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The set's design is extremely minimalist, which is not altogether a bad thing. Unfortunately, the screen's frame is a 1.6-inch-thick swath of Gateway's trademark bronze, which is ugly enough to put off many customers before they even turn on the TV. Other than the smallish logo centered at the bottom of the frame, there isn't much else to the exterior.
The set measures a scant 3.9 inches deep, but if you want it on the wall instead of the included swiveling table stand, you'll need to purchase one of the hardware kits, which start at $49. Gateway hid most of the input jacks along the left-hand side to help conceal wires. The company provides a pair of matching external speakers, each with a removable base (not pictured), but you can detach them and use a separate sound system.
We liked the functionality of the big, many-buttoned remote, but first-time users will probably find it confusing. It provides one-push access to a few important inputs, and every key is blue-backlit. The internal menu system is simple and easy to navigate.
Since it boasts a native resolution of 1,280x768 pixels, this 30-inch LCD qualifies as a high-definition monitor. It can display every detail of 720p HDTV and, like all fixed-pixel displays, converts incoming material to fit the available pixels. You'll need an external tuner to watch HDTV.
Topping the list of convenience features is the picture-in-picture mode. It's particularly useful when you're substituting the display for your PC monitor; while you work on your computer, you can watch TV in one corner of the screen. You can also view two same-size images side by side instead of calling up the inset window. And a built-in NTSC tuner enables the TV to receive off-air programming and tune cable channels on certain systems. An 8-watt internal amplifier drives optional outboard speakers.
You get several picture modes, including Game, User, Standard, Dynamic, and Mild. Each has its own preprogrammed color temperature and picture settings. But our favorite feature is the set's ability to remember your custom settings for individual inputs, which makes it convenient to configure them for different sources.
The side-panel connectivity options are reasonably comprehensive. A DVI port is included, but since it doesn't have HDCP copy protection, it may not operate reliably with all HDTV receivers or DVI-equipped DVD players, though it worked fine with our V Bravo D1. There are also two sets of component-video jacks: the one labeled HDTV can accept any signal; the other is intended for non-progressive-scan DVD decks and takes only 480i. Rounding out the inputs are one for S-Video, two for A/V (composite video only), one for a computer (a VGA-style 15-pin hookup), one for RF, and an RS-232 control port.
Unfortunately, the panel has no service menu for grayscale calibration. The omission is inexcusable, given the set's lofty price tag. We had to settle for the User mode, which measured 11,200K at a luminance of 30IRE and 11,700K at 80IRE. Those readings are far from the ideal 6,500K, and the image had an obvious blue cast at all light levels. The red, green, and blue global gain controls at the DVI and PC inputs should help you tame the grayscale when you're using those types of sources, but we're still disappointed by the limited adjustment options.
The color decoder exhibited extreme red push and heavily accentuated green. Black-level performance was quite poor, washing out colors and eliminating any possibility of fine shadow detail. Like some plasma panels, the Gateway also suffered from significant false-contouring artifacts, which looked like moving patches of noise in black and nearly black areas of the picture.
Despite the built-in Faroudja processing, we saw ample video noise. If you're a novice, you may be less attuned to this problem, but you'd definitely notice it if someone pointed it out to you. The opening moments of Star Trek: Insurrection were riddled with moving dots and noise from the panel's internal scaling. In one scene of the Video Essentials test DVD, the camera pans in close on a tree, and the leaves became indistinguishable on the Gateway, bleeding into each other.
After we'd tweaked the regular picture controls with patterns from various test DVDs, we sat back and watched the great documentary Standing in the Shadows of Motown, one of our reference discs. The picture was definitely a bit washed out, and color saturation suffered, as well.
Similar issues came up with HDTV from our DirecTV satellite feed, but the huge difference in resolution made the image look much better. Even with HD material, however, washed-out blacks and false contouring detracted from dark scenes.
Overall, the Gateway 30-inch LCD TV is not a home-theater product. Ideally, you'll use it in a room with a lot of ambient light, where the set's poor black-level performance will be less of a problem.