Big LCDs used to cost far more than plasmas, but the price gap is shrinking in a hurry. Budget brands such as Westinghouse are making the gap almost nonexistent, with its 47-inch LVM-47w1 going for rock-bottom prices online--if you can find it. With the low price, 1080p native resolution and five HD inputs--plus a PC input that can handle 1080p--the LVM-47w1 seems like a bargain hunter's dream. Sure, the styling is lame, the remote is a joke, and the picture isn't reference quality. It also doesn't have a whole lot of extras, such as tuners or tons of picture controls, and its DVI inputs require adapters to work with HDMI components. But if you're willing to live with those shortcomings, you're looking at a big-screen that can double as a great computer monitor for a very reasonable price. The Westinghouse LVM-47w1 certainly doesn't cater to those who put style first. It has a basic black bezel with silver highlights on the edges and silver speakers on the bottom, all of which combine for a pedestrian look that won't turn too many heads. There's also a small black strip at the bottom with a Westinghouse logo that lights up. Luckily, the distracting logo light can be turned off using the LED option in the General section of the menu. The Westinghouse is medium-size for a 47-inch LCD, measuring 46.1 by 31.7 by 8.9 inches WHD atop the included stand, and weighing 78.9 pounds.
The remote for the LCM-47w1 follows the unexciting stylish cues of the TV itself, and we found it more difficult to use than it should be. If you depend on the TV for sound, you'll be especially annoyed to find that the oft-used volume buttons are not called out as well as they should be--they're same size as lesser-used functions such as PIP and Freeze. The remote also a full numeric keypad, but since the Westinghouse has no internal tuner--and hence no channels of its own to tune--the number keys just waste valuable remote real estate. On the upside, there are direct access buttons for component, VGA, DVI, S-Video and A/V sources--although HDMI is strangely missing (but you can get it by hitting DVI repeatedly). For all but the most basic uses, we'd recommend picking up a decent universal remote. One of the big draws for the Westinghouse LVM-47w1 is that it's a 1080p display, which means it has a 1,920x1,080 native resolution, the highest available today, and can display both 1080i and 1080p sources without scaling. All other sources, such as 720p high-def and standard-def content, are scaled to fit the available pixels.
Because the LVM-47w1 lacks any kind of tuner--ATSC or otherwise--it's technically a monitor rather than a TV. In terms of other features, it has the ability to do picture-in-picture, picture-by-picture, and picture-on-picture. The possible combinations of inputs are pretty broad; you can do DVI1 alongside DVI2, for example, although it won't display a PC source as the main picture with component video as the subpicture.
Advanced picture-affecting features are pretty scarce on this set but you do get all the basics. Missing are any picture presets such as Movie or Game, but we did appreciate the presence of independent input memories for tweaking picture parameters differently for each source. There are three available color temperatures (Warm, Neutral, Cool), with Warm coming closest to the standard. We also liked the backlight control, although we wound up leaving it at zero for optimal light output in a dark room--you'd want to turn it up if, for instance, the LVM-47w1 was in a brightly lit area. For our full dark-room picture settings, please refer to Tips & Tricks above.
Aspect-ratio control on the LVM-47w1 is pretty weak. There are just two modes each for standard- and high-def sources, called Standard and Fill. With standard-def sources Fill fills the screen and Standard puts up 4:3 bars; there's no zoom option. With HD sources and the only thing Fill does is to introduce more overscan, zooming the picture a little. We recommend leaving it set to the standard setting so that 1,980x1,080 sources aren't scaled, preserving their full detail.
Connectivity, on the other hand, is the LVM-47w1's strong suit, although you might need some adapters to make it all work. The set can accommodate up to three digital HD sources via its one HDMI and pair of DVI inputs--all of which can accept 1080p signals; we did notice that the set does make a slight clicking sound when switching to the HDMI input, but it's just a slight annoyance. The two DVI inputs are a little anachronistic since most components use HDMI now, but inexpensive DVI-to-HDMI adapters or cables work fine to connect HDMI sources to the LVM-47w1's DVI ports. Note that if you're using your TV as your main audio system, you'll need to connect a separate audio cable since DVI itself does not carry audio.
There are also two component-video inputs along with one VGA-style PC input--and the latter can also accept a 1080p source. The 1080p-capable PC input is a nice extra considering that the Xbox 360's HD-DVD add-on drive will output only 1080p via VGA. Rounding out the rest of the connectivity is just a single A/V input with S-Video, which could be a problem if you don't have a receiver to do the switching and want to directly connect a few standard-def components. Overall, the Westinghouse LVM-47w1 performed better than we expected. It delivered relatively deep levels and fully resolved every detail of 1080-resolution test patterns--although the detail was hard to discern in real life. Color accuracy was a bit off but not overly so. Picture quality via the standard-def inputs was below average, although keep in mind that that's irrelevant if you're watching standard-def via another input, such as HDMI from a cable or satellite box.