HP's small 2005 lineup of flat-panel TVs consists of two plasmas and three LCDs, including this 32-inch LC3200N, the successor to the . While the LC3200N certainly costs more than no-name 32-inchers, its image quality and smart styling may be worth the difference to some buyers.
The computer giant clad its LCD television in black gloss, which does lend an element of class. Unfortunately, the border edging the screen reflected too much ambient light, detracting from the onscreen image. A quartet of status lights along the bottom, a set of technology logos, a flashy HP logo, and a discreet Pavilion label interrupt the black gloss. HP includes a substantial silver stand that pivots about 10 degrees to either side, as well as a pair of detachable speakers. The television measures 23 by 42 by 12 inches (HWD) with stand and speakers and 19.5 by 32 by 4.3 inches without.
We like HP's stylish remote for its blue backlighting, its intuitive button arrangement, and its ability to control other gear, but we would have preferred more tactile differentiation among the keys--feeling your way takes lots of getting used to. When we clicked the menu, we were greeted by something familiar: the exact same menu found on Sharp's LCDs. That's not a bad thing; the menus were intuitive enough to navigate, although some of the items will certainly require a trip to the instruction manual.
Around back, HP included plenty of connections, including both an HDMI and a DVI input, two iLink/FireWire inputs, a pair of component-video inputs, two A/V inputs with S-Video, RF inputs for digital cable and analog and digital antenna sources, a CableCard slot, an optical digital-audio output, and an RS-232 port for custom installers. Despite a Media key on the remote, there's no card slot for digital camera photo display, nor are there easy-access front- or side-panel A/V jacks.
With a native resolution of 1,366x768, the HP LC3200N should have plenty of pixels to display all the detail of 720p HDTV sources. As with all fixed-pixel displays, all incoming resolutions are scaled to fit the native res. The HP's DVI input can accept PC resolutions as high as 1,024x768. The television includes an over-the-air HDTV tuner and CableCard functionality, although there's no TV Guide EPG for cable--not a major omission since the Guide is notoriously finicky.
In terms of picture setup, the HP LC3200N offers a wide variety of options. There are five picture modes, from Game to Movie to Dynamic, and all but one of them can be adjusted and applied to all of the inputs. A sixth User mode, which remembers settings for individual inputs, is also available. A variety of advanced controls allow adjustment of hue and saturation for various colors, but the default color settings were good enough that we didn't need to use them.
Color temperature (the color of gray) wasn't exactly accurate, however--in the Low setting, the most accurate available, it was entirely too red in bright areas and swung into blueness in darker areas. As a result, we had to back down the color control, reducing saturation, to achieve accurate skin tones. We also left the automatic ambient light adapter off for critical viewing, since it changed contrast and brightness dynamically according to room lighting conditions.
Our favorite control, and one that sets the HP apart from budget LCDs, is the adjustable backlight. Turning it down allows the panel to achieve a darker black than it could otherwise, a black that's almost as deep as that of some better-performing plasmas, although not at CRT levels. We settled on a backlight control setting of -6 for viewing in a dim room; lower settings were too dark and robbed the image of snap and shadow detail. We were disappointed to see that the screen got brighter toward the edges, a common ailment with LCDs and an effect that was visible primarily in darker scenes.
The HP LC3200N's superior black level came across nicely in the Seabiscuit DVD. The letterbox bars above and below the screen were nice and dark, although the blackest sections were tinged a bit blue--a result of improper color temperature. While shadow details were not up to the same level as plasma or CRT, they were more visible than on most LCDs we've seen. For example, as Tom and Howard discuss their jockey in a darkened hallway, we could make out the folds in their jackets and even some texture in the fabric of Tom's brown vest.
Colors were also impressive, and the deeper blacks helped contribute to saturation. During the final race at Pimlico, the vibrant reds of the jockey's uniform and the vivid green of the infield grass looked natural yet punchy; this is one of the few LCDs we've seen that can conjure an accurate green. Color balance was also quite good, although as mentioned above, we had to sacrifice some vibrancy of colors to get skin tones to look right.
HDTV also looked solid for the most part on the HP. We watched an episode of 24 via our DirecTV feed, and once again, the dark shadows in the villain's command post and the dim recesses at CTU came across well. We saw plenty of detail in the containers stacked at the dock, although test patterns revealed that the HP couldn't cleanly resolve every line of a 720p test pattern.
Overall, the HP LC3200N delivers one of the best pictures we've seen on a flat-panel LCD of this size, rivaling the Sharp models. In fact, we suspect its technology is derived from Sharp since its menu system is identical. If you're willing to pay a bit more for an LCD and want one that will do adequate duty for home theater as well as for TV, the HP LC3200N is a very good choice.
|Before color temp (20/80)||7,539/5,397K||Poor|
|After color temp||N/A|
|Before grayscale variation||848K||Average|
|After grayscale variation||N/A|
|Color of red (x/y)||0.641/0.334||Good|
|Color of green||0.283/0.607||Good|
|Color of blue||0.145/0.063||Good|
|DC restoration||Gray pattern stable||Average|
|2:3 pull-down, 24fps||Yes||Good|
|Defeatable edge enhancement||No||Poor|