Gunning for the electronics market this holiday season, Dell has rolled out an LCD TV with a rock-bottom price and a healthy feature set. The W1700 offers true 1,280x720 HDTV resolution, a built-in TV tuner, and enough inputs to satisfy even the most gadget-happy home-theater/computer buff. Its 17-inch wide-screen image isn't large enough to appreciate from across the room, but it does make for an ample desktop monitor, a slick kitchen set, or a workout monitor mounted near a StairMaster or a treadmill. Unfortunately, this jack-of-all-trades masters neither computer nor video images. Its price is on a par with that of similar-resolution panel TVs such as Philips's 17PF9945 and Samsung's LTN1785W.
Dell fashioned its first TV with high style in mind. A silver finish dominates the face, offset by blue-gray highlights. A few buttons offering rudimentary control share the bottom left with an IR sensor, while the subtle Dell logo sits at bottom center.
With its 16:9 screen flanked by a pair of speakers, the W1700 measures about twice as wide (22 inches) as it does high (12 inches). An adjustable tilt/swivel stand is included, and its variable-height stalk can raise the monitor from 4.5 to 9.5 inches above the desktop. The set is a cinch to carry around, thanks to its built-in handle.
This 17-inch wide-screen LCD has 11 percent less screen real estate than a non-wide-screen 17-incher. It seems even smaller when displaying regular TV with window-box bars to either side; the resulting 4:3 image measures about 14 inches diagonally.
The attractive silver remote boasts a comfortable cursor control for menu navigation, but its other buttons are too similar to easily differentiate. We appreciated the dedicated button that switches from PC to TV display. We had no problems with the simple onscreen menu system, which looks like it was lifted straight from a computer monitor. A different menu, with different parameters, comes up, depending on whether a TV or computer source is active.
The W1700 can display just about anything. Its native 1,280x768 resolution is enough to show every pixel of 720p HDTV; higher-resolution 1080i HDTV is scaled down to fit the pixels, while everything else is scaled up. Although you'll need an external HDTV tuner to view high-def programming, Dell includes a standard NTSC tuner that can connect to an antenna or a cable system. Cable subscribers will probably still need to use their boxes to receive every channel.
In addition to the screw-type RF input for TV, the W1700's video connections include composite and S-Video jacks, plus an HDTV-compatible component video input, all with stereo audio. You also get a composite A/V output. There's a DVI jack that can connect to computers, but since it lacks HDCP copy-protection, it won't work with HDTV receivers or some DVI-equipped DVD players. A VGA-style analog computer input is also available. A 1/8-inch headphone jack on the side allows easy late-night listening.
Chief among the TV's convenience features is a PIP function, but unfortunately it works only when the PC is the main source and a video input fills the smaller window--not with two video sources or channels. There are three sizes available for the small window but no split-screen action. The W1700 also has three preset picture modes, four preset sound modes, three color-temperature presets (for video), and a user-adjustable RGB color control (for computers). Video sources allow four aspect-ratio choices, including one that selectively stretches the sides of the image but leaves the middle intact.