Acer AT3705-MGW review: Acer LCD TV AT3705-MGW

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There is an electronic program guide for digital TV, which is easy to navigate and displays a preview of the program, as well as the details on the program and a summary of what is coming up on a particular channel. There is also a "My List" function where you can setup a list of programs you have selected to watch.

On the audio side, the unit supports SRS WOW, BBE Digital and Dolby Digital surround sound for digital TV and you can switch between the different audio modes with a single button the remote, which is quite handy.

The unit features an integrated media card reader on the front, which can be used to access media files from Compact Flash cards, IBM MicroDrives, SD cards, MMC cards, and Memory Sticks (MS, Duo and Pro). There is a button on the remote to access the card reader and you can select the picture, video or music files that you want to view, making it very easy to take content directly from your digital or video camera and view it on the AT3705.

The MGW designation of the AT3705 stands for "Media Gateway" and the unit can be connected to a media server to deliver content directly to your TV. From the server side, there is a piece of software called "e-Console" that you will need to install and configure. You can use the software to share media, create playlists and favourites folders for viewing on your TV.

In addition to the wired Ethernet port on the back of the AT3705, the unit also has a wireless card built-in, so you don't need to string an Ethernet cable across the house to connect to your media server. You can search for and select from a list of wireless SSID's and connect to your wireless network, including WEP-secure networks and access your content that way. If you don't have a home network setup, don't despair -- you can also make a wired peer-to-peer connection or an ad-hoc wireless connection to connect your computer to the unit.

The AT3705 performed well under a variety of inputs and playback options. As we ran the unit through its paces, we found that the best quality pictures came from the pre-set configurations available through the "Empower" button on the remote control. Some did require minor tweaks, but overall the pre-defined settings provided optimal results.

When viewing DVDs and digital TV the unit performed flawlessly, with deep, dark black tones and crisp, true-to-life colours that did not require any additional tweaking. On the gaming side, the unit kept up with even the most graphic-intensive games and scenes, providing smooth scrolling, motion and perspective throughout the entire game, with no visible lags or stutters, even when the action got hot and heavy.

Viewing analogue TV posed a problem, as the unit showed a "ghosting" effect when viewing live-action television with quick camera cuts and pans. We viewed a fast-paced game of football on analogue and found the ghosting to be annoying, but well within the tolerance limits. We spent some time working with the settings to minimize this effect, but only with limited success. On the flip side, a similar program viewed on digital TV provided crisp, clean images with no ghosting effect.

On the audio side, the included speakers performed well across testing the various audio modes, providing rich, deep bass tones as well as crisp, clear highs with a well-proportioned middle. DVDs sound as the maker intended them, with every sound effect clearly enunciated. The Dolby Digital surround was a surprisingly solid performer on digital channels and during our testing, provided stunning sound from the programs we watched.

The setup for the Media Gateway was quick and painless, with little or no PC experience required to get things up and running. Connecting to a media server was equally as easy and even the most novice user should be able to connect and select content they wish to view. Both the wired and wireless access worked well, with the only concern being the wireless bandwidth -- we recommend using an Ethernet cable for the best results, especially when there is more than one computer or device in the household accessing a wireless connection.

In total, the unit is a stand-out among the LCD units we have seen on the market in the past six months. Even if you are not interested in the media gateway features, the unit performs well under a variety of conditions and is a pleasure to watch. Enough thought has been put into the remote, on-screen menus and settings to make this the perfect LCD for when you just want to watch high-quality content without worrying about tweaking every little setting. In short, a solid performer with enough tech features to keep even the most advanced videophile happy.

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