At just under $2,000, Dell's 26-inch W2600 is one of the least-expensive 26-inch LCD televisions on the market, but its spec sheet is mighty impressive. We did find a couple of image-quality flaws from a home-theater perspective, but at this size we expect people to use the W2600 more for TV- and HDTV-watching in bright light--or as a massive computer monitor--than for viewing DVDs in the dark.
This smart-looking flat panel definitely does not lack style. Classy chrome accents surround the screen and the side-mounted speakers, which make the wide screen look even wider. At just 37 pounds (without the stand), this LCD is plenty light enough to hang on a wall. The stand functioned smoothly when tilting or swiveling.
The remote control is solid, comfortable to hold, and looks just as attractive as the panel itself. Some keys are backlit, but choosing inputs is a bit convoluted; you'll have to scroll through inputs on a menu to find the one you want. The TV automatically detects active inputs and highlights them on the menu.
The W2600's native resolution of 1,280x768 can display every pixel of 720p HDTV. All other incoming signals are converted to match the panel's pixels. While two analog tuners are included to power the versatile picture-in-picture (PIP) function (which also lets you watch TV and computer sources simultaneously), you'll need a separate HD tuner box to watch HDTV.
Connectivity is among the best we've seen in an LCD of this size. Two component-video inputs are joined by one VGA, one DVI video, two S-Video, two composite, and two coaxial RF inputs. Of these, an S-Video input and a composite-video input are located on the left side, where an optional memory-card reader ($79 list) can also be installed if you'd like to use the W2600 to view digital photos.
Out of the box, the W2600 had remarkably accurate color temperature, but its brightness was set so high that even the darkest blacks appeared gray. With the brightness and the contrast set properly, its color temperature turned noticeably green (see the geek box). Edge enhancement could not be completely turned off, but with the sharpness control set to its minimum, the picture turned overly soft. It's best to keep this control a notch or two above its lowest point.
Scene 3, "Awakening," on the Alien--The Director's Cut DVD, revealed the W2600's difficulty displaying real blacks. It was nearly impossible to make out any detail in the crew's bodies as they lay in their hibernation capsules. Even Sony's KLV-23HR2, which doesn't have the best black level on the market, showed significantly more detail in this scene than did the W2600, and Sharp's 32-inch LC-32GD4U also produced an appreciably darker black. (The remarkable direct-view Sony KD-34XBR960 sent all these LCDs crying home to their mamas.)
On the plus side, the W2600 showed minimal false contouring and video noise in darker areas. Film-based sources remained smooth, thanks to the built-in 2:3 pull-down detection. The Dell's reds were more realistic than the orangey reds on the 23-inch Sony LCD. Color decoding was mediocre, with a significant amount of red push, so we had to reduce color slightly to get accurate-looking skin tones. As might be expected, HD material looked significantly more detailed than DVD content, especially through the DVI input. The picture appeared extremely sharp, thanks to the high resolution and the relatively small screen size.
Discerning viewers will definitely want to look elsewhere for an LCD TV that can display deeper blacks, but casual watchers will be satisfied, especially if they keep the lights on. The W2600's comprehensive connectivity makes it one of the most versatile displays out there, and its competitive price makes it even more tempting.
|Before color temp (30/80)||6,300/6,375K||Good|
|After color temp (30/80)||6,200/6,400K||Average|
|Before grayscale variation||+/- 142K||Good|
|After grayscale variation||+/- 233K||Average|
|Color decoder error: red||10%||Average|
|Color decoder error: green||0%||Good|
|DC restoration||All patterns visible||Good|
|2:3 pull-down, 24fps||Y||Good|
|Defeatable edge enhancement||N||Poor|
Editor's note: We have changed the rating in this review to reflect recent changes in our rating scale. Click here to find out more.