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ViewSonic N3250W review: ViewSonic N3250W

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MSRP: $1,299.00

The Good Decent out-of-box color temperature; full 720p resolution; 2:3 pull-down; HDMI input.

The Bad Subpar black level; significant red push; skimpy input selection; loses some detail in whites.

The Bottom Line The ViewSonic N3250w outperforms most other budget 32-inch panels, putting pressure on its no-name competitors.

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6.0 Overall
  • Design 6
  • Features 6
  • Performance 6

ViewSonic might not be the first name you think of when someone mentions TV brands, but the company has been a major player in computer monitors for years. Its latest 32-inch LCD, the N3250w, checks in just above the $1,000 mark, putting it right in the middle of the LCD price wars. In its favor, it has more accurate color and better video processing than most of its like-priced, no-name competitors. Of course, if you really, really don't care about performance and just want to save those extra hundred or so dollars, go ahead and check out the Syntax Olevia LT32HV or the Maxent MX-32X3. But don't say we didn't warn you.

In the style department, the N3250w neither impresses nor offends. Its wide, matte-black plastic bezel houses speakers below the screen, which are set off by an elegant, silver plastic stripe. A green LED power indicator glows (or doesn't) just below the stripe. The panel stands atop an H-shaped black base. It doesn't let you swivel or tilt the screen, but we found it more attractive than most of those rounded, silver bases we've seen lately. Volume, menu, channel, and Enter buttons reside on top of the panel, and a large, round, silver power button is centered below the green LED on the speaker grille. Full size but not backlit, the remote has most buttons within thumb's reach, except the all-important Source button, which is banished to the upper-left corner. Also, unfortunately, the remote has no dedicated input buttons.

With a native resolution of 1,366x768, the ViewSonic N3250w should have more than enough pixels to display full 720p HDTV. In all but the 1:1 aspect-ratio mode (see below for details), incoming signals are scaled to fit the available pixels. One NTSC tuner serves up standard-definition video, but you'll have to use an external tuner--or a cable or satellite box--if you want HDTV. And there's no CableCard slot here, so you don't have the option of going through the hell of trying to get one of those special cards from your cable provider.

Topping the list of features are picture-in-picture, independent input memories, and color-temperature presets. Aspect-ratio controls include 16:9 (properly displays 16:9 material), 4:3 (properly displays 4:3 material), and 1:1 (displays a pixel-for-pixel match of incoming signals). When displaying 720p material in 1:1 mode, black bars appear above, below, and to each side of the image. You also get a rock-solid image that perfectly displayed our 720p resolution test pattern.

Inputs include one HDMI, one component video, one S-Video, one composite video, one VGA, one RF, one stereo audio minijack, and one stereo RCA audio pair. Outputs include one stereo RCA audio pair and one stereo headphone minijack. Despite the ViewSonic N3250w's low price, we would've liked to see at least two of some kind of input, preferably HDMI or component. On the flip side, those who are using the ViewSonic's built-in speakers will appreciate the HDMI input; most budget LCDs have only DVI.

Out of the box, using the Warm color-temperature preset, the N3250w's color temperature was spot-on at the reference 6,500K at the lower end of the grayscale but became reddish in the middle part of the scale and even more reddish in the brightest white portions of scenes. Still, many viewers will probably prefer this warm, "filmy" look compared to the usual bluish cast of most budget LCDs; we certainly did. At the time of this writing, we were unable to conduct a proper calibration. Unlike the grayscale, the color decoder didn't do very well in our tests. It showed a significant red push. Also, the primary colors were far from the normal standard. Reds reproduced with a drastically orange tinge.

Watching chapter 20 of the Seabiscuit DVD revealed this panel's inability to produce a real black. That puts it in line with a lot of LCD TVs, and compared to many others in its price range, the N3250w does a decent job of rendering detail in the darker parts of scenes. For example, War Admiral's left flank in the beginning of the chapter should have been even darker than it was in our viewing session, but we could still see the subtle variations in tone that delineate his muscles and rib cage. A quick viewing of the opening scene to Star Trek: Insurrection revealed that this panel does indeed have 2:3 pull-down to keep film-based sources from becoming a breeding ground for jagged lines that can terrorize your home-theater experience.

Unfortunately, both DVD and HDTV material appeared noisier than normal on the N3250w. Again, this is a problem with many LCDs, but it is worth noting. The same pristine feed of Rumble in the Bronx that looked great on the JVC LT-32X776 had noise on this ViewSonic. Even when we set the panel to the 1:1 aspect-ratio mode, which, theoretically, should lighten the load in the processing department, the noise persisted.

With its good looks and decent-for-LCD color temperature, this ViewSonic N3250w will probably steal some business from the Maxent MX-32X3 and the Syntax Olevia LT32HV. But if you're willing to spend a little extra, JVC's LT-32X776 will give you truer blacks, a slightly better color temperature, and CableCard compatibility, if that's important to you.

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