At this time last year, you could count the number of budget LCD TVs on your fingers. Now each month brings more low-priced, off-brand panels to both online and brick-and-mortar retailers, and unfortunately the newcomers are making all of the same image-quality mistakes as their predecessors. As with so many low-buck LCDs, the 27-inch Norcent LT-2720 has an extremely blue color cast and a limited number of inputs. But its performance in other areas isn't as bad as that of some LCDs we've seen, and it does cost less than $1,000. These characteristics position it among the better budget candidates for casual daytime use, but don't expect it to shine in the bedroom for movies.
Dressed in a plain, silver case with thin silver speakers flanking the screen for an extrawide look, the LT-2720 isn't exactly inspiring. We liked the tilt-and-pivot capabilities of the included stand, however. The remote is boxy and poorly laid out, and it lacks backlighting and direct-input access. Right-handed people will learn to hate the fact that the channel and volume controls are on the upper-left side instead of the middle as on most remotes.
At 1,280x720, the LT-2720's native resolution should be able to display full 720p HDTV (see below). All other sources, including 1080i high-def and computers, are scaled to fit the panel's available pixels. Regular TV is served up by one NTSC tuner. You'll need to add an external ATSC tuner, HD satellite, or cable box if you want HDTV.
Convenience features don't go far beyond single-tuner picture-in-picture and independent input memories. Unfortunately, the important color-temperature control is disabled for all inputs except for VGA. So, you can't adjust the color temperature when watching DVDs through the component, S-Video, or composite inputs. Aspect-ratio control includes just two choices: 16:9 and 4:3. You don't get any zoom or stretch modes with this set.
Video inputs include one high-bandwidth component, one low-bandwidth component, one S-Video, two composite video, and one coaxial. Outputs are limited to one RCA stereo audio and one headphone minijack. It's hard to fault Norcent for the lack of dual high-bandwidth inputs because so many budget panels are being sold with just one high-bandwidth in. Still, it's disappointing to see this trend continue. We're also not surprised at the lack of a digital-video input (DVI or HDMI) at this price level.
Out of the box, the color temperature was extremely blue (see the geek box for details). We were unable to access the Service menu to conduct a proper calibration. After adjusting user menu controls, the color temperature improved slightly but remained very blue, lending a bleached-out cast to brighter areas and robbing colors of richness. In Norcent's favor, the color decoder showed only minor red push, and primary colors looked more normal than the orange-reds and lime-greens found with many inexpensive LCDs.
Watching "Chapter Two: Left Behind," from the ET: The Extra Terrestrial DVD, we saw a decent amount of detail in the trees and underbrush as ET ran through the forest. The LT-2720's black-level performance is surprisingly decent for an LCD. The opening scene of Star Trek: Insurrection revealed that 2:3 pull-down is present to smooth jagged lines in film-based sources. Despite this, we detected an above-average amount of video artifacts and crawling motes of noise in both Star Trek and ET, particularly in darker scenes.
We also saw plenty of noise in high-definition material such as HDNet World Report: Honduras. Compared to Philips's more expensive 32PF9996, which displays 720p material pixel for pixel, without scaling, 720p sources on the Norcent appeared soft and full of artifacts. And test patterns confirmed that, despite its pixel count, the LT-2720 can't fully resolve 720p material. On 1080i sources, both panels suffered from artifacts, and again, the Norcent had more than the Philips.
It's unfair to compare this 27-inch panel with a higher-end 32-incher such as Philips's 32PF9996 or . Compared to smaller panels, such as Dell's W3000, it's more of a toss-up. The Norcent can be had for less money than the Dell, but it doesn't have DVI or dual-tuner PIP. Ultimately, is a better choice than either the Norcent or the Dell for critical viewing. The Syntax's black level is comparable to the Norcent's, but when it comes to color temperature, the Syntax clearly wins. Perhaps by this time next year, Norcent will shape up as much as Syntax has in the last 12 months. In fact, the company has announced LCD sets with an improved video-processing chipset and supposedly better styling (the LT-2740) that will be available in the next few months. Unfortunately for the comparison shopper, by that time there will be 20 more bare-bones LCD brands to choose from.
|Before color temp (30/80)||13,000/10,000K||Poor|
|After color temp (30/80)||12,300/9,600K||Poor|
|Before grayscale variation||+/- 4894K||Poor|
|After grayscale variation||+/- 4211K||Poor|
|Color decoder error: red||+5%||Good|
|Color decoder error: green||0%||Good|
|DC restoration||(All Patterns Stable)||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.