ViewSonic may well occupy the middle-to-low end of the market, but its past displays have always had something to distinguish them from the mass of also-rans. Last year, it released a 30-inch LCD for £1,700 that offered high-definition compatibility, something that at the time was mightily impressive. The N2750w is 3 inches smaller and sadly loses the high-definition compatibility, but shaves masses off the price as a result. At only £700, this is a massive bargain -- it looks classy, offers a good picture from DVD and games, and has enough connections to handle most AV collections.
ViewSonic's LCD experience has shone through with a picture quality that's beyond the low price. The contrast can be slightly low, but the television copes well with the demands of digital TV, which often causes lesser screens to fall apart. The response time is quoted at 16ms, which is relatively quick for a television, so the display can keep up with fast movement and camera pans. Colour reproduction is also impressive and if you can feed it a DVD player with progressive scan, you'll be in for some very enjoyable movie viewing. It's the perfect bedroom LCD.
We love the design of the N2750w. It may not break convention, but we're happy that it doesn't reveal its budget origins. The designers obviously know a thing or two about understated aesthetics.
ViewSonic has cleverly moved the speakers into one unit below the panel, meaning that it isn't any wider than it needs to be. Then it has surrounded the panel with a very thin bezel whose only distinguishing feature is the logo at the bottom centre, accompanied by a small carving for the Power button and the status LED. Frankly, we love it -- if only all budget LCDs looked as cool.
The television comes out of the box on its stand, but you can remove the stand if you want to wall-mount the screen. The stand also looks good, matching the main unit's colour, but with some reflective trim. Around the back there are two panels that come off to allow you to connect all your equipment, snapping back into place to cover the mass of wires that would otherwise protrude. While an allocation of one RGB Scart is positively mean, we were pleased to see some other little flourishes to compensate, including component inputs that are progressive-scan compatible. We can't stress enough how important it is to use these connections when you buy a flat screen -- compatible DVD players cost as little as £60 from manufacturers like Philips and the jump in quality is immense.
Nearly all flat screens come with a PC input, but the diminutive size of this particular screen makes it perfect if you want to hook up your PC and have a sneaky game of Half-Life 2. It's a shame ViewSonic didn't provide a DVI input -- it would have guaranteed Media Center support, and if it had been HDCP compliant, then it would have supported HDTV as well. So while the screen does have an HD-compatible resolution, it's not going to be compatible with Sky's HD service, nor is it likely to be with the other methods of acquiring HD content in the future.
The remote control on the ViewSonic is cheap and tacky. The balance of weight doesn't feel right and it's uncomfortable to hold, plus the numerical buttons are too small and bizarrely located on the right-hand side. The only thing that it gets right is having large channel and volume flickers in the centre. Otherwise it's the perfect lesson in how not to do remote-control design.
ViewSonic tells us it has been working hard on improving the picture quality of its new LCDs. The NextVision LCD technology that's been incorporated into the N2750w includes an integrated digital 3D Comb-Filter, plus scaling technology to help improve the appearance of lower-quality services. While it doesn't purport to be Philips' Pixel Plus system, the results are that it's not just an LCD panel that's been thrown into the AV market to fend for itself.
However, if you're after advanced features that you can tweak away at, you'll still be disappointed. The N2750w's menu system is a simple affair, with picture settings that are nothing more than the basic offerings. Indeed, the only visual delights to be had are Picture-in-Picture, which is accessible from the remote control, plus three options to make non-widescreen material fit the screen however you like it. While the majority of DVD movies are in a widescreen format, there are still a lot of TV programmes that are broadcast in 4:3. Basically, you can keep them in this format, with black borders on either side of the picture, or you can stretch the image and cut off the top and bottom so that people don't look too fat.
What's more impressive is both the audio performance and alterations that you can make. The speakers are contained in one unit underneath the screen and provide a good amount of detail from television sources. On the downside, they lack the sort of bass that your average movie soundtrack demands, and if you're using the television in a confined space, you might not be able to set up a speaker system to compensate. With only 10W between them, one of the two-speaker Denon surround systems could be the order of the day.
If this isn't practical, ViewSonic has included virtual 3D audio through SRS technology, meaning that the speakers work overtime to provide a faux-surround reproduction. The effect never really convinces, but it's another example of ViewSonic's commitment to providing a little bit extra for the budget buyer. There are stereo audio outputs if you want to connect to something else, even if it's only a micro hi-fi system.
With a native resolution of 1,280x720, this panel is no slouch in terms of detail. The screen copes particularly well with DVD sources running in progressive scan and videogames -- the clarity of the images really is quite impressive. It also does pretty well with Freeview and analogue sources, all things considered, although the latter should be avoided at all costs. MPEG artefacting, the Achilles heel of most LCD displays, is kept to a bare minimum -- a result of the panel's swift response time.
As is so often the case with the cheaper LCDs , the contrast isn't all that great, and it has an impact on the overall performance. It's difficult to get a sense of depth in a dark film such as Underworld (something of a torture test for any screen), and this has an impact on colour reproduction as well. When you calibrate the screen properly you can compensate, but there's no fancy picture processing to engage here, so what you see out of the box is pretty much as good as it's going to get. That said, it's a good performer when you treat it with a progressive scan or PC feed, so if you're the sort of person who likes to watch a DVD before bed, then you'll be more than happy with the results.
Edited by Mary Lojkine
Additional editing by Nick Hide