The elusive $1,000 barrier is about to be broken once again, and this time by the Westinghouse W4207, the least expensive 42-inch flat-panel LCD we've ever reviewed. This monitor lacks a tuner, so you'll need to connect a cable or satellite box to watch TV, but otherwise there's nothing missing. Decent picture quality, plenty of inputs, and understated style mark the W4207 as tough competition for the former champions of the LCD price space: Vizio's GV42L HDTV and L42 HDTV models. We gave those sets higher overall scores, but that's only because they include HDTV tuners. If you don't plan to connect an antenna, the Westinghouse W4207 is the best big-screen LCD bargain around, at least for now. The Westinghouse W4207 presents an understated look, with a black frame surrounding the 42-inch screen and a thicker section below the picture. That section seems like it should consist of perforated speaker grille openings, but instead it's solid plastic; the speakers' sound emanates from openings on the bottom edge of the panel. The included stand is also matte black, and the only accents are provided by a small, subtle W and a bright blue LED that illuminates when the display is turned on (it can be disabled). The set measures about 42x29.2x8.9 inches (WHD) including stand; detaching the stand results in dimensions of approximately 42x27.3x4.9 inches.
Westinghouse's medium-size, silver remote is fine for such a budget set. We loved the direct-access buttons for each input, and the four-key constellation around the central cursor control mostly makes sense, although the Guide and Favorites keys are useless on a monitor. The numeric keypad itself is also of questionable value, since the clicker can't control other gear and can't tune channels itself, but at least you can use the numbers to jump directly to items in the internal menu.
The menu itself offers the standard array of options arranged logically enough, and includes selections for PIP as well as aspect ratio control, so you can access these items without needing the remote (there's a set of front-panel buttons). One quirky issue: we noticed that changing the non-numeric settings usually didn't engage the change until we pressed the Enter key, whereas most TVs change settings as soon as the menu option changes. The feature set on the Westinghouse W4207 is slim, but the only major omission doesn't matter to many people. We're speaking, of course, of the missing ATSC tuner, which would allow the W4207 to receive over-the-air digital and high-def broadcasts if it were included. Since it's not, you'll need to connect another HD source, most likely a cable or satellite box, to watch HDTV. Most users have cable or satellite anyway so this isn't a huge issue for them. The W4207 also lacks a standard TV tuner--its complete lack of any tuner means you'll need external sources for everything and earns it the title "monitor."
Like most large-screen flat-panel LCDs, it has a native resolution of 1366x768, which is plenty to resolve all of the details of 720p HDTV sources. All sources, including 1080i and 720p HDTV, DVD, standard-def TV, and computers, are scaled to fit the pixels. The exception is computer sources at 1,366x768 resolution, which is the recommended setting for the W4207.
We were surprised to find the Westinghouse equipped with a picture-in-picture function, which allows it to display a smaller inset image in addition to the main one that fills the screen, as well as display two same-size images side by side. You can adjust position and size, and the range of combinations makes it more versatile than many PIPs we've tested. Aspect-ratio controls, on the other hand, are quite limited; you get only two choices whether you're watching a standard or an HD source, and that's not enough for some applications (see Performance for details).
Picture-affecting features include independent input memories and a backlight control as well as three color-temperature presets. Westinghouse W4207 owners will have to do without picture preset modes such as Movie or Vivid, however.
Around back, the W4207 has the familiar Westinghouse input arrangement, with two vertically aligned banks of jacks facing outward to either side of a central pillar. The set comes well equipped in this department, including one HDMI; one DVI with stereo audio that also handles HDMI sources when supplemented by an adapter; a VGA-style PC input with stereo minijack audio; two component-video with stereo audio; one stereo audio output; and one A/V input with S-Video or composite video. If you have both an S-Video and a composite source you want to hook directly to the W4207, you'll need to share the audio input between them. Westinghouse also includes a feature that detects when you connect a new source and switches the input there automatically. Some people might like this option, but we disabled since we found it would occasionally make an undesirable switch. Overall, we had no major complaints about the Westinghouse W4207's picture quality, especially considering its rock-bottom price. Sure, we could wish for better black-level performance, but it was about on a par with the 42-inch Vizios such as the L42HDTV and GV42LHDTV. And its color accuracy was perfectly acceptable. Still, we'd have preferred to see better uniformity and off-angle performance, as well as improved standard-def video processing.
First, we set up the Westinghouse's picture for optimal quality in a completely darkened room, then put it alongside a couple of other flat panels we had hanging around: the similarly priced Vizio VX37LHDTV LCD and the excellent--and significantly more expensive--Panasonic TH-50PH9UK plasma. We did not calibrate the Westinghouse using its service menu, since we doubt anyone in this price range would want to pay for a professional calibration, but we did achieve decent results using just the user menu and the Warm color temperature setting. For our full settings, check out the Tips & Tricks section or just click here.