Lately, HP has been making big inroads into the home-theater world. The company helped develop Texas Instruments' 1080p "wobulating" DLP light engine and is introducing a lineup of innovative rear-projection TVs. Unfortunately, like most participants in the current war to win your flat-panel LCD investment, HP's 30-inch LC3040N is a mixed bag in terms of performance. Unlike most of those participants, it also costs a bit more than it should.
HP's glossy black design gives the LC3040N an understated, relatively classy look. It ships without its speakers attached, so if you plan on using your own speakers, you won't have to remove any first. The silver base detracts a bit from the effect of the nice black bezel and doesn't let you rotate or tilt the screen. Though lightweight with rounded edges, the full-size remote isn't backlit. There are no dedicated input-selection buttons, but most important functions are within thumb's reach.
The LC3040N's native resolution of 1,280x768 should be enough to display full 720p HDTV. As with almost all LCD TVs, incoming signals are scaled to fit the panel's available pixels. A single NTSC tuner serves up standard-definition over-the-air television. You can watch high-def on this LCD, but you'll need an external tuner or an HD cable or satellite box.
Convenience features include independent input memories and picture-in-picture. There are also color-temperature controls and limited RGB controls but only when using the DVI input. Aspect-ratio control includes Normal, which displays 16:9 sources properly; 4:3 to display 4:3 sources properly; and Panorama, which fills the screen by stretching the sides of the image. These choices are apparently available with HD material, but there's no visible difference between Panorama and Normal, and 4:3 does not scale the image properly, so switching aspects in HD is pretty futile.
Inputs include one DVI, two component-video, two S-Video, two composite, one VGA for computers, one RF, five stereo audio RCA, and one stereo minijack coupled to the VGA video source. Outputs include one composite, one stereo audio RCA, one subwoofer, and one headphone minijack. All connections are located on the back of the panel except for headphone-out. The lack of HDMI is notable but, at this price, not totally unexpected. You can always connect an HDMI-to-DVD adapter or cable for HDMI sources.
Out of the box, tuned to the Movie preset and the Warm color temperature, and viewed through the DVI input, the color temperature was very blue in the darker end of the grayscale but gradually came close to the reference 6,500K in the brightest portions of the picture. The component inputs were a completely different story. Through those inputs, the HP LC3040N's color temperature was the worst we've seen from any LCD TV, measuring almost off the scale toward the blue end of the spectrum. Unfortunately, we were unable to access the service menu to conduct a proper calibration to correct this problem, but we don't expect many buyers to invest in such a service for a set in this price range. The color decoder showed noticeable red push, though primary colors were only slightly off, with reds somewhat orange.
Watching DVD through the component inputs, we saw clear evidence of the color imbalance; the color temperature gave a blue cast to everything. In addition, the HP LC3040N's lack of shadow detail meant that most of the detail in dark areas of the picture was lost. In chapter 2, "Cut the Rope!" from Vertical Limit, the shaded parts of the rock face that come into view as the camera zooms away from Chris O'Donnell and Robin Tunney plunge into noisy swaths of dark gray. On the plus side, the HP doesn't crush whites, so there was plenty of detail in the film's many snowy scenes. At the same time, we noticed more noise than average in both DVD and HDTV program material, regardless of input. High-def looked better than DVD, as we expected, but the lack of shadow detail and the overly blue color temperature still took their toll. 720p looked somewhat sharper than 1080i.
The price of the 30-inch HP LC3040N, in comparison to that of no-name 32-inch panels and some name-brand models, makes it doubly hard to recommend. If you're planning to watch only a single DVI source or you really like the all-black glossy styling, it might be worth the cost. But if you're going to watch more than one source or DVI isn't part of your system, you'll be better off with a budget set such as the Syntax Olevia LT32HV or a step-up model such as the Samsung LT-P326W. HP's new line of LCD TVs in 26-, 32-, and 37-inch sizes is available now, which may evince improved performance over this somewhat older 30-incher. We'll know more when we get one of the newer models to review.
|Before color temp (30/80)||8,700/6,900K||Poor|
|After color temp||N/A|
|Before grayscale variation||+/- 1,228K||Poor|
|After grayscale variation||N/A|
|Color decoder error: red||+10%||Average|
|Color decoder error: green||0%||Good|
|DC restoration||All patterns stable||Good|
|2:3 pull-down, 24fps||Y||Good|
|Defeatable edge enhancement||N||Poor|