By now, shoppers are hip to the good bargains they can get by buying a TV that has a brand name you don't normally associate with televisions. Polaroid has a few inexpensive models, Hyundai puts its name on budget plasmas, and for the last year or so, Westinghouse, the century-old brand formerly associated with CBS broadcasting, air conditioners, and light bulbs, has appeared on a few low-buck LCD televisions, such as the . The 32-inch Westinghouse LTV-32W3, a flat-panel LCD available for around $1,000, is a typical example.
Our first impression of the Westinghouse LTV-32W3's appearance: round. The set's fuselage has rounded-off corners, and the top edge of the cabinet slopes down to the face, making it one of the most wind-tunnel-friendly TVs we've seen in a while. A thin silver strip accents the black body, and the panel sits atop a standard-issue black stand. Overall, the look is fairly attractive and a cut above that of most budget LCDs. The unit measures 32.3 by 24.2 by 8.1 inches and weighs 34.2 pounds.
While the remote has bland styling and nonbacklit keys, we loved the direct-access buttons for selecting inputs. The cleanly designed onscreen menu system includes a few options we don't normally associate with budget models, such as input labeling and a thoughtful quick-install matrix. Selecting the latter option calls up what looks like a page from a user manual: a graphical representation of the TV's input bay and recommendations on selecting higher-quality inputs--information that could aid installation for nontechies (who nonetheless might be put off by the word matrix).
Speaking of inputs, the Westinghouse LTV-32W3 has its share. To handle your high-quality digital video sources, there's one HDMI input and one DVI with HDCP, both with separate audio. Also on tap are a pair of component-video inputs and one each for S-Video and composite video, though you'll need to choose which of the latter two gets audio. In addition to an input for an external antenna, there's a VGA-style computer input (1,360x768 is the recommended resolution) in case you want to use the DVI for something besides a computer.
That's right, the LTV-32W3 is one of the increasing number of relatively inexpensive flat-panel LCDs, such as the , that comply with the FCC tuner mandate and include a tuner for off-air HDTV reception. Like many of its competitors, Westinghouse also offers numerous monitors--tuner-free televisions such as the older LTV-32W1 and the DVD-sporting LTV-32W4.
We appreciated the PIP function, although it's somewhat limited in that it doesn't let you resize the inset window or position it anywhere but the upper right of the screen. With PIP, you can watch a VGA PC source in the big window and HDMI or ATSC sources in the small window, but it restricts many other combinations of sources. The set has only two aspect-ratio modes: Fill and Standard. With HD sources, Fill increases overscan to 5 percent, cutting off the edges of the picture. With SD sources, it fills the screen, and Standard puts up black letterbox bars. There's no mode for correctly filling the screen with nonanamorphic wide-screen DVDs.
The Westinghouse LTV-32W3's other picture controls are also pretty limited. There are no picture presets for sports, cinema, and the like, although the set has independent input memories for brightness, contrast, and so on. Unfortunately, it doesn't remember different input settings for the important backlight control, which adjusts the intensity of the lamp behind the screen. That makes setting up different sources a somewhat less exact process.
The most glaring omission, however, is the lack of selectable color-temperature settings. That's too bad, because the Westinghouse LTV-32W3's overly blue color temperature (see the Geek box below) is its worst performance characteristic. In CNET Labs' tests, we saw evidence of it everywhere. In the introduction to Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith, the stars behind the scrolling text could all have been blue dwarfs. The old-school rebel ship's white interior was tinted bluish, and Padme's skin tone looked relatively pallid as she argued with Anakin over making an antiwar motion in the Senate.
Despite its ability to reduce the backlight control to achieve a deeper level of black, the Westinghouse demonstrated subpar overall black-level performance. Even with the lights in the room turned on, the letterbox bars above and below Star Wars looked significantly brighter than on many LCDs we've seen. Dark areas, such as the blackness of space and the shadows under Vader's hood, also looked too bright and didn't have much detail in the shadows. We also noticed that the edges and the corners of the screen were brighter than the rest.
According to the HQV test disc, the Westinghouse LTV-32W3's standard-def video processing was a mixed bag. The set quickly detected 2:3 pull-down, which helps eliminate jagged edges and artifacts in film-based material, but it had a difficult time smoothing out video-based material, as evidenced by jagged edges on a waving American flag. Like most digital displays, the Westinghouse performed markedly better when we played resolution test patterns over the DVI and HDMI inputs rather than the component video in; with both DVD and HD sources, the two digital inputs looked sharper.
Overall, the Westinghouse LTV-32W3 won't blow anyone away with its picture quality, but its solid connectivity and quiet good looks might be enough to entice some shoppers. The offers more bang for your buck, however, and people who want to spend more can find plenty of better options.
|Before color temp (20/80)||18,088/12,898K||Poor|
|After color temp (20/80)||N/A|
|Before grayscale variation||+/- 6,816K||Poor|
|After grayscale variation||N/A|
|Color of red (x/y)||0.603/0.338||Poor|
|Color of green||0.275/0.526||Poor|
|Color of blue||0.142/0.065||Good|
|DC restoration||All patterns stable||Good|
|2:3 pull-down, 24fps||Yes||Good|
|Defeatable edge enhancement||No||Poor|