In America's rush to buy flat-panel televisions, plenty of heretofore unheard-of brands are trying to make a splash by cutting prices. Take the Syntax Olevia LT30HV ($1,999 list). On paper, this thin-screen TV looks just like the competition. It is the same size (30 inches), has the same HD-capable resolution (1,280x768), and flaunts the same thin profile. The only problem is that even casual viewers will notice that its picture looks worse than that of other LCDs. So unless money and screen size are your only considerations, a model such as Sharp's is definitely worth the extra dough. The Olevia Syntax LT30HV's silver plastic bezel isn't as ugly as that of the or the , but it doesn't exactly make this set a beauty queen. The Syntax logo on the included stand and the Olevia logo on the panel are quite prominent, as is a big oval sensor for the remote. A line of buttons along the bottom edge controls basic functions and allows menu access.
As with most LCD TVs, an optional wall mount is available for those who want to hang the set and take advantage of its 4-inch depth. The included side-mounted speakers are removable, unlike those on the Westinghouse model.
The remote control is better suited to a $50 VCR than a $2,000 HDTV. It is small, lightweight, and nonbacklit, and its button layout is unintuitive. For example, the TV/Video button scrolls through the available inputs, as does the Input button, but if you want to select the Digital Visual Interface (DVI) input, you have to do so through the menu system, because neither of the buttons will do it. The deal breaker, however, is the lack of a key to change aspect ratios. Again, you have to go into the menu to fill the wide-screen with a standard 4:3 TV show. As with all other 30-inch LCDs we've reviewed, the Olevia Syntax LT30HV's native resolution is 1,280x768, allowing full display of 720p HDTV. Other incoming signals, including 1080i, are converted via internal video processing to match the native resolution. The panel has a built-in tuner for regular TV, but for HDTV you have to add an external tuner.
Single-tuner picture-in-picture (PIP) tops the list of convenience features. Independent input memories let you adjust the picture controls once for each type of source material. Aside from the three color-temperature presets, the LT30HV does not offer much else--no picture presets or settings for video processing. We were disappointed to discover only three aspect ratios. In particular, we missed an option to stretch the sides of the picture more than the middle.
The LT30HV could have provided more inputs, but at least it has dual component jacks. Unfortunately, only one of them can accept high-definition signals. Of course, the panel's DVI input offers another option for incoming HD signals, provided you have a source with a DVI output. The set offers one S-Video input and one composite input, as well as a VGA input for computers. The Olevia Syntax LT30HV performed poorly in our lab tests. First, we were unable to access the service menu, so we couldn't calibrate the television properly. Out of the box, the picture was extremely blue. After we adjusted the brightness and contrast controls, it looked a little better (see the geek box) but remained very blue.
The opening scene of Star Trek: Insurrection, especially the bridge and the canoes, shimmered and jumped as the camera panned--a clear indication that the LT30HV's video processing doesn't include 2:3 pull-down detection. The waving American flag from the Video Essentials home-theater calibration DVD appeared choppy, highlighting the video processor's inability to display difficult video-based material smoothly. Compounding both of these problems was the panel's nondefeatable edge enhancement, which created faint artificial lines around objects, even with sharpness reduced to zero. This defect turned the haystacks in the opening scene of Insurrection into jumbled piles of moving lines.
The chapter "The Breach of the Deeping Wall" on the DVD The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers underscored this panel's inability to display true black. Compared to the Sharp , the LT30HV's picture lost so much detail that half the screen seemed empty at times. There was also quite a bit of false contouring; seen closely, large patches of the screen appeared as clumps of dark purple.
HDTV looked best, but the picture was perhaps the noisiest we've ever seen from a high-def source. Small, dancing dots and larger blocks appeared everywhere, despite the relatively clean source. Though the DVI input slightly improved the picture quality, large amounts of noise were still present. Even pristine sources, such as the demo material from the 720p DVHS of Digital Video Essentials, had unacceptable amounts of noise.
|Before color temp (30/80)||13,750/10,950K||Poor|
|After color temp (30/80)*||11,300/9,275K||Poor|
|Before grayscale variation, 20 to 100 IRE||4,043||Poor|
|After grayscale variation, 20 to 100 IRE||N/A|
|Color decoder error: red||+20%||Poor|
|Color decoder error: green||-15%||Poor|
|DC restoration||All patterns visible||Good|
|2:3 pull-down, 24fps||N||Poor|
|Defeatable edge enhancement||N||Poor|