Think of the Envision EN-7500 as a kind of Swiss-Army-knife monitor; this 17-inch LCD contains a built-in TV tuner so that you can use it as a TV screen. True, the EN-7500's Picture-in-Picture (PiP) feature, which lets you compute and watch TV simultaneously, doesn't allow you to alter the size of the smaller TV window. But thanks to the EN-7500's recent $200 price cut, this two-in-one is among the least expensive 17-inch LCDs/TVs we've reviewed at around $600, and it's the perfect option for anyone who likes to compute and watch TV at the same time. For more advanced TV features, prepare to spend thousands for models such as the Samsung SyncMaster 241MP. Think of the Envision EN-7500 as a kind of Swiss-Army-knife monitor; this 17-inch LCD contains a built-in TV tuner so that you can use it as a TV screen. True, the EN-7500's Picture-in-Picture (PiP) feature, which lets you compute and watch TV simultaneously, doesn't allow you to alter the size of the smaller TV window. But thanks to the EN-7500's recent $200 price cut, this two-in-one is among the least expensive 17-inch LCDs/TVs we've reviewed at around $600, and it's the perfect option for anyone who likes to compute and watch TV at the same time. For more advanced TV features, prepare to spend thousands for models such as the Samsung SyncMaster 241MP.
Out of the box
To ease its already simple setup process, the EN-7500 ships with an 8-page, printed quick-start guide and a comprehensive, illustrated 28-page PDF electronic manual (on the driver CD). This detailed documentation will come in handy for computer-centric buyers who aren't familiar with some of the monitor's television features, including closed captioning and the V-Chip (for channel blocking). The box also includes a VGA video cable, a power adapter and cord, and a remote control. To attach the display to a video source, you'll need a cable with a composite video plug (an RCA-phono plug), S-Video attachment (an S-Video plug), or a standard cable-TV or antenna connector (a 75-ohm video plug). These cables often come with your VCR or with a cable TV hookup, but if you don't have one, you can find them at most electronics stores.
In appearance, this LCD diverges a bit from its peers. Although most current LCDs come with narrow bezels, the EN-7500's bezel is fairly wide, especially compared to other 17-inch monitors. The EN-7500 needs this larger frame, however, to accommodate its side-mounted speakers. Even though they're relatively small, the built-in speakers have a clear and full-bodied sound--a real plus if you plan to use the unit as a standalone television.
Two for one
Why would you want to use your monitor as a TV? Apart from saving space, this setup lets you switch easily between working at your computer and watching TV. You can even view both your show and your PC applications at the same time by sending your television channel to a small, inner window on the screen. The EN-7500's TV features, integrated into the monitor's easy-to-navigate onscreen menu system, include eight control buttons that line the bottom front of the cabinet: PiP, source, menu, exit, channel up, channel down, volume up, and volume down. You can also access all menu functions with the included remote control.
We're rather taken with this monitor's PiP option. It allows you to, say, browse a candidate's Web site while watching the election returns on CNN. Plus, you can position the inner window anywhere on the screen, and by using the remote control, you can switch between your PC and television by pressing a single button.
Unfortunately, the EN-7500's PiP limitations mean that you can't alter the size of the inner window (it's about 1/16 the size of the full screen). Also, the main window must display the signal from your PC, and the inner window must pull its signal from your cable-TV hookup or television antenna. No flexibility here.
When judged strictly as a computer monitor, the Envision EN-7500 holds its own against the similarly priced ViewSonic VE700 and even the more expensive Samsung SyncMaster 171P and NEC MultiSync LCD1880SX displays. In fact, the EN-7500's fast 20ms pixel-response rate beats the VE700's 35ms, the MultiSync LCD1880SX's 33ms, and the SyncMaster 171P's 25ms pixel-response rates hands down. (The faster your pixel-response rate, the less blurring you'll experience during fast-moving video or animation.)
In CNET Labs' official performance tests, using DisplayMate Multimedia with Motion Edition, the EN-7500 exhibited sharp focus for an analog-only LCD monitor. We did, however, encounter some contrast problems. With digital photos, for example, the monitor struggled to distinguish among similar shades of the same color at the extreme light and dark ends of the spectrum. Further, television images looked so washed out that we had to increase the contrast level. Consequently, we had to decrease the contrast level when viewing computer content because the higher contrast setting made it harder to distinguish the icons. The EN-7500's 350:1 contrast ratio is fine for most computer content, but it doesn't offer the subtle shades of color that traditional CRT televisions do.
Generous support options
Don't worry too much if you run into trouble with the EN-7500. The monitor's three-year warranty even includes the backlight--many vendors cover it for only a short time or not at all. You also receive toll-free technical support for the life of the product (7:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., Monday through Friday PT). On the downside, when we called tech support early Friday afternoon, we had to leave a message and didn't receive a return call until Saturday morning.
With its new price tag, the multifunctional EN-7500 qualifies as an unusually good bargain. It's well suited for a bedroom or a college dormitory where there may not be room for both a computer and a TV. And for sports and news junkies, it's an ideal way to follow late-breaking events while working at a computer. Although other combination monitor-televisions exist, the EN-7500 is the least expensive one we've seen in a 17-inch or larger size. If price is no object, you might want to examine the 24-inch Samsung SyncMaster 241MP, which usually sells for more than $4,000.
LCD image-quality test
Longer bars indicate better performance
|In CNET Labs' tests, using DisplayMate Multimedia with Motion Edition, the EN-7500 earned average scores all around. Except for its focus score, all other marks (including those for grayscale, color test screens, pixel resolution, and distortion) hovered at 70 to 75 percent of the highest possible scores. In fact, in those four categories the Samsung 171P put the EN-7500 to shame. Still, the EN-7500's reasonable price and TV capabilities may outweigh its overall mediocre performance.|