The Sceptre CT17W's wide viewing angle and integrated speakers are nice features for any LCD display. But this 17-incher's high price and middling performance make it a murky value. Better-known companies, such as Samsung and ViewSonic, offer far better deals. The Sceptre CT17W's wide viewing angle and integrated speakers are nice features for any LCD display. But this 17-incher's high price and middling performance make it a murky value. Better-known companies, such as Samsung and ViewSonic, offer far better deals.
A cloudy view
Sceptre's CT17W starts off with a big disadvantage: Available directly from the company for $1,499, it is considerably more expensive than the competition. For example, Samsung's feature-rich SyncMaster 170MP ($1,349) doubles as a standalone television, and its more modest sibling, the SyncMaster 770 TFT, costs less than a grand.
But display quality is another problem. For starters, we noticed some color distortion in CNET Labs' tests; midrange grays had a purple-yellow cast. The CT17W also has a relatively low contrast ratio (the difference in brightness between black and white) of 200:1. Why should you care? Because blacks won't look black, and you won't see as much color detail as you would on displays with higher ratios, such as 300:1. The CT17W also slogged through CNET Labs' full-motion video tests, but it was no worse than most other LCD monitors in its class. Current LCD technology can't smoothly display moving images--some blurring and shadowing is inevitable.
Not everything about the display quality was bad, however. The CT17W sports a single analog VGA port to receive the source signal. Like most LCD displays, our test unit automatically detected the resolution of the incoming signal (via what the user guide calls the "intellectual-auto function") and adjusted the geometry of the screen accordingly. It produced straight lines and round circles, and it did a good job of squaring off the image accurately on all sides. You can access the image-settings menu using two buttons on the bezel below the screen. The menus are relatively easy to navigate--once you decipher the cartoonlike icons. Fortunately, the otherwise anemic user guide does a credible job of explaining what each icon means.
Along with mediocre image quality, unfortunately, came mediocre features. For instance, you cannot adjust the height of the monitor, and its base is fairly unstable. No USB connectors are built into the unit to make connecting peripherals easier. While the CT17W does have two integrated stereo speakers, their sound quality is unremarkable.
The CT17W is covered by a one-year warranty on the labor and the LCD screen. Other parts are covered for three years. Technical support is available by phone from 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. PT daily. No support is available at the company's Web site.
Considering its high price and flawed display quality, Sceptre's CT17W is a hard sell. With so many other 17-inch LCDs available with far fewer compromises, our advice is to look elsewhere.