Norcent LT2020 20-inch LCD TV
Norcent is one of those budget brands you see cropping up in local electronics retailers and even some large supermarket chains. But the company is expanding its horizons to encompass more product lines, including the number-one lust object for today's consumers: a flat-panel TV. Straight out of China, the LT2020 is a 20-pound, 20-inch, 4:3 TV that's being marketed to appeal to consumers looking for a sexy flat-panel display at a reasonable price: in this case, less than $600.
Let's start with the things that make the LT2020 a relative bargain. First, while many 20-inch, 4:3 LCD TVs have only 640x480 pixels, the LT2020 gives you a native resolution of 800x600, which will provide more detail with high-def and computer sources. There's also an RGB jack (though no DVI) that allows you to connect the display to a computer--a feature you don't usually see in this price class. Also available is a component-video input that can accept 480i, 480p, and 720p signals but not 1080i. There's also one composite, one S-Video, and one RF connection.
In other respects, the set is pretty ho-hum. The styling is really conservative, but this is a flat-panel set, so while it may not be superslick, it's slick enough. The panel sits on a base that swivels and tilts (an optional wall-mount bracket is also available). Two tinny-sounding speakers adorn the sides of the unit. The included remote, another generic affair, is easy to use, offering one-touch access to such features as PIP (picture-in-picture), V-Chip parental controls, and closed-caption settings. Our only design complaint--aside from the big Norcent logo--is that the actual build quality feels a bit cheap. Go up to the set, flick it with your finger, and the thing sounds hollow, especially on the sides.
That said, the performance with regular TV was respectable, though far from spectacular. After tweaking the brightness, the contrast, and assorted other picture settings, we came up with a quite passable image that was relatively artifact-free. We did notice a little light bleeding in from the edges of the display, but our main complaint has to do with the screen itself. It's coated with a highly reflective material that seemed to gather room light from everywhere, causing lots of glare.
Although Norcent's scant literature doesn't mention it, the LT2020 can display 720p high-def sources through its component-video input. The problem is, the TV lacks any kind of aspect-ratio control, so wide-screen material looks tall and thin--unless you connect one of the rare high-def sources that can control aspect ratio. The set also lacks vertical compression, so wide-screen DVDs will look softer than on sets with that feature, such as Sony's . Overall, the LT2020 is much better suited to standard TV than to wide-screen DVD and HDTV.