDTV and don't want to connect a lot of gear, however, then the ViewSonic N3235w is a solid choice.
As did fellow bargain-price LCD maker Vizio--along with just about every other HDTV maker this year--ViewSonic chose to go glossy with its 2007 frame. The N3235w doesn't have any other remarkable design cues aside from its middling thick, glossy black frame. The perforated section of plastic below the screen, which contains the speakers, is par for the LCD course, and there's a big, silver power button smack in its midst. The rest of the controls are located along the top of the panel. The included stand brings the television's overall dimensions to 31.5 inches wide by 24.9 inches high by 8.3 inches deep and its weight to 37 pounds.
ViewSonic packages a long, slender remote that's generic looking but thoughtfully laid out. The exception to the thoughtfulness is the three rows of identical keys at the top to control secondary functions. The simplistic menu system doesn't deserve any substantial criticism, and we liked that it displayed the numeric values that correspond to the various preset settings. It helps to know the value for Red in the Warm color temperature preset, for example, when adjusting the custom setting yourself.
As an entry-level flat-panel set, the ViewSonic has a sparse feature selection, beginning with a native resolution of 1,360x768. That pixel count allows it to display every detail of 720p HDTV sources, and as always, all sources including HDTV, standard TV, DVD, and computers are scaled to fit the pixels.
The N3235w's picture-adjustment capabilities, which are adequate for a TV in this league, include the ability to fine-tune the color temperature via a set of three controls, one each for red, green, and blue. There's also the standard array of three color-temperature presets. ViewSonic also throws in a selection of four picture presets, none of which can be adjusted, as well as a User mode that's independent per input. Our only big complaint is the lack of a dedicated backlight control--which was present on last year's N3260w as well as 2007 sets such as the Vizio VX32L HDTV.
ViewSonic is quick to tout the N3235w's included ATSC tuner, but since it's required by law nowadays that's hardly a noteworthy feature. There are five aspect-ratio selections for standard-def sources and four for HD sources, although the Normal mode seems to duplicate others. We appreciated the addition of a "no scale" mode, although it's really only useful with 720p sources, which appear with small, black bars on all sides and no scaling (ensuring a 1:1 pixel match with incoming material for maximum sharpness) to satisfy purists. 1080i sources in this mode just fill the screen. We also liked the Zoom key, which simply magnified the image.
Connectivity on the N3235w is a bit disappointing. While rivals such as Vizio sport two HDMI inputs, this bargain 32-incher gets by with just one. We counted just one each of the other types of standard inputs: composite video, S-Video, and component-video. As can be expected from a prominent manufacturer of PC monitors, the ViewSonic has a VGA-style PC input that handles resolutions up to 1,360x768.
All told, the ViewSonic N3235w is a good but not particularly noteworthy performer for its price point. It can't produce as deep a level of black as the Vizio VX32L HDTV, for example, but its off-angle viewing characteristics are superior.
As always, we began by adjusting the N3235w for optimal picture quality in a darkened room, which entailed, among other things, reducing the set's light output to a comfortable 40 footlambert. While the ViewSonic's Warm color temperature preset was more accurate than that of many budget flat-panel LCDs (see the Geek box bellow), it introduced too much green into the image. We adjusted the color temperature sliders to eliminate the extra green, but since the set lacks sliders to adjust the bottom of the grayscale, we couldn't hone it as accurately as we'd have liked. The N3253w also tended to dive toward green in darker areas if we adjusted the middle and lighter parts of the scale correctly. The best compromise was to get the dark areas (20 IRE) as accurate as possible and sacrifice some accuracy in middle and brighter areas--a compromise that resulted in worse results in the Geek box, but a somewhat more pleasing picture overall. For our complete picture settings, click here or check the Tips & Tricks section above.